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Saturday, July 02, 2005

The hidden price of weight loss

Originally published July 2, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

Losing weight is expensive, regardless of the method used.Eating less might mean fewer groceries purchased at the store, but eating healthier often means those few groceries cost a lot more as well. And then there are the hidden costs that seem to creep up without notice — like a new wardrobe.This is especially true for gastric-bypass patients. After surgery, the grocery-store bill might drop anywhere from $200 to $400 a trip, depending on the size of the patient’s family. But for most people who’ve had weight loss surgery, the grocery store isn’t the only place to buy food.
Sugar-free protein supplement bars and powders are often bought from specialty stores and Web sites — and they don’t come cheap.Zero Carb Isopure is a popular supplement powder among gastric-bypass patients. A 3-pound canister of the powder is about $40 at MuscleGear on 11th Street. There are 44 scoops of powder in each container, which is enough for 22 days of supplementation for gastric-bypass patients.
Spending $1.82 for breakfast or lunch every day is pretty frugal, but few patients have just one method of supplementation. It’s common for those who’ve had surgery to keep a variety of powders and supplement bars in supply.
Vitamins are another necessity for anyone who has had bariatric surgery. Prices depend largely on the brand chosen.VistaVitamins, created specifically for bariatric patients, costs about $50 a month, not including calcium supplementation. Calcium supplements add another $20 or $30 each month.Vitamins from Bariatric Advantage, which are all chewable, cost around $60 a month for everything from multivitamins to iron to B-12 to calcium. Either way, that’s another $60 to $80 to add to the grocery bill.
Surgical weight-loss patients who are serious about achieving long-term success consider gym memberships and personal-training appointments as necessities rather than luxuries — and their doctors often agree.
Gym memberships in this town are pretty cheap, about $40 a month. Personal training is billed by the hour —about $400 a month.Suddenly, all that money saved at the grocery store — and then some — is missing from the checking account.
Still, it’s the hidden costs that are more surprising. Though most doctors repeatedly tell patients that they will experience rapid weight loss, it doesn’t always hit home until it becomes a reality.Losing an average of 10 to 20 pounds a month means a new wardrobe about every six weeks. Life goes along swimmingly while one is shopping in one’s closet. But eventually, the closet runs out of smaller sizes, or at least clothes that are still in style, and a shopping excursion is necessary.
Shopping trips must be well planned, because it’s easy to get excited about being a size smaller and overspend. Sales and clearances must be the first stop. After all, a similar shopping trip will be needed in a few weeks for even smaller clothes. Everything must be tried on with the question, “Is this loose enough to be presentable in public but tight enough to last at least a month?”
Then there is the checkout, which, if the shopper is lucky, will end with a total under three figures.Other hidden costs often are attributed to newfound addictions. For example, a new love of sandals might necessitate regular pedicure appointments all summer long.
The desire to leave the house looking as good as possible each day might mean more money spent at the salon and makeup counter, too.However, there aren’t many people who choose surgical weight loss in the hopes of saving money. The fact is that, regardless of the costs associated with rapid weight loss, the benefits are immeasurable.

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