Obesity is a disease. This comes as news to those who consider this condition to be nothing more than the result of overeating and inadequate exercise.
While it is true that excess body weight represents an imbalance between calorie intake and energy expenditure, the disease is much more complicated than “calories in versus calories out.”
Obesity is a long-term, multifactorial disease in which changes in body function lead to excess body fat and harmful physical, emotional and social consequences. Because it is a long-term disease, it should be considered as serious as any other chronic illness.
Regrettably, while many Americans recognize the severity of obesity, they often do not pursue options for treatment beyond diet and exercise.
A 2021 national survey by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery showed that 82% of the 1,714 adults polled believe obesity is just as big a health threat as cancer, but there is a significant difference between what people think and what they do when it comes to battling the disease.
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People most likely do not blame a lack of willpower for cancer, but 73% of those trying to lose weight cite that as the No. 1 reason for obesity. Most also say the most effective treatment for the disease is self-help, through diet and exercise alone, according to the study.
Given that so many of us think obesity is a serious health problem, why do people think the solution should be self-directed without the input from a clinician? People don’t manage asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure by themselves, yet many think they should go it alone when it comes to weight loss.
The clinicians at Community Healthcare System’s Healthy 4 Life Advanced Weight Loss Center help patients navigate a journey to a healthier body weight through surgical or nonsurgical options. While bariatric surgery is an option for some, others may be better suited to weight-loss medications and dietary recommendations. A nutrition plan focused on caloric restriction and an optimized intake of protein, carbohydrates and fat also is helpful for weight loss.
Healthy 4 Life is a nationally accredited bariatric center and does much more than promote weight loss. For patients who have obesity-associated conditions, successful weight loss can improve those conditions as well. Bariatric patients who have type 2 diabetes, hypertension or obstructive sleep apnea may experience improvement and remission.
Patients have told me how well they are doing by how well they feel after losing weight. They have noticed they have greater exercise tolerance, more mobility and less joint pain. They have found it easier to shop for clothes in their size. They also have reported a greater sense of confidence and self-esteem.
It takes time and effort to see results, but for those who recognize that excess weight is keeping them from enjoying a healthier life, the time for that effort is now.
Dr. Michael H. Simpson is an obesity medicine physician at Community Care Network Inc. He is board-certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Association of Family Physicians. He has worked at Healthy 4 Life since 2016. To learn more about the Healthy4Life programs offered Community Hospital in Munster and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, call 219-836-4900 (Munster), 219-947-6122 (Hobart) or email Healthy4Life@comhs.org.