Overcoming Obesity: When Diet and Exercise Aren’t Working

Overweight woman talking to medical professional.
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Millions of Americans are considered obese, fighting every day to take off the extra pounds. Some have struggled with weight since childhood, others gained weight in adulthood. Understanding obesity and its complexity is important to combatting it. The science behind losing weight is more than eating less and doing more exercise.

Many factors can contribute to obesity. Family history, dietary patterns, physical activity, and medication are just a few things that can lead to obesity. An unhealthy weight can lead to life-threatening outcomes, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

The first thing to know is that obesity is a disease. It is a true metabolic disorder. So, what does that mean?

Metabolism is the process in which the body converts the calories from food and drink into energy. It is a balance between what goes into the body and how those calories are burned through activity. When a body is in balance and metabolism is steady, the calories consumed are burned completely, leaving no excess fat storage, resulting in a healthy body weight.

Once a person gains weight to the point of obesity, they might be able to lose weight with diet and exercise but their metabolism might challenge that new weight, eventually creeping back up to the unhealthy side. A person’s metabolism may actually slow down, in an effort to burn fewer calories while being challenged by weight loss.

The result is a failed diet. But why do so many diets end with weight gain? Diets are usually temporary, and are often based in depriving yourself from foods that you prefer. Going off the diet may lead to binging on what you’ve been missing. Perhaps the calorie intake is so low, you’re always hungry. Most diets can be a slippery slope leading back to weight gain.

One course of treatment that is very successful in combatting obesity and metabolic imbalance is surgical weight loss, also called bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery not only helps a person lose weight, but it also assists in the “reset” of metabolism. The procedure creates physiological changes in the body, resulting in energy balance and improved metabolism.

There is no other intervention as successful as weight loss surgery in the management of obesity, diabetes and other obesity-related medical problems. A vast majority of bariatric surgeries result in long-term weight loss success.

Candidates for bariatric surgery include patients who suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. After surgery, patients often find that these conditions improve or go away completely.

There are several ways to surgically combat obesity. Gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric band are a few of the procedures that can assist in weight loss. Each of the procedures applies a different approach to changing the way food is digested in the body.

With the use of proper tools and procedures, a person can lose the weight, and eliminate a multitude of health problems, leading to a healthy, longer life.

Dr. Edward Hannoush is a board-certified Hartford HealthCare surgeon with a specialty in bariatric surgery at Hartford HealthCare. For more information about medical and surgical weight loss, visit WhatWillYouGain.org.

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