Yesterday was a good day for the image of bariatric surgery in the mainstream media. Most of the time, if you see a story on gastric bypass, LapBand, or any other type of bariatric surgery on television, it is portrayed in a negative or scandalous light. This has frustrated myself and many others in the bariatric community for years.
I knew Dr. Oz had come out in favor of bariatric surgery in recent months, but was still nervous to see his show yesterday. I don’t think I could have been more pleasantly surprised! Dr. Oz had several physicians on the show and one was not only a bariatric surgeon but also a gastric bypass patient named Dr. James Rosser. Another was a bariatric surgeon named Dr. Denise Bruder. Both spoke eloquently and honestly and they did address several complications that can arise as with any invasive procedure.
Dr. Oz pointed out that this was major surgery and the decision to have it should not be made lightly. Those are true statements that I agree with wholeheartedly. Dr. Oz also pointed out a very staggering statistic to his audience. ONLY 1% OF ELIGIBLE PATIENTS ARE HAVING THIS SURGERY.
I truly feel that part of the reason this is so, is the image this procedure has in the mainstream media and general public. This needs to change. While gastric bypass is of course NOT for everyone who is morbidly obese, it can and does save lives and the time is now for the stigma associated with weight loss surgery of any type to go away for good. We as a society would never dream of chastising someone who used a patch to quit smoking or dare tell them they took the easy way out. We would commend them for taking control of their health and taking steps to improve it. Common sense tells us that the patch is a tool and the same thing is true for weight loss surgery. BARIATRIC SURGERY IS A TOOL TO FIGHT THE DISEASE OF OBESITY AND THE DEADLY CO-MORBIDITIES THAT GO ALONG WITH IT.
Dr. Rosser spoke of the changes the surgery had made in his life and how it cured his sleep apnea and other ailments. One thing he said that I LOVED hearing was the fact that this surgery required a lifetime commitment to taking vitamins. This is something so many patients seem to forget, and it is a big part of what we talk about in the Bariatric Breakthrough Challenge conference series. I know that there is not ever going to be a day in my life when a product from Bariatric Advantage will not touch my lips. It has to become as habitual as taking a shower and brushing your teeth.
The show dealt in pure fact and not emotion and was very refreshing. Many of us in the field know that there is just no denying the research and studies proving that many patients who have a gastric bypass actually leave the hospital within two days of surgery and can be taken off of diabetes medicine. Dr. Bruner confirmed that Type 2 diabetes can be instantly reversed in many patients. I personally know patients who have experienced this. This is a true medical event that is due to hormone levels changing in our bodies when gastric bypass is done.
There are major health benefits to all types of weight loss surgery and each person has to decide which is the best procedure for them. People fighting the disease of obesity have a right to be exposed to options and have a right to know the truth and not just what the media wants us to know about bariatric surgery.
Dr. Oz has a lot of credibility and his endorsement surely helps the field. The sad part to me is that it takes someone like Dr. Oz to help the image of weight loss surgery. What about the hundreds of thousands of patients who will proudly stand up and say that weight loss surgery saved their lives? To me, those results and testimonials should count for just as much and more than anything that comes from the media.
I meet people every day who have been given a second chance at life due to one of these procedures and it makes me so happy to spend time with them and hear their stories. There is a LapBand surgeon in Texas who is also a patient and he has been on my show several times and I love his perspective. Dr. Adam Smith of Fort Worth LapBand is not just helping save lives, but he himself had his life drastically changed by this procedure.
Obesity is killing more and more people every day and the fact that only 1% of those eligible to receive life-saving treatment for this disease are actually receiving it is a travesty in my mind. Even worse are the people who need it and want it and cannot get it because their insurance companies are denying them the surgery. There are so many studies that prove the cost of treating a patient over the years for all of the obesity-related illnesses is much higher than paying for them to have either gastric bypass, LapBand, or one of the other procedures out there. I serve on the National Board of Directors of the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America and am so passionate about this great organization. They are giving hope to people who would never have the chance at this treatment any other way. Just go to their site and read some of the stories. They will move you in a big way.
This is another reason why I am so vocal about personal responsibility. The only person in the audience that Dr. Oz spoke to who had anything negative to say, was a lady who had lost over 100 pounds and then gotten pregnant and had three kids and gained a little bit back with each pregnancy and her only negative was to say that the surgery does nothing to address the issues that made us obese and she is correct! We all have that personal responsibility to eat correctly, follow the rules, exercise regularly, and when needed (which I believe is almost 100% of the time in patients who have bariatric surgery) go get some therapy for either the food addiction or whatever caused us to eat ourselves to morbid obesity. If there were no emotional issues involved then we would all have been able to put down the fork and keep our bodies at a healthy weight.
I feel that the treatment for obesity should involve so much more than just the initial procedure. We can have our tools put in place, but then we have to do the work. This is why people involved in our programs like Dr. Connie Stapleton, who is a wonderful therapist and Olympic runner Jeff Galloway are so important. What our surgeons do is just the beginning. The rest is up to us as patients.
This episode of Dr. Oz did a lot for the field of bariatrics, now let’s all do our part to keep the trend moving in the right direction. If you have had bariatric surgery and feel it saved your life, comment here and tell me your story. We need to let the world know that this is a game changer and it is real!