Saturday, July 13, 2013

Is bariatric surgery for you?


Is bariatric surgery for everyone? Is it the panacea for a ‘fat’ nation?

There are a few points one should consider before coming to any firm decisions. I cannot speak for everyone. The much vaunted adage that we should take each case on its merits holds true for me. Who am I to say that ‘you’ or a whole nation should head to the surgeon and offer up one’s body to the ‘knife’ albeit very small ones?

In New Zealand the operation can be free for those under 50 years of age, but the process is one that has many checks and balances. Various criteria operate, including having a history of trying to lose weight and related health issues, including type two diabetes, sleep apnoea, high blood pressure , compromised heart health, just to mention a few. If you are in that ‘morbid obesity’ category, that may give you reason to consider the procedure.

‘Not for me,’ you say. That’s fine. It is after all your decision, once you have satisfied the above criteria and received the big tick from a psychologist. If you have to pay, like I did, then the considerations are basically the same. I don’t know what ‘rules’ in other countries, so you will have to find out for yourself.

Given the ‘fattening’ of many nations, not just in the West, bariatric surgery is being increasingly seen as the answer to the many health issues associated with being majorly overweight. One could establish a position whereby the savings from using this procedure (there are several different ones) could be a reason for justifying the ‘state’ paying. Let’s face it; the complications resulting from obesity cost public health systems a great deal of money, for many years as an individual’s health issue become more serious. Could one justify the ‘state’ (or in my case—me, along with a little help from health insurance) paying for a one off operation (about $NZ 17,000--$21,000, depending on the procedure) in order to avoid the huge bills that are coming the way of the above systems as the population ages and ‘fattens?’

On a solely fiscally driven basis, one could say a big yes, but that is not the only consideration. There would be many who would say that other options are available; like public education about nutrition and exercise. I would say that given the long history of the ‘fat-busting’ industry and the attempts to change our collective diets, away from the sugar, fat, high carb and salt laden intakes along with a ‘sit on your butt’ mentality, then their efforts have failed miserably. There are a huge number of businesses and individuals who depend on our propensity of a large number of us to continually fail and gradually put on more weight after so many failed attempts to lose and keep weight off.

It would be a bit too radical to suggest that the above efforts should be consigned to the great big ‘bin behind the gym.’ I expect to receive hate mail from the countless thousands of people who slavishly go along several time s a week to ‘fat busters,’ weight watchers, Jenny Craig and to the many options available re exercising. If we could survey the millions around the world in an unbiased manner, I suspect that answer would be that the vast number of ‘attendees’ have failed, because more often than not, the y have reverted to their old habits. I am not going to go into the reason for this ‘massive failure.’

Anyone reading this could give examples of people they know who have been successful in their ‘journey to better health,’ but if they were really honest, and had access to real figures, they would face an unpalatable truth: failure is the norm!

So, am I just a ‘mouthpiece’ for what some would say is the ‘next big thing?’ Are we really entering a world in which one just has to submit oneself to the surgeon in order to achieve a balanced and healthy personal health regime? I would hope not. I still say it is better to prevent obesity and to be successful in this there are many considerations, many of which most governments around the world are unwilling to confront. We have heard of ‘fat taxes,’ public health initiatives aimed at getting us moving and making better food choices, but we still see the population becoming fatter as we move away from good home cooked meals and become more sedentary in our employment and our social activities.

Unless we grapple with the huge challenge that our modern way of living has delivered to us, then we are indeed going to need to look for ‘quick fixes,’ some of which may have ramifications down the track that consign humans to a questionable future. For me, my discussion has so far been one that I can embrace, but if I ‘knew then what I have since learned,’ I wonder if I would have ever arrived at my ‘new me.’ That said---I am happy. Would you be? I don’t know---I am not you!’