Non-surgical Treatments

Diet and Exercise
Most medical professionals will agree that proper diet and exercise are the safest and most ideal way to reach and maintain a healthy weight. The human body functions best when it is supplied with proper nutrients, price and the appropriate proportions of proteins, carbohydrates, sugars, fat, water, vitamins, minerals and salts. Our bodies also function best, including the ability to fight disease, when we practice moderate, consistent exercise.

But it is often difficult to follow a proper diet and to adhere to an ideal exercise regimen. We live in a busy, fast paced society. Our careers are competitive and long hours are often expected in order to maintain or advance in our jobs. Our children depend on us to drive them to extracurricular activities. More and more is expected of our time, leaving little time available for planning proper meals or engaging in exercise. Fast food establishments are prevalent. It s far more convenient for us to make a quick stop and eat something convenient than it is to shop for and prepare well-balanced meals. We have been taught that many foods are luxuries as well, when in fact, they are often not ideal for our body’s health. Fat increases flavor, as do salt and sugar. Over time, our entire North American society has evolved toward these conditions. We seem to have forgotten the old adage, “you are what you eat”.

For many of us, especially obese individuals, breaking out of this well-established cycle can be extremely difficult. Many of us were raised on poor eating habits by our parents and have no real knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet. Many of us may be aware, but social pressures make it difficult to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into our lives. Many try, and repeatedly fail.

Certainly, the ideal method for achieving and maintaining healthy weight is to follow the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) balanced diet guidelines, outlined on the Nutritional Guidance page of the Outreach section on our website, and to adopt a regimen of regular, moderate exercise (see Fitness). But once you have reach a state of obesity or morbid obesity, precipitated by whatever external influences that may have helped to lead you there (see Facts on Obesity), diet and exercise often fail.

Most become somewhat desperate to lose weight and want to lose weight quickly. In an effort to do so, many obese individuals try “crash diet”. That is, he or she will learn of a diet that severely restricts calories or incorporates only a narrow array of foods. The problems with this method are that sudden decrease in caloric intake can trigger a rebound effect. When we drastically decrease our caloric intake, our bodies often interpret this as a sign of famine. Our bodies are designed to slow metabolism at times of famine in an effort to conserve diminished calories. While an individual may experience initial weight loss on a drastic diet, that weight loss slows relatively soon. Also, because crash diets often involved a significant restriction to the types of food that are consumed, once cravings for the food we regularly eat over takes willpower, and a backslides or returns to their normal eating habits, their slower metabolism stores the increased calories as fat. This often leads to weight regain and frequently, a gain of more weight than before.

If an individual selects diet as a method of weight loss, the diet must be considered a permanent lifestyle change. The diet must be approached methodically, and strong consideration must be put to consuming healthy portions of food giving healthy proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, etc. A successful diet will shed pounds much more slowly than what most individuals would ideally like to see. A decrease of 1-2 pounds per week is considered safe and maintainable in the long-term.

There are reasons; however, that an individual may elect to undergo a bariatric (weight loss) procedure even though dieting is always an option. For instance, a person’s obesity-related health concerns may have reached such a level that he or she seeks a more reliable tool for weight loss (see Co-Morbid Diseases page of the Obesity Facts section of our website). To qualify for weight loss surgery, most insurance companies require that a patient have a history of dieting attempts. The fact is that the social, environmental, history and genetic influences and pressures a person may face each day, lead to a high failure rate with dieting and exercise.

Fasting is not a healthy weight loss tool and is ineffective in the long term. The appeal is that fasting is thought of as quick. Since excessive eating creates obesity, certainly not eating at all will cure it. Theoretically, this is true; however, it is extremely impractical and unhealthy. The body requires a constant supply of nutrients, vitamins, fats, and calories to function in a normal, healthy state. Many components found in food, broken down by your digestive system, only remain in the body for several hours. If eating is stopped, these nutrients will no longer be present at all, and their absence can severely impact your health. People who go on hunger strikes, for instance, do indeed lose substantial amounts of weight, but it is at the expense of muscle tissue and organ failure. For an obese individual, Body Mass Index of 30 or greater, to reduce below the level of obesity through fasting, he or she would likely suffer kidney failure, heart attack, renal disease and a host of other life-threatening ailments.

Besides, the initial weight loss experience through fasting is typically just water weight. A normally functioning digestive tract requires water to create the acid mix solution that breaks down food into usable molecules. Water is also required to transport those molecules from the small intestine and distribute them to the organs throughout the body. Without food consumption, less water is required in the digestive system and a person loses weight. When a person resumes eating, the body’s need for increased water resumes, and the weight returns.

Finally, fasting causes the same rebound effect as that described in dieting. In fact, because of the increased drastic measures that fasting takes on the body, the rebound effect is even more extreme.

While there are several different classifications of laxatives, those that are most commonly used for weight loss are called osmotics. These contain milk of magnesia, epsom salts or sorbitol. These laxatives are chemically manufactured to draw the body’s fluids, mostly water, into the colon and then release them through your stool along with waste products. The main functions of the colon are absorption of water and minerals, and the formation and elimination of feces, or solid waste. By subverting the normal function of the colon, daily consumption of laxatives is harmful. Use of osmotics typically creates an initial weight reduction by reducing the body’s water content, but that water weight returns once laxative use stops. Similar to the rebound effect mentioned above with extreme dieting and fasting, the human body has a built in defense mechanism to accommodate for excess water loss as well.

As the body loses an inappropriate amount of water, cravings for water may increase. As long as water is available, and a person’s will power succumbs, he or she will drink it. The body is losing too much water, yet water is available; this often causes the body to eventually retain excess water in defense of its own health. Water weight may increase and a bloated feeling occurs.

Finally, since the digestive tract relies heavily on water to transport nutrients from within the small intestine and colon to organs throughout the body, an osmotic laxative’s tendency to keep water within the system does not allow for the adequate distribution of nutrients required for good health. This same effect may disrupt the efficacy of any additional medications that a person may be taking.

Bulimia is an eating disorder typically characterized by the individual’s intentional vomiting up of food shortly after it has been consumed. This is often combined with abuse of laxatives or diuretic pills. Many bulimics follow a cycle called the “Binge – Purge cycle”. They often have bouts of eating large amounts of high-calorie foods shortly followed by a purging episode where the food is “purged” before it can begin digestion. However just as everyone is unique, no eating disorder sufferer is quite like the other. Some bulimics rarely binge, but may often purge. In this situation their weight will begin to drop to unhealthy levels.

Typically, bulimics are individuals of normal weight; that is, they are seldom neither overweight nor underweight. But man obese individuals, recognizing this syndrome as a potential technique for weight loss, may adopt the characteristics of a bulimic. What can start as a seemingly innocent and desperate attempt to control weight can unfortunately evolve into a long-suffering and dangerous addiction.

Smoking is a common means an individual may use in an attempt to lose or maintain weight. In fact, smoking can be an effective weight loss method, but the reasons for its effectiveness are the same reasons that it is so severely injurious to your body and health.

Smoking, or more specifically nicotine, can deaden an individual’s appetite, but it also leeches nutrients from the body. Heavy smokers and people who have smoked for a long time often gain a few pounds after they quit smoking. Unfortunately, smokers often use this fact to justify continuing to smoke. There are some simple reasons that quitting smoking may have weight gain side effects:
Smoking increases your metabolism, the rate at which you burn calories; therefore quitting smoking may cause your metabolism to decrease somewhat, likely to its normal rate.

People who quit smoking are inclined to eat more because they reach for snacks as a substitute for cigarettes, simply to keep their hands occupied.
Smoking negatively influences the sense of taste. People who quit smoking are inclined to eat more because food tastes better.

Quitting smoking is difficult enough without the fear of gaining weight. The primary reason that people gain weight when they quit smoking is that they tend to eat more, and you can control that. If you can keep from turning to food in place of cigarettes, and make a few adjustments to your eating and exercise habits, you won’t have to gain any weight at all.