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Why Losing Weight is Harder Than You Think

August 21, 2015

An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet every year. Yolanda Sanchez was one of them.

Yolanda tried everything to lose weight, including diet and exercise. But after losing weight, she would gain it back again. At her highest weight, Yolanda weighed 239 pounds. The excess weight kept her from enjoying everyday life—she had difficulty walking and doing strenuous exercise was even more challenging. She also avoided rides at theme parks out of fear that she couldn’t  fit into the seats.

Unfortunately, Yolanda isn’t alone in this struggle. According to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health, people who are obese have a more difficult time losing weight with diet and exercise. The study, in which researchers tracked 278,000 people for 10 years, showed that the odds of someone who is obese getting to a normal weight without weight loss surgery were 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women. Even people in the study who dropped at least 5 percent of their body weight often did not maintain their weight loss. The study suggests that current weight management programs that focus on diet and exercise are not effective in tackling obesity.

This is true for many people. In our office, we often see patients who have tried losing weight for several years. Many of them will lose 10 pounds, only to gain 20 pounds back. There’s a yo-yo effect that anyone who has tried to lose weight understands all too well.

In certain situations, diet and exercise only can get you so far. Weight loss surgery combined with lifestyle changes helps many people shed weight, keep it off long term and improve their overall health.

Yolanda, a patient in our Bariatric Weight Loss Program, is a prime example of the benefits of weight loss surgery. Since undergoing bariatric surgery, she has lost 94 pounds. Her high cholesterol, hypertension and asthma are completely gone and she has more energy. But surgery alone hasn’t been the cure-all for Yolanda. She works hard everyday to maintain her weight. She eats healthy, exercises four times a week and does Zumba. She also hired a personal trainer to ensure she keeps losing weight and  permanently maintains her weight loss.

To be clear, bariatric surgery isn’t magic. This surgery is nothing more than a tool to help change how you live. If you’ve tried everything possible to lose weight and haven’t maintained or achieved results, weight loss surgery may be the best option. If you are more than 100 pounds overweight, you also should consider surgery. Bariatric surgery is now covered by most insurance companies. It will not only help you lose weight, but it may improve or eliminate health conditions like diabetes, fatty liver and other metabolic diseases, so in this sense it can be lifesaving.

After surgery, you may lose a lot of weight but lifestyle changes are what’s going to keep the weight off. Changing your diet and activity level after weight loss surgery — and in general — are important because when you start to lose weight, two things happen: your appetite increases and your metabolism slows down. Quick fixes like fad diets and weight loss pills won’t allow you to maintain weight loss in the same way changing your lifestyle will.

But as we always say, prevention is key. The best way to stay healthy is to prevent yourself from becoming overweight. Energy balance—which involves taking in fewer calories than you put out—is the main way to maintain long-term weight loss. But if this hasn’t produced meaningful results, you should consider weight loss surgery. If you’d like to learn more, contact our Bariatric Weight Loss Program and schedule an appointment with a doctor who can help.