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Bariatric Surgery

A Radical Obesity Fix

Surgery Isn't a Cure

Still, Flanery and Foreyt agree that every other weight loss option should be exhausted before considering something as drastic as surgery. "Bariatric surgery is not a first, second, or even third alternative," Flanery says. "Surgery is not a magic bullet for obesity."

"The biggest misconception about bariatric surgery is that it's going to solve the problem," Foreyt says. "It's part of the answer, but it's not the whole answer. It's critical that people eat well and exercise after surgery."

Indeed, up to 25% of bariatric surgeries fail. These patients either never reach their target weight or regain pounds by slowly and deliberately ingesting high-calorie foods and, over time, stretching the pouch far beyond its original size. "There's a patient out there who can beat any operation designed," Brolin says.

Obesity's Health Risks

For Bailey, the risk of failure seemed minuscule compared to the status quo. Years of unsuccessful yo-yo dieting and weight loss gimmicks had left her depressed and bigger than ever. It wasn't until she saw her mother suffer a stroke that Bailey began considering surgery. Looking at her mother was like peering into a mirror and seeing her future stare back. Both women share a love of food and a lifelong struggle with the scale. According to research, Bailey's fears about the future were not unfounded.

Obesity opens the door for a procession of serious health problems including hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis, narrowing of the arteries, and an increased risk of death from some cancers. Each year, obesity and inactivity combined lead to 300,000 premature deaths, according to the CDC.

In its clinical guidelines for obesity treatment, the National Institutes of Health supports the use of bariatric surgery in the severely obese, citing studies that show the procedure often alleviates or eliminates many obesity-related conditions.

In the 18 months since her surgery, Bailey tossed aside her cane and disabled parking placard, traded in her sensible shoes for high heels, and stopped swallowing megadoses of ibuprofen to sooth her aching joints. But her rewards weren't just physical.

A slim physique gave Bailey the confidence she needed to apply for a promotion at work. She'd eyed the job for years but was afraid to go for it because of her size. "I would never put myself forward because of the stigma that fat people are lazy, that they have no control," she says. "That's simply not true." She attributes her new attitude to self-pride, something she never had before.

"I wish I could go up to every single person who's trapped in an obese body and say, 'There's help out there. Just reach out and grab that brass ring. You don't have to live like that anymore.'"

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