A Radical Obesity Fix
Surgery Isn't a Cure
Still, Flanery and Foreyt agree that every other weight loss
option should be exhausted before considering something as drastic as surgery.
"Bariatric surgery is not a first, second, or even third alternative,"
Flanery says. "Surgery is not a magic bullet for obesity."
"The biggest misconception about bariatric surgery is that
it's going to solve the problem," Foreyt says. "It's part of the
answer, but it's not the whole answer. It's critical that people eat well and
exercise after surgery."
Indeed, up to 25% of bariatric surgeries fail. These patients
either never reach their target weight or regain pounds by slowly and
deliberately ingesting high-calorie foods and, over time, stretching the pouch
far beyond its original size. "There's a patient out there who can beat any
operation designed," Brolin says.
Obesity's Health Risks
For Bailey, the risk of failure seemed minuscule compared to
the status quo. Years of unsuccessful yo-yo dieting and weight loss gimmicks
had left her depressed and bigger than ever. It wasn't until she saw her mother
suffer a stroke that Bailey began considering surgery. Looking at her mother
was like peering into a mirror and seeing her future stare back. Both women
share a love of food and a lifelong struggle with the scale. According to
research, Bailey's fears about the future were not unfounded.
Obesity opens the door for a procession of serious health
problems including hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis, narrowing of
the arteries, and an increased risk of death from some cancers. Each year,
obesity and inactivity combined lead to 300,000 premature deaths, according to
In its clinical guidelines for obesity treatment, the National
Institutes of Health supports the use of bariatric surgery in the severely
obese, citing studies that show the procedure often alleviates or eliminates
many obesity-related conditions.
In the 18 months since her surgery, Bailey tossed aside her
cane and disabled parking placard, traded in her sensible shoes for high heels,
and stopped swallowing megadoses of ibuprofen to sooth her aching joints. But
her rewards weren't just physical.
A slim physique gave Bailey the confidence she needed to apply
for a promotion at work. She'd eyed the job for years but was afraid to go for
it because of her size. "I would never put myself forward because of the
stigma that fat people are lazy, that they have no control," she says.
"That's simply not true." She attributes her new attitude to
self-pride, something she never had before.
"I wish I could go up to every single person who's trapped
in an obese body and say, 'There's help out there. Just reach out and grab that
brass ring. You don't have to live like that anymore.'"