Should a Christian have Weight Loss Surgery?

A few months ago, a reader wrote to ask me about a controversial weight loss issue  (reader’s name has been changed):

weight-loss-surgeryHello…I was wondering if I could have your opinion. Do you think surgery as a weight loss option is “against God”? I have struggled a long time…and am beginning to consider this option. Can it not be a blessing from God, having this technology and knowledge to even be able to have this done? I know God can move mountains…including my weight. Does my interest in this mean a lack of faith? I know it is a gray area since the Bible doesn’t specifically discuss this topic…but I’d love to hear feedback from another Christian woman about this. I appreciate your wisdom, and please pray for me that I feel God’s guidance. Also please pray for Him to free me from my obesity, and to know His will. Thank you…I’ve found your site recently and look forward to looking at it much more.

Blessings,

Christine

 

I prayed before writing my response to Christine because I know how painful obesity can be. It is indeed a heavy burden, not only physically but emotionally.

 

Hi Christine,

Thank you for writing me! I saw your message just now and want to respond. You asked if I thought if weight loss surgery is “against God.” As you said, the bible doesn’t specifically say anything about that so each believer needs to seek the Lord for themselves. But I can tell you the evaluation I’ve personally made.

Surgeries are generally used as a tool to fix something that is broken. Do you believe that something is wrong with the way your stomach or digestive system functions? Or is the problem with your heart and mind and the obesity merely a side effect of your health habits? You see, I once counseled a woman years ago who had had weight loss surgery – but had gained all the weight she lost back. She told me, “The surgery fixed my stomach, but it didn’t fix my head.”

That is what I want you to think about: What habits or conditions led you to become overweight? Will weight loss surgery deal with that? In my case, I became obese because of years of overeating as a means to manage my emotions. So having a doctor perform surgery to adjust the size of my stomach would not have helped me manage my emotions. It would not have helped me heal my emotional hurts nor my abandonment issues. I had to take that stuff to the Great Physician: Jesus.

He healed me. It was a slow process and the weight didn’t come off overnight. But come off it did! Through the process, I strengthened my relationship with God, learned even more how much He loved and accepted me, and gained inner peace. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

I pray for God’s wisdom to guide you in this decision.

God bless you!

Kim

 

Two things have also strengthened my thoughts on this issue. I just read an article in the Christian Post that caught my eye about the actress/singer Carnie Wilson entitled “Carnie Wilson Surgery for Weight Loss, Again.” It was the word “again” that stopped me in my tracks. I knew Ms. Wilson had had gastric bypass surgery before, but discovered from the article that she had gone back under the knife for lap band surgery after re-gaining the weight she lost from surgery the first time.

That’s the point; unless you deal with the issues and habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place, then a surgeon’s knife won’t fix it.

In addition, I saw a commercial for the Dr. Oz show in which he called gastric bypass surgery: “the Underperformed Surgery You Should Be Getting.” I was appalled because Dr. Oz has great influence in the media and especially among women. Unless the obesity is caused by a physical issue with the digestive system that surgery can fix, and not by emotional issues and poor health habits, then I respectfully disagree with Dr. Oz.

My concern is that weight loss surgery carries its own risks, among them infections, hernias, and adhesions. I don’t believe opening yourself up to these risks is optimal if there are natural alternatives available.

Again, it’s about dealing with the cause, not just erasing the symptom.

I know losing weight can be slow. I know changing habits can be hard and frustrating. I know it is painful to open up old wounds and face past hurts or abuse if your eating habits are tied to that. But I also know that there is nothing too hard for God.

It takes time, a lot of patience, and commitment to try new eating and exercise approaches until you find a healthy lifestyle that works for you. But if I had a choice between weight loss surgery and losing weight the slower way by practicing good health habits, I’d choose the second option all day long because I love the person that I’ve become through the process.

To the lady I used to be who made the decision to lose weight the old fashioned way, I say “Thank You.”

  • Francine Kleinpaste says:

    As a Christian woman about 20 months out from surgery, the fact is my BP is now normal, my resting heart rate has come down greatly, my glucose level has been great, I no longer have plantar fasciitis, no more urinary incontinence, I run a mile as a warm up to weight lifting and can run 5 miles or more when motivated. It was the best medical decision of my life, I have absolutely no regrets, and I supported my 22 year old (at the time) daughter through the same process on Oct 12th, 2012.
    1 Corinthians 10:31
    So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
    That is my answer to you. God does not claim to give us answers, He just lets us know the answers are there for us to find. The Bible has everything we need to understand. I’ve recently had a debate over Communion in the Catholic church (and I haven’t been part of the Catholic church for almost 2 decades). The short version of this is I have Celiac Disease and cannot take communion. I did this without thinking when I took my father to church over the holidays. I was in serious pain for two days after. I won’t go into the Catholic church’s stance on this, but my belief is that Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” He did not say, do this and suffer because it’s the right thing to do. He did not say, don’t do this (surgery) because it’ll make your life much more liveable therefore allowing you to serve me with a better body and a better attitude. Yes, it is a scary decision. It was scary for me to support my daughter through this as well. But it was the right decision. Pray for the doctor and staff. Pray for God to give you the strength to follow all of the rules, become more active, become healthier so you can serve Him to the best of your ability. I know there are mission trips in my future I would have never considered at my previous weight. I know there are things I’ve already done, that there is no way I would have done 20 months ago. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” I’m sure God knows my strength is much better, but also my heart, soul, and mind are in much better places post-surgery.

    • patricia says:

      Wow…. thank u for that post…. im in the beginning stages of the process to get the surgery and this,was exactly what i needed to hear. Thank you so much.

    • Sheryl says:

      Thank you for transparency. I’m 60 yrs young and have struggled with my weight since childhood. Recently I’ve become disabled and use a roiling walker. I’m unable to exercise like in the past the medications also put weight on. I’m in ministry and would be able to get around better at 100 lbs
      lighter. I consider the surgery a tool along with TBYT in my fight for wholeness.

    • Brandy Amos says:

      Thanks Christine!

    • Heidi K says:

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

      I needed to hear this more Than ever!
      I am scheduled to have surgery in October.
      I had in the past lost the weight the old fashioned way! I kept it off for many years! Hiked 6 hours a day on the weekend, was into archery, etc.
      Then August 2012. I had a terrible injury to my hip, left leg, and rear muscle. That trauma triggered fibromyalgia, then Psoriatic Arthritis, then Multiple Sclerosis. Just last year I found out I had Glaucoma.
      The Dr’s have said a trauma can trigger autoimmune diseases. It sure did.
      I can barely walk and am in constant pain.
      It took me two years to decide Gastric bypass would be for me.
      I have been asking the Lord for guidance and your answer hit my heart.
      Thank you with all my heart and soul.

      Heidi K. Xoxoxo

  • Christy says:

    I know very well the desperation one feels when they reach the point where they believe weight loss surgery is their only option. At 5’4″, 280 lbs I was there. My life and my weight had gotten out of control. I was miserable and desperate. I decided to pursue a surgical release from the hell I had allowed myself to get in to. It all happened very quickly. From the consultation to the day of surgery was under two weeks. Frankly, I did not research the risks, etc as well as I should have. That was nearly two and a half years ago. Have I lost weight? Yes. About 100 lbs. Am I grateful for the loss? Yes. Do I regret my decision? Yes! I’ve had complications. I’ve had corrective surgery. I have medical issues I didn’t have before the surgery. I have depleted all my sick leave. And, now, the reality sets in (or has for a while now, actually)… just like Kim said, “unless you deal with the issues and habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place, then a surgeon’s knife won’t fix it.” So true and well put, Kim! I am at the same place I was at 280 lbs. I’m struggling to lose weight and feeling quite miserable and desperate! I did not face my issues head-on and now am having to realize I’ve altered my body and sacrificed my immune system forever in exchange for short term weight loss. It is soooo easy to regain the weight. Trust me!! I have a long battle ahead of me: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve learned (the hard way) that there are no quick, easy fixes for life’s big problems. I have to admit that I made a mistake and have compounded my problems. And, now, must go back and try to fix it the right way… by seeking God’s help and direction. I have to figure out with His help how to rewire myself. I turn to food for many, many reasons other than true hunger. I’ve done this since the summer before 5th grade. I’m now 38. That’s a lot of rewiring!

  • Christine says:

    Thank you Kim, for all of your kind guidance for my question a few months back. I am writing to tell you that while I did (& still do) appreciate your guidance, after much praying and researching I decided to accept my bariatric surgery opportunity as a gift from God. For me personally, it has been nothing short of a true blessing…I have lost almost 50 pounds with the gastric sleeve…have much more mobility in my knees…more energy for myself and my family…and am much more comfortable in general. I think personally, God threw me a lifejacket while I was drowning in my sea of obesity. I have been blessed with outstanding doctors, positive outcomes,and so much more. That being said…I am still so thankful for your advice, and am keeping it tucked in my heart for my ongoing journey. I do indeed still have to go to HIM. I thank Him for my progress…and continue to need Him every single step of my journey. I am still tempted. I am still vulnerable to all of my sinful ways. I am grateful to have such a loving God that promises never to leave me! 🙂 Thank you so much for your advice…and to everyone else for their comments as well. We serve a loving God…a helpful God…isn’t that wonderful! xo Thanks again…Kathleen (“Christine”)

    • Kim T says:

      Hi Christine – Thank you for the update! I pray God continue to lead you and guide you into making healthy choices, which is the way to overall health and healing. Stay blessed, sister!

  • Elizabeth says:

    I spent two months getting tested and ready for surgery and doing the week long liquid diet which i found so difficult. Went in for surgery. Had complications with anesthesia and it was over. Happy to be here but find myself asking god why? What do you want from me?

  • God's Daughter says:

    He wants our heart. Whether we have the surgery or not. He is after our “heart.” God loves you…

  • sandy says:

    I asked God repeatedly to deiver me from obesity. I felt very hopeless,helpless, and lost in depression about it. I was considering the sleeve but didnt want to make.a.mistake or let God down. Ater sometime prepaeing to go see tbe surgeon The Lord spoke to my heart. He told me and again I say unto you that if thy right hand offends thee cut it off. I kew exactly what He meant. All my life my stomache offended me. I obtained peace and had the surgery. The only thing I’v regretted about the surgery is that I didnt do it years ago.

    • I am glad that you sought the Lord and you received an answer. I am also glad that you experienced no side effects from the surgery. I pray that you enjoy many years of good health.

    • K. says:

      I am struggling with the decision to get gastric bypass surgery. I am 39, 5’3 and 260 lbs. I have been overweight since 8 yrs old. I have many food intolerances, hypothyroid and a very slow metabolism. I am afraid to have surgery, I am afraid that nothing can help me. I am afraid that no matter what I do, the weight will never come off.
      I don’t want to go through with surgery only to slow my metabolism down even more and not be able to eat more than 2 tbsp of food at a time, for the rest of my life.
      I am thankful for this post.
      I have felt that I am “giving up”,have no faith, a failure and an embarrassment to my Lord if I do this.
      When I was praying about my decision, he also gave me this verse. ” If thy right hand offend thee…”
      Thank you for your comment Sandy, it has helped me.

  • Dena says:

    I think weight loss surgery is a poor choice for any Believer. In my opinion, you are telling the Holy Spirit that He is not powerful enough, big enough, capable enough to see you through to a healthier you.
    I see it as a cop out.

    • Francie says:

      In no way is surgery a cop out. To say so is an ignorant statement. All knowledge is from God, including medical knowledge. There are cases of negligent Parents who are prosecuted because they didn’t treat easily medically treatable diseases in children because they wanted to “believe” enough. Let me tell you that is poor judgement. And dangerous. I knew a 22 year old man whose parents wouldn’t give him kidney dialysis because God would heal him, they spent money on their daughters wedding instead…He died in 6 months. God chooses to use medical doctors if he wants too, and the Holy Spirit tells us what to do…but to say surgery is a cop out is offensive and wrong.

    • Carrie says:

      Would you not get glasses if you couldn’t see? Take a medication to help with high blood pressure? Cop out? There is NOW NO condemnation for those in Christ. I know the rest of the scripture, so to save you the trouble of telling me what it is, how is having this particular surgury walking in the flesh and not spirit? Btw, I spent years in an abusive church that spoke with the same condemning spirit in which you speak with regards to medical options. Never again will I be silent while this absurd idea is spoken. It lacks love in every possible way.

  • Ilovemusic says:

    @ Dena says…I am curious, how long have you been obese? How are you dealing with the health struggle?

  • Christine says:

    Kimberly, this is “Christine”…the one who wrote you twice above regarding my bariatric surgery. I wanted to give you a final update, so you would know. I still consider my surgery a blessing to help me become mobile quickly, and I am grateful to Him for making that a personal blessing. However, over these past three years, I have become able to see what you meant in your original response to me. I was in such pain, such desperation…I couldn’t really “see” all of the wisdom in your words. I knew God needed to be in my journey…but felt His blessing of surgery was it. I lost 60 pounds…I was flying high!…but then…my struggles returned. Old habits came back…emotional eating…eating without thinking….not taking care of my health…not exercising…etc. My last visit to the doctor was filled with internal shame and external tears, as I had gained 20 pounds back. I felt like such a failure. As time went by, I returned to your site…started reading more…and listening…to you, to other women here, and other Christians also, and to my God. I realize now that although I feel the surgery was a blessing to help me walk quickly…it was not His final answer, nor the way to my true victory. Every day now, I am learning to walk with Him and learning to take care of the temple He gave me, that He lives in…to glorify Him and make myself as healthy as possible. So thank you…for your non-judgmental ways, for your kindness, for your guidance. I may not have taken your advice then completely…but I am a work in progress…and now feel it WAS the best advice, which I am following now. I’m honored to be involved in your site…and so happy I have found the answer for me to be finally realized as Him…and only Him…for my ultimate victory. The surgery blessed me so I could walk…but when I run across that finish line in my journey it will be because of my Savior helping to change my heart…not the surgery. As my heart and mind continue to change and learn…it is here in Him that I will find the true victory over my weight…and I feel very blessed to have this realization now. Thanks again for your kindness…and for being so caring about another struggling sister! Wishing you the best always…I’m thankful to you…and thankful to the God that led me to you and your ministry! Blessings…xo. 🙂

  • Blue-dolphin7 says:

    Heres my two cents.if how you got there (being extremely overweight) was caused by simple over indulging,then no,defiantly not! We all have our demons and a CHOICE on how to confront them..
    But if there’s a serious underlying medical issue..like diabetes..then yes,have the surgery..

    • Francie says:

      It’s amazing to me how little people understand weight problems and are so willing to pass judgement. The latest scientific journals essentially confirm what most overweight people already know. Once they lose 100+ lbs in their own they gain it back and then some. 90% of people who lose weight gain it back and the only proven long term Weightloss is now showing from surgeries. Also when people become fat they are often eating several 100 less calories than a thin counterpart. They know now that in order to maintain slimness a person who is fat eats 800 calories a day verses the thin person who can eat 1200. So a fat person must eat much less than what a slim person does to maintain. This is a fact. Not an opinion. It is also a fact that people who lose weight have more intense, more frequent and more urges to eat after they have gained and lost weight due to increases in certain brain chemicals that cause weight regain.

  • Latanya Thompson says:

    Kimberly this is true. Thank you for posting. If you do not deal with the issues of why you are overweight, you are destined to gain it back again. I have watched several people on my job have the surgeries and gain all the weight back. I do not believe the surgery is against God. I have never heard this debate before. But by all means pray about it and continue to be lead by the a Holy Spirit. People are shocked that I do not want to have the surgery. I tell them it’s because it is not God’s will for me.

  • Tia says:

    I came to this thread because i got approved for surgery today. After all the testing and Dr appointments i was dead set on not having it! I started going to the gym 6x a week and eating better… Then i got my final approval… And began to think i have tried time and time again to do this let me go to the word. Each verse i read mentioned the help of god and answering of prayer. I cried! I knew this was a blessing and a once in a life ime opportunity for me. Ive fought the good fight BELIEVE ME running at 350lbs aint easy! But i willing to do whatever it takes! My biggest fear was having my free will taken away from me and not being anle to run any more. Thru research i have found you can still gain weight after the surgery! Whice is actually a positive to me because that means this is truly just a tool and the surgery wont do the work for me. My fiance had a dream of me having the surgery way before i was serious about it. I now believe this decision is 100% personal and individual. Listen to your heart.

  • Anon says:

    Any updates ladies??? Curious. Blessings!

  • Kat says:

    Thank you all for your willingness to be so honest and share your walks with us.
    I am too, waiting for approval for surgery. Before I was a believer I had a lapband put in which failed horribly and sent me to the hospital after my son was born. It needs to come out- think my body is having low levels of constant inflammation from the foreign body. So I will be having it removed and have the option to revise to a vertical gastric sleeve.
    I messed up my metabolism with that, so at lower calories (like was mentioned above) I still gain weight, but without restriction portion sizes are normal again. Not huge! Just not teeny like after WLS. My physiotherapist and Chiro both agree I likely have a hypermobility issue with my connective tissues, which essentially cause my joints to not hold together as well. I dislocate and pop things and literally pull or tear things with such little impact – just a wrong angle or poor placement.
    For me the pain and injury being 5’8+ and 270 (highest weight 360) is not allowing me to serve God and be His hands and feet in this world like I know I am called to do.
    I just haven’t felt released. I wonder though, if I have been too busy listening to those who say trust that He will deliver me… While my eating habits are not anywhere near what the used to be and my reliance on Him has brought me such freedom. I am really concerned about the metabolic changes that occurred after my lapband sabotaging my current efforts- not to mention my anxiety about injuries.
    Heavenly Father- Lord I leave this at your feet. Please, carry my burden. Amen.
    I would so appreciate updates from any and all of you!!! Thank you so much again.

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