As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease, many people are embracing the opportunity to be more active and enjoy the outdoors again. On June 12, the National Recreation and Park Association and agencies across the U.S. will be celebrating Family Health & Fitness Day by sharing ways families can exercise outside while practicing safe physical distancing.
While the day represents a national reminder for everyone to stay active, this can be a daily challenge for individuals with mild, moderate or severe obesity.
Many adults fail to meet the recommended levels of physical activity. For individuals with obesity-related health problems, bariatric surgery may be an option for improving overall health and establishing a more active lifestyle.
Dr. Samer Mattar is a professor and chief of surgery in the Division of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. In the following Q&A, he discusses what individuals should consider, common misconceptions, and how surgical weight loss can help obese patients live better, longer lives.
Q: What should an individual consider when deciding if bariatric surgery is the right decision for them?
A: No one spontaneously decides to get bariatric surgery in a week, and patients should only consider it after they’ve done their research. It’s a momentous event in their lives and results in a lot of physical and mental changes. There is a period of education and evaluation that must come first, and it typically takes two to three months before surgery.
Today, bariatric surgery is a safe option in terms of its outcomes and effectiveness.
Q: There are several misconceptions about bariatric surgery. Could you name two and explain how they are incorrect?
A: First, bariatric surgery is not an “easy way out” of diet and exercise. It takes a lot of courage to consider surgery to improve your health and activity levels. Once you pass a certain level of obesity, diet and exercise simply will not help you lose the amount of weight that would be required to be healthy. Also, there are a lot of life changes after the surgery that you must maintain to make sure the results are durable.
The second misconception is that it’s highly dangerous. Today, bariatric surgery is as safe as natural childbirth. The mortality rate is one in 1,000.
Q: How can surgical weight loss help put patients on a path to a more active lifestyle?
A: When patients lose weight and become healthier, their energy levels surge naturally. They become restless. They want to move, so they often want to participate in some form of exercise. Also, after losing the weight, patients are often less self-conscious about being active in public.
Q: Are there additional health benefits beyond losing weight?
A: The main reason we perform the surgery is to improve patients’ overall health. There are more than 50 other associated diseases that improve post-surgery. Female patients who were unable to conceive often see their menstrual cycle return and their polycystic ovary syndrome go away. Socially, there is still a lot of bias and discrimination against obese individuals, but once patients lose weight their self-esteem and positive attitude return.
Another bonus is how patients’ medication bills go down as health conditions improve. That’s not only good for patients and communities, it’s great for the nation as we spend $300 billion annually on treating diseases related to obesity. We can’t change a person’s age, but we can certainly reverse the trend of obesity and improve the lives of the people affected by it.
-By Bertie Taylor, senior writer in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine
Learn more about the Weight Loss and Metabolic Center at Baylor or call 713–798–6673 to request an appointment.