Obesity in Teenagers - Obesity Surgery Guide

Obesity is also a problem for teenagers.  Teenagers are at that time in their lives where they are extremely self-conscious about their image.  They often compare themselves with their friends and want to be part of the right group.  They often have a strong sense of wanting to belong, to be accepted by their peer group. Adolescence is the time when they spend more time with their friends than their parents and their friends' opinions are very important to them.  It is a time when they are finding their identity and their place in the world and it can be a turbulent time as well.

A lot of teenagers especially girls enjoy looking at images of models and celebrities in magazines and other types of media.  They are very often shown unrealistic images such as very thin models which they want to emulate.  These glossy, airbrushed images place a pressure on teenage girls to improve their image and appearance.

Carrying any extra weight (or perceived weight) is anathema to them:  and this is even worse for the overweight or obese teenager.  He or she will be highly self-conscious about their appearance, will experience feelings of low self-worth and esteem and in general, will feel insecure and isolated.

If this is not dealt with it can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.

For teenagers with chronic weight problems, weight loss surgery is an option.  This is a very recent development as previously it had been seen as unsuitable for those aged 18 and under.

However, in 2006 a document published by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) has relaxed these rules slightly.  What this means is that this type of surgery is not usually recommended but can be considered in exceptional circumstances, for a teenager who has been through puberty.  In other words they are physically and emotionally mature to undergo what it is a life changing process.  

It is a different situation in the US where this type of surgery has been performed on teenagers for a few years now. 

This is a MAJOR kind of surgery which requires careful consideration before any decision is made.  With teenagers, this is even more important due to their relative immaturity.  This procedure involves the services of a full support structure which includes a dietician, psychologist and an expert in adolescence medicine.  We do not know what the long term effects of this surgery on teenagers is but what we do know is that it can reduce their risk of a serious or life threatening illness. 

This course of action is the same as for adults: a diet and exercise programme will need to be followed and a lifelong commitment to changing your lifestyle.

Weight loss surgery and teenagers 

The first step is to visit your family doctor who will recommend that you follow a diet and exercise regime beforehand.  There are medicines that will either suppress your appetite or prevent fat storage but these do come with side effects.  Some are available via the Internet or from private diet clinics but are not recommended.  There are just two drugs available for the treatment of obesity – Reductil and Xenical but these must be used as part of a diet and exercise regime.  Again, check with your G.P.

Weight loss surgery is not meant to replace a sensible diet and exercise programme.  This programme plus psychological support and supplementation will have to be followed for a lifetime.  A decision is made based upon how severe the problem is and the likely consequences.  Several factors will have to be taken into consideration.  These include having a good level of support from family and friends, being capable of making a sensible, informed decision and being prepared to follow a post-surgery routine.  This routine will include a diet and exercise plan. 

This is especially important in the case of gastric banding (see article for further information) as it requires the careful monitoring of food intake.  It means a slow, ‘drip feed' approach and the avoidance of certain foods altogether.  This may also include alcohol.  If this is not followed it can cause problems as well as being highly unpleasant.