Florida is facing a public health crisis: the crisis of obesity. Obesity, a disease in which a person’s weight becomes significantly above the norm, is on the rise in Florida. In fact, almost 60% of the population of the Sunshine State is overweight or obese. And the crisis extends to our children as well. According to a 2007 study by the Trust for America's Health, 14.4% of our state’s youth ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, with a rank of 21 out of the fifty states.
Obesity is a serious disease -- the second most common cause of preventable death in the United States. Besides its obvious lifestyle drawbacks, it may lead to life-threatening illnesses called co-morbidities, such as Type II diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, and hypertension.
We Floridians must rise to the challenge of obesity. But how?
Beating obesity is not simply a matter of losing weight. That’s easy. The human body requires a certain number of calories each day simply to stay alive. If the number of calories consumed in a day is less than this, the body burns fat to provide the necessary metabolic energy – and weight is lost.
The difficulty comes in restricting caloric intake safely and over the long term. Fad diets and weight-loss pills can cause a person to lose pounds, but most quickly regain the weight – and often suffer damage to their health as a result. Such “cures” treat the symptom of obesity – visible excess weight – not the disease itself. The only way to successfully treat the disease of obesity is by a complete change in the patient’s lifestyle and eating habits.
Many obesity sufferers use eating as a substitute for emotional needs. Others are food addicts, plagued by an urge to eat even when not hungry. Sadly, many people who do not suffer from obesity see these behaviors as indicators of personal weakness on the part of the obese.
We can beat obesity here in Florida. If we eat better food and less of it, and couple this dietary change with a more active lifestyle, we can lose the excess poundage. For those whose obesity is beyond the reach of lifestyle changes, weight loss surgery is there to help.
About Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery is performed under general anesthesia; usually laparoscopically. Its purpose is to surgically alter the patient’s stomach and/or digestive tract in order to physically limit the amount of food the patient can eat at a given time. If successful, the surgical alterations will cause the patient to take in fewer calories each day than he or she burns, resulting in steady, safe loss of excess weight. But weight loss surgery is only a treatment for obesity; a complete change in the patient’s relationship to food is the only real cure. Failure to follow postoperative instructions may regain any weight lost. It is also important to carefully assess the risks and possible outcomes of weight loss surgery with your physician prior to making a decision.
To defeat obesity, Floridians must redefine our current relationship to eating. With willpower, medical care, and counseling -- and, as a last resort, weight loss surgery – we can do this.
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