Weight loss surgeryFat chance or last chance

Obesity not only ruins lives; it kills. For the morbidly obese, weight-loss surgery offers a life-saving solution…

There are many misconceptions about weight-loss surgery. It is often viewed as a quick fix for people who are too lazy to diet and exercise, or an extreme solution to a problem that really should only require a little determination and a few lifestyle changes.
But the reality is that, for whatever reason, there are many people who have tried again and again and are simply unable to lose weight naturally.
In these cases, according to weight-loss surgeon Dr Andrés Tomás, obesity is a disease, and one that if left untreated will have devastating consequences.
Dr Tomás explains: “Obesity increases the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, kidney failure and some forms of cancer. It can cause high blood pressure, depression, infertility and sleep apnea. There is no doubt that morbidly obese patients need help.”
There are also grave social and lifestyle consequences, with overweight people commonly suffering low self-esteem, poor quality relationships and social isolation. And, prejudice against the obese, coupled with their own lack of confidence, can mean they will fare badly in the workplace and lose out financially.
Dr Tomás, who works at Medimar Hospital in Alicante, has successfully treated hundreds of patients. He believes weight-loss surgery really is the only option for the morbidly obese. Without surgery, he maintains, these patients will normally find themselves in a downward spiral of continuing weight gain and deteriorating health. Once they have reached a certain point it becomes virtually impossible for them to lose weight without intervention.
But with surgery, the effects can be dramatic. Dr Tomás has witnessed countless cases of drastic post-surgery weight loss, and seen lives transformed and saved.
Juan Antonio Lucas is one such case.
Weighing in at a staggering 200 kilos Juan Antonio, 31, was too fat to put on his own socks when he first arrived at Dr Tomás’s clinic last year. He had to have his bed reinforced and could not fit into a normal chair.
Size and poor health had forced him to give up his job and sleep apnea meant he spent his nights attached to a breathing machine. He admits his quality of life was extremely poor and he knew his health was in real danger if he did not act.
Juan Antonio put himself into Dr Tomás’s hands and has not looked back. In the months following surgery his whole life changed. His weight loss was dramatic and he quickly shrank to 90 kilos, less than half the man he once was.
“I feel great on all levels. My quality of life just doesn’t compare to how it was before, and I can now live a normal life,” says Juan Antonio.
He says little things make him happy – like putting on his socks, crossing his legs or just fitting in a chair. But the change in Juan Antonio is far from little. With his health and fitness levels massively improved he is now able to live life to the full like any other 31-year-old man.
But despite the success Juan Antonio has enjoyed, neither he nor Dr Tomás would claim that surgery is a magic fix.
“It’s a hard process and you have to be determined to take on the challenges,” Juan Antonio admits.
Success, he says, requires a re-education of eating and exercise habits. “The patient must do his part to maintain a healthy weight.” But Juan Antonio also knows that without the operation no amount of determination would have seen him achieve the weight loss that changed, and most likely saved, his life.
Dr Tomás agrees: “Surgical intervention is the vital first step to helping very overweight people lose weight, but the rest is up to the patient.”
Generally, though, once they have undergone surgery and lost the weight, patients do keep it off. The surgery, which involves restricting the size of the stomach either temporarily or permanently, makes it much harder to overeat, and because patients feel and look so much better they are usually determined not to go back to how they were.
Seeing incredible changes in his patients constantly reaffirms Dr Tomás’s belief about the importance of surgical intervention: “Obesity is a disease and weight-loss surgery is very often the only treatment that can help.”