Overcoming Obesity: When Diet and Exercise Aren’t Working

Overweight woman talking to medical professional.
Print icon

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.

What's New

Inpatient Rehab Team Engages Bride-to-be

Laura Day had a lot to look forward to – her two-year old daughter was anticipating Santa’s arrival, she had a baby on the way, and life with her boyfriend was good. In the days before Christmas, Laura was stricken with a stomach bug – nothing out of the ordinary,...


Connecticut’s drug-related deaths up 18 percent in 2019

The numbers tell a sobering story – after a dip in deaths from drug overdoses in 2018, Connecticut recorded 1,200, or 18 percent more, drug-related deaths in 2019, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The one stagnant piece of information in the equation, however, is the fact...

World Lymphedema Day is March 6th

On Friday, March 6th, therapists from Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network will be on hand at several locations throughout the state to provide information about lymphedema services in recognition of World Lymphedema Day.  In preparation for the event, Linda Hodgkins, MS OTR/L CLT-LANA, Clinical Program Manager for HHCRN’s lymphedema services, answers...

11th Healthy Family FunFest set for Feb. 23

Now celebrating its 11th year, Healthy Family FunFest will provide thousands of visitors access to information about healthy living, fitness, health screenings and a wide variety of resources, services, demonstrations, hands-on learning, friendly challenges, and interactive activities. This free event features more than 100 tables showcasing Hartford HealthCare service lines...


Hartford HealthCare to Provide Health Services for UHart Students

Hartford HealthCare and the University of Hartford have announced a partnership for the health system to provide health services to students.  Hartford HealthCare President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Flaks was joined by University President Greg Woodwood and  UHart alum and Hartford HealthCare staff member Latasha Raineault during halftime of...

Dr. Elena Bortan

Movement Disorders Care Comes to Mystic

Much as the design of the new Hartford HealthCare facility at 100 Perkins Farms Drive in Mystic reflects the vibe of coastal community, the location of specialists from the HHC Ayer Neuroscience Institute’s Chase Family Movement Disorders Center to the facility answers a demand for high-quality care and support in...