As we all have noticed obesity and obesity prevention seem to be the buzz words of 2010. The first lady is publicizing the fight to battle obesity in children. There are advertisements every place we look for this product, or that product, this gym or that gym, this guaranteed successful method, etc. We have even seen billboards advertising weight loss surgery crop up all over southern California.
Obesity is close to the top of the list of causes of death in the USA. Preventable, perhaps, for some. Controllable, or curable? Perhaps for others. It seems that the words "results not typical" are in the fine print at the bottom of every weight loss ad we see. More and more people are turning to weight loss surgery to assist them in taking off and keeping off the excess pounds that are causing or exacerbating other medical conditions. Is this the easy way out?
Here are some views on both sides. You can reach your own conclusions.
Weight Loss Surgery Is The Easy Way Out
1. Some say it's easy because it is the only choice that makes sense for them. These are people who have failed multiple times over many years of dieting, people who may have other medical conditions that require them to lose weight in order to stay active, productive members of society.
2. It has been compared to the "ease" with which a cancer patient chooses chemotherapy. While this may be a bit harsh, it makes the point. It's easy to choose something that may cure you over doing nothing and letting the disease take over.
3. It provides hope, where none existed, for a significant population. Many of those who are exploring weight loss surgery have tried every diet out there, had some minimal success, but could not sustain that success. The possibility of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight provides a light at the end of a tunnel that has been very dark.
4. It confirms that rather than a moral failing, obesity is a medical issue that can be addressed with a medical intervention. This is significant. The obese population has been discriminated against in every area of their life and the recognition that medical intervention is necessary offers another ray of hope.
5. It is easy because it works. This is true, at the beginning of the journey. Once the surgery "starts working" the patient can learn the behaviors necessary to keep it working. Weight loss surgery is a tool. Screwdrivers work, but only if someone is on the other end of them, turning the screw in the direction we want it to go.
6. It is easy because the patient, often for the first time in their life, gets the opportunity to physically feel full. The general population can not begin to understand what it is like to finish a meal and be hungry again two minutes later. Weight loss surgery provides a "stop" that will allow the patient to recognize being done eating and to actually feel a sense of fullness or satiety.
Weight Loss Surgery IS Not The Easy Way Out
1. Making a decision to have major surgery is not easy. Think about an obese person undergoing general anesthesia. This is not a simple decision. Risks are involved and benefits need to outweigh the risks for those who make that tough decision to go forward with surgery.
2. It is difficult to make the choice to not use food for comfort or reward. This is probably the first step in permanent lifestyle changes that needs to be made.
3. It is difficult because it requires permanent life style changes in order to lose the weight and keep it off. The surgery is only a tool and the patient is the one that chooses their food and chooses when and how much they are going to exercise. It takes years to undo the years of poor choices that became regular behaviors.
4. It is difficult because most weight loss surgery patients have to give up some foods permanently. There are some foods that are physically uncomfortable for weight loss surgery patients to eat and they may actually be among their favorite foods. Again, a hard choice to make and stay committed to.
5. It is difficult to learn all over again how to eat - to take small bites, chew food thoroughly, and eat slowly. Our culture is one of on the go all the time. Weight loss surgery patients need to learn how to take time out for each meal and pay attention to it so as to be able to avoid mindless eating, or mindless overeating. Drive through would become a thing of the past.
6. It is difficult to suddenly change a lifetime of behaviors and stay committed to a lifetime of these changes. How long did it take to learn how to sit in front of the TV or computer instead of going for a walk? How long did it take before grabbing something on the way home became the expected meal. It will take years to make the new behaviors part of a standard routine that is as habitual as grabbing a coffee on the way to the office.
What surfaces here is that people who choose weight loss surgery as a means to an end, that end being a healthy, normal weight, have to commit themselves to a lifetime of behavior changes- food choices, portion sizes, exercise, etc, in order to achieve their goals. Nothing about the decision to have surgery, or those changes is easy. The remotely easy part of this process is the knowledge that there may finally be hope for those who have failed year after year at trying to achieve and maintain a normal weight with diet and exercise alone.