Bariatric Surgery: A Conversation That Could Save a Life

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Anyone who has a weight problem has likely heard their fair share of supposedly helpful (and, often, so not-so-helpful) advice about diets, doctors, and eating disorders than they care to. So it can be difficult to broach the subject with someone you care about who struggles with morbid obesity. There are several good reasons to make the effort, however.


Research has shown that being overweight or obese is associated with a number of other chronic diseases or conditions that can shorten an individual’s lifespan, negatively affect their quality of life, or both. Those conditions include type II diabetes, many types of cancer, all cardiovascular diseases except congestive heart failure, asthma, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and chronic back pain. Bariatric surgery and the resulting weight loss has been shown to resolve or improve the majority of these conditions.

Despite the obvious advantages bariatric surgery offers, there are a number of reasons your loved one may be hesitant to consider it. For many overweight individuals, however, the loving concern and support of family members and friends can be a catalyst to seek help or more information about their options. Here are some tips for discussing surgical options for weight loss with someone you’re close to:

Don’t judge. Negative comments can sometimes encourage individuals to diet, but one study concluded that long-term, they may have the opposite effect. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that adults who reported recurring discrimination based on their weight tended to have a higher increase in waist circumference over time, with men being particularly affected.

Encourage them to attend an information session. Weight loss is a very personal journey, and what works for one person may not for another. Rather than suggest a specific diet or weight-loss tactic, encourage your loved one to look into any options that appeal to them. The Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Program offers free information sessions several times a month at all three of its hospitals as well as satellite locations.

And offer to go with them. Family members and friends are always welcome to attend the Penn Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program’s free information sessions and support groups. Doing so is a way to show your support and an opportunity for you to ask questions as well.

Model healthy habits yourself. Weight-loss surgery isn’t a magic bullet; patients need to commit to major lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise before and after the procedure. Research shows that such habits can be spread through social circles, so making sure you’re eating a healthy diet and staying active can encourage your loved one to do the same.

For more information sign up for a free weight-loss surgery information session with the Penn Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program.

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