I often think that if we gathered together all the money we waste on pointless studies we would have quite a great budget for supplementing the cost of healthy food, providing free gym membership and spending on food education in our school, but a good report makes for better headlines right?
For some reason Christmas run up 2015 is the season to discuss obesity (just what you want before the most indulgent day of the year right?) and the stories have been coming thick and fast. From the Underground fat shaming cards to the Swedish report that you can’t be ‘fat and fit’ we are ending the season with a British Medical study that wants to hand out bariatric surgery to ‘one and all’.
The idea is that if we give surgery to all 1.4million people eligible for it we will cut the number of people with diabetes, heart disease and other obesity associated illnesses – I don’t know about you but that link seems quite obvious – I’m not sure the expense of a study was really worth it.
But more to the point it is that we have people who are supposed to be super smart – Doctors – working on a really expensive band aid and ignoring the actual issues here. While for some people bariatric surgery is successful – and yes it all does come down to personal choice, rolling out surgery as a solution without dealing with the cause is very dangerous.
As a rule we wait until an issue is rather overwhelming and at the point of feeling unmanageable before we try to deal with it – human nature – just look at the ‘migrant crisis’ and Syria – and there is no difference here.
Obesity is a complex problem and offering surgery indiscriminately to all that have reached a certain size or weight quota is irresponsible. We have to look at tackling the problems that lead to health problems and while they maybe a slightly slower burn and more expensive they are the only way that we can turn things around.
If we don’t start to recognise emotional and binge eating as a disorder and successfully tackle the lack of nutrition education, availability of healthy food and access to fitness then we can’t change the cycle we are stuck in. By making surgery a priority over mental health and education we are handing out band aids but not tackling the root causes and this will ultimately limit any ‘success’ in the future.
Equally the media rhetoric needs to highlight the dangers of these types of surgeries too. For every success story, like with all major surgeries there are many cases that do not end in a ‘size 10’ and while this doesn’t make for a good and sensational obesity headline, putting these types of surgeries on a pedestal only further perpetuates the myth that your life will be perfect at a smaller size. If other mental health issues haven’t been dealt with, then this, is unlikely to happen.
The truth is, if you want to lose weight (which is ok if you do) it is hard and that’s because it isn’t about dieting. Often the eligible participants have ‘done every diet and slimming pill’ around but long, slow and successful weight loss that stays off isn’t done through a quick fix diet. It is completed through an overall lifestyle change and it isn’t easy. The problem is the language around bariatric surgery is just as bad as the wording in the billion pound diet industry.
We live in an ‘I want it now’ generation – whether it is fast cars or fast fashion that is your poison, this need for immediacy is no different when it comes to our bodies and that just isn’t the way we were made to function.
It shows just how extreme a society we are when we think it is pretty normal to chop people up rather than retrain brains and lifestyles.
Surgery is not the answer to diabetes and obesity and I hope there is enough rallying voices to stop us becoming a nation of bariatric surgery barbarians.