A Radical Obesity Fix
Bailey's success story is a common one. In 75% of cases,
bariatric surgery succeeds where other methods fail. Dramatic weight loss
begins immediately after the procedure and levels off in 18 to 24 months. The
average patient loses between 50% and 75% of his/her excess weight and keeps it
off -- a feat no diet or drug has yet to match.
It's clear that nonoperative treatment doesn't work for the
severely obese, Brolin says. "In this group, the failure rate of dieting
Other weight-loss experts concur. Compare bariatric surgery to
dieting and it's no contest, says John Foreyt, a psychologist at Baylor College
of Medicine in Houston, who works extensively with bariatric surgery patients.
The average dieter loses 10% of his body weight. For someone who is severely
obese, that can be a mere 30 or 35 pounds, says Foreyt.
Using behavior modification, such as diet and exercise, the
most weight a person can hope to shed is one to two pounds per week, says
Randall Flanery, a psychologist at the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute
in St. Louis. At that rate, a person who needs to drop 150 to 200 pounds may
die of an obesity-related illness before getting the weight off, he says.
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.