Not as much as you can eat

Weight-loss surgery cards give better bang for your buck at buffets


If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve undergone gastric bypass surgery in an effort to lose weight and emerged with a stomach the size of an egg, it hardly seems fair to pay the same price at an all-you-can-eat buffet as everyone else. Enter surgeon-distributed weight-loss surgery (WLS) cards, which allow patients to eat at a discount at buffets such as the Golden Corral chain or restaurants like Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Given that they let people order dinner from lunch and children’s menus, where portions are smaller, not to mention cheaper, it’s not surprising the cards are in demand. Ann Rogers, director of the Penn State surgical weight-loss program, told NPR, “If we forget to give them out, the patient says, ‘What about those discount cards?’ ”

Although they’ve been around since the 1990s, the rise in bariatric surgery in the U.S. has expanded the market. The cards’ current popularity couldn’t be more timely. According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, restaurant portions have been growing in the past decade, contributing to the obesity epidemic. So the WLS cards are a concept that might actually come in handy for the rest of us.