Last week, in Orlando Fl., the 2011 meeting of the ASMBS (American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery) took place. I had a wonderful time meeting new people and learning a lot of great new things about products and research from our world of bariatrics.
I spent most of my time at two booths – the one for the WLSFA (Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America) and of course the title sponsor of my radio show “Fit Living”, Bariatric Advantage. It was nice to see some of the other vendors and the different products they were offering, but of course my favorite was the incredible display of new products coming out from Bariatric Advantage in the next few months.
Aside from the time spent brainstorming with some wonderful people (topic of next blog later in week), I had the pleasure of being invited to the Allergan educational event (Thanks to Troy Hopper) which featured Governor Mike Huckabee as the Keynote speaker. So many people went into the event wondering what the connection could be. Huckabee and Lap-Band??
No, he did not have a Band, however the Governor did lose 100 pounds under the supervision of a physician. The connection? He was very open in letting the audience know that his son had used Lap-Band to lose 100 pounds and that it had saved his life. It was so nice to hear someone who has a voice in D.C. talking about the BENEFITS of weight loss surgery.
No matter what you think of Governor Huckabee’s politics, you have to respect this man for his commitment to the prevention and treatment of obesity. How refreshing to hear of all of the wonderful initiatives he introduced while in office, that really focused on ways to prevent obesity.
He is a real advocate for insurance companies paying for the procedures. While in office in Arkansas, he put a policy in pace that provided for weight loss surgery to be paid for by the insurance plans for state workers. The Governor also encouraged everyone to appeal to their local politicians to take a stand and to really recognize obesity as a disease.
It can be so disheartening to hear people who think those who are morbidly obese are that way by choice or are lazy. Governor Huckabee knows that is not true and talked candidly about his own struggles with his weight and how our culture plays a part. Of course people choose to put fork to mouth, but there are so many factors that influence that fork.
Just look at our food sources today as compared to fifty years ago and then do you still have to wonder why obesity is one of the top killers in our country? Did your grandparents have a fast food restaurant on every corner? Did they cook healthy meals at home, most of which they likely grew themselves, or did they eat out 2-4 times a week as many American families do now?
Things are clearly different and it is CLEARLY causing a serious problem in our country. Lack of physical activity is another big problem. If you have kids, I BEG you to limit their time playing video games and encourage them to play outside. I have a son who will be fifteen next week. He ADORES his Playstation 3. Of course I let him play it a good bit during summer. BUT he is also on the cross-country team at his high school and gets up and runs 4-6 miles each morning at 7am. In fact he is at practice right now. It is all about balance. My eleven-year-old also loves video games. He is a huge baseball and football freak and is up early and gone outside to play football and baseball with the kids in the neighborhood and then he comes home and cools off by swimming for a few hours. Will I let him play some video games in the evening? Of course.
I do know other kids who do not see the light of day in summer and spend the entire day inside watching television and playing video games and this is so sad to me. If you have a child who does this, I challenge you to make a deal with your kids. Offer them one hour a day of their games for each hour spent doing some type of physical activity. I guarantee it will motivate them to move around more!
Governor Huckabee made a great point about the seriousness of childhood obesity. He gave a great test to use with anyone who dared to argue with you that obesity is truly harming our kids. This is the test- go take a look at your mother or father’s third grade class picture. See all of the kids looking thin and in his words, “almost like refugees from a concentration camp”. Now go to any third grade classroom in America, in any part of America and stick your head in and look around. Do you notice a difference? I grabbed the yearbook from my son’s school and boy was Governor Huckabee correct.
Remember when diabetes was called Adult onset and Juvenile? Well now there is Type 1 and Type 2. Why? Because now people younger and younger are getting Type 2 diabetes and it is no longer a disease of primarily adults. This is closely related to our diets and obesity rates. How scary is that? To me VERY scary. I appreciate Governor Huckabee reminding us of that fact.
This is not an issue we will solve overnight, and Governor Huckabee explained that we really have to stay on top of our politicians, as they like issues they can solve in a 2,4,or 6 year election cycle. It took years and years to make awareness of the dangers of smoking the huge issue it is today, and the same will be for the disease of obesity.
My dear friend Yvonne McCarthy- The Bariatric Girl, was sitting next to me on the front row for this event and got to ask the Governor the first question. She wanted to know if he was going to be even more vocal about the issue of obesity and about making weight loss surgery less of a scandalous thing in the mainstream media and less of something we need to be secretive or shameful about. He was very quick to answer that his son made no secret about his decision and that he feels like this surgery, no matter which procedure you choose is nothing to be ashamed of at all. Governor Huckabee truly believes that weight loss surgery is a life-saving tool and should become the standard treatment for obesity when traditional diets fail.
Nothing angers me more than the ignorance surrounding the idea of weight loss surgery and the ignorance of people who think I and my peers “took the easy way out”. What is easy about a total lifestyle change? And yes I believe that in order to be successful for the long-term, there MUST BE A PERMANENT lifestyle change. What is easy about having to exercise five times a week and remember my vitamins daily? (Okay I admit the yumminess of the Bariatric Advantage products does make compliance easier) What is easy about making sure to avoid for the rest of my life empty carbs like sugar, pasta, and rice? And do not even get m started on the emotional issues. Being a food addict is no fun, but having control over my addiction now is amazing! Living a healthy new life after weight loss surgery takes a huge commitment. In fact, COMMITMENT is the KEY word in our Bariatric Breakthrough Challenge series.
NEWSFLASH- If you do this right, weight loss surgery is NOT an easy way out. It is a wonderful tool, just as a patch is for a smoker. Yes it can save your life.
I encourage all of you to write to Governor Huckabee and thank him for his support of our cause and also to write to your local politicians. If everyone is open and honest about their surgery and how it helped save their lives or better their lives and health in some way, we can erase the negative stigma associated with weight loss surgery over time!
I want to thank the Allergan company for being such strong supporters of aftercare as well. They do not let their commitment stop after their product has been purchased. They are true supporters of our community. They are a company that really believes in giving back.
If you are not familiar with or a supporter of the WLSFA or the OAC, I encourage you to support both of these organizations. Both are doing great things to advocate for this disease and those who suffer from it also.
If we all work together, we can do something about this horrible disease before it becomes an even worse epidemic than it is now.