Obesity Myths


When it comes to losing weight, you can encounter many myths and incorrect approaches that actually can sabotage your efforts. These can prevent you from being successful by putting all the pressure on you.

People who are trying to lose weight need to stop the self-blame game, says Dr. Felix Spiegel, MD, general and bariatric surgeon with Memorial Hermann NewStart Surgical and Medical Weight Loss®.
“Obesity is a medical condition—a disease—and treating it successfully may require medical care."  

Dr. Spiegel discusses common myths and offers a successful plan to help you achieve weight loss.

Myth: Without willpower, you may fail
“Unlike most conditions, obesity is visible to everyone,” he says. “And it’s easy to blame yourself for it because you may have been treated with a lack of respect—even by some health care providers.”

But successful, long-term weight loss is not a solo battle against willpower, Dr. Spiegel says. Rather, he calls it “a team sport.”

“The patient is the race car driver, but to win the race, there’s a whole team that assists—the mechanics and crews that change the tires, fix the car and coach the driver on how to make the turn and at what speed.”

When weight loss surgery is needed, physicians “guide the patient every step of the way to make sure their surgery is as effective as possible to win the race.”

The best weight-management specialists tend to be linked to hospitals, with registered dietitians, personal trainers, therapists and doctors devoted to getting you across the finish line.

But it’s not about rushing the process or having to sacrifice the foods you love. And if you deviate from the course, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

“Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong journey,” Dr. Spiegel says. “Those who follow up long-term with their bariatric surgeon or weight-management doctor have much greater weight loss, keep it off longer and have less incidence of side effects.”

Myth: Bariatric Surgery is cosmetic
“Bariatric surgery is not cosmetic,” Dr. Spiegel says. “For some people it’s a necessity. If you have 150 pounds to lose, the surgery can save your life. Once you have the surgery, you can lose up to 70% of your excess weight,” Dr. Spiegel says. “It will make all the difference in the world. You’ll sleep and function better.” 

Excess weight on the body is often accompanied by comorbidities: sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. All of these raise your risk of dying prematurely from heart disease, stroke and even cancer.  

Diabetes contributes to heart attacks, kidney failure, blindness and amputations, with four out of every five amputations of toes, feet or legs being due to the disease according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Knee and back pain, heartburn and heart, lung and liver disease also are byproducts of obesity, but weight loss may relieve them.

Weight loss can also aid fertility. Women who are obese may struggle to conceive due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Myth: The best way to measure your success is your scale
A scale only provides one number. If your levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure fall with weight loss, you also can mark your progress by being healthier and living a longer, more active life. You also may be able to take less medicine.

Myth: Weight loss requires deprivation
Weight loss requires portion control—ideally accompanied by exercise and possibly injectables, surgery or counseling to counter self-sabotage and criticism you have received over your lifetime.

You may find, though, that you’ve lost your taste for treats or certain dietary habits. This is especially true after surgery, Dr. Spiegel says.

Myth: Bariatric Surgery is dangerous
Some people are scared to have surgery because they think it’s dangerous. While surgery complications were high 20 years ago, the procedures have been refined, Dr. Spiegel says. 

“The reality is that the death rate is among the lowest for major surgeries,” he says. “The risks of remaining overweight are much higher than the risk of undergoing the surgery.” 

Myth: You will starve or be unable to savor food
On average, people having weight loss surgery may lose up to 70% of their extra weight. That means if they need to lose 100 pounds, they lose 70. But while they can keep it off long-term, they still care carrying around those 30 pounds of extra weight.

As for fear of losing the things they enjoy—notably, the enjoyment of meals – Dr. Spiegel says his patients “get back to a soft, regular diet in two weeks and back to a normal diet in a month or less. They still enjoy their food. They taste it, and they have more energy than before surgery.”

That’s because, after a short period, they’re able to sleep better which gives them more energy during the day.

Myth: See a specialist who only performs one type of Bariatric Surgery
The best bariatric surgeons provide a variety of treatment options. Seek a surgeon who is board certified by the American Bariatric Society.

“Take your time,” Dr. Spiegel says. “If you hire a plumber to repipe your house, you look for the best plumbers that have extensive experience and can fix a variety of issues. The same is true of licensed bariatric surgeons.”

“Don’t go to a surgeon who only does one procedure,” he says. “Go in for a consultation to hear all the options and go to a certified bariatric surgeon who performs every option that’s paid by insurance, is accepted by the American Bariatric Society and does follow-ups.”

Myth: The race ends at the finish line
Successful weight loss is a lifelong journey. It requires focus and the realization that there is no finish line. You must maintain healthy habits and celebrate yourself as you go.

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