Obesity & Weight Loss Surgery Guide

Defining obesity

Obesity is a medically recognised disease that involves an individual having an unnatural amount of body fat. Obesity can be measured according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) and individuals with a BMI of 30 or more are categorised as obese.

Obesity is a real problem in the UK as around 1 in 4 people is classified as obese. This means that about 20% of men and 25% of women have been diagnosed as obese. These high figures for obesity reflect the worrying nature of the disease and the fact that it has become so prevalent in the UK. However, the UK is not alone in its high levels of obesity, but the Western world as a whole has become increasingly afflicted with obesity. It is now estimated that 300 million adults around the world are obese.

Overweight v Obese

Being overweight and so carrying a bit more fat on your body is unlikely to affect your health. This does not mean that it should be forgotten as if it is left the problem can escalate into more excessive weight gain, and even obesity eventually. Again the BMI can be used to differentiate between being overweight and being obese. A BMI of 25-30 is categorised as overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is classified as obese.

What is Body Mass Index?

Body Mass Index or BMI is a form of measurement that is used by doctors to assess a person's weight in proportion to their height and sex. They use BMI to determine whether a person is a healthy weight or is under or overweight or obese. You can easily calculate your BMI yourself online by entering your height and weight.

However, BMI is not entirely accurate as it does not consider the different types of body frames that people have. For example someone with a lot of body muscle will be heavier but this weight is not due to fat. The BMI however, will record the person as heavier than they should be and ignore the fact that they have more muscle than fat. BMI can be a useful guide to ascertaining your weight category but it is not 100% correct.

Should I have weight loss surgery?

Weight loss surgery has been proven to be an effective treatment of obesity but it should not be considered as the first and only solution to the problem. Diet and exercise is recommended as the best way to combat obesity. If this proves to be totally ineffective then this is when it might be time to consider having surgery.

Extreme weight gain can have long term physical and mental implications, especially if it is left unresolved. Before considering surgery you need to examine whether it is an appropriate course of action for you. It is only an option with chronic weight gain or obesity.

Excessive weight can be very restrictive as it can stop you from doing everyday activities and can lead to further health problems such as diabetes, arthritis and depression. If you have tried to properly lose weight by sticking to a strict regime of diet and exercise but have not experienced any significant results in terms of weight loss, then it may be that surgery is necessary.

Weight loss surgery

This falls under the term bariatric which is an area of medicine that deals with obesity and other conditions that are related to weight. Weight surgery is a serious procedure that should not be undertaken without due consideration, and it does potentially have some risks. Undergoing weight loss surgery has long term implications as you will need to follow careful diet and exercise regimes, particularly if you have a gastric bypass.

The purpose of weight loss surgery is to reduce the amount of food that you eat which means that you will be consuming less calories. As a result of eating less you can start to burn off the fat that has stored and begin to lose some weight.

Types of weight loss surgery

Deciding what weight loss surgery to have requires a lot of thought. The final choice will depend on several factors such as your current health condition, the advice of your doctor, the cost and what you want to achieve overall. Weight loss surgery should be discussed with your doctor but these are the basic categories of surgery that are available.

Restrictive surgeries:

  • These surgeries work by decreasing the size of the stomach and reducing the rate of digestion.
  • On average a regular stomach can hold up to 3 pints of food but as a result of surgery this capacity will be reduced to only a few ounces. This is because the size of the stomach will have shrunk, and the smaller this is the less food you are able to eat, and so you lose more weight.

Malabsorptive/restrictive surgeries:

  • These surgeries are more invasive and alter the way that your body takes in food.
  • Not only do they reduce the size of the stomach but they also remove parts of the digestion system so that your body is less able to absorb calories.