Obesity is a health crisis in Illinois. Across our state, the number of overweight and obese individuals is rapidly increasing. In fact, more than 61% of the population of Illinois is overweight or obese. Not only is obesity the second most common cause of preventable death in the United States, but it can also foster comorbidities—that is, life-threatening illnesses related to obesity—such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 Diabetes.
Weight loss itself is a no great problem: by cutting a person’s daily caloric intake below the number of calories their body needs to maintain life, weight loss can be easily effected. The difficulty comes in conquering the primal urge to eat when hungry. Obesity is not simply a matter of weight, nor is it a character flaw. It is a disease caused by a disordered relationship with food. For some, the pleasure of eating is a substitute for emotional satisfaction. Others are food addicts, who battle an overwhelming urge to eat even when they aren’t hungry. Sadly, the pain of obesity often leads those with the disease to attempt self-treatment, including fad diets, exercise programs, or gimmicks like so-called weight-loss pills. These efforts lead some to lose significant weight, but most quickly regain it. Many people suffer damage to their health as a result of such quickie “cures”.
No miracle cure for obesity exists. The only way to successfully treat the disease of obesity is through medical care, based upon a complete change in the patient’s lifestyle and eating habits. To beat obesity we must change the way we relate to food, making better food choices and eating less of it. Most of us can accomplish this through education and willpower, in some cases combined with counseling and support. For the rest, weight loss surgery is the only way to combat the disease.
Weight loss surgery works by surgically altering 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. This may be done by removing part of the stomach, or by re-routing the flow of ingested food around the areas where the calories are absorbed. In Lap-band surgery — the most widespread procedure — the stomach and bowel are not cut; only a few small incisions in the abdomen are made to allow the surgeon access to the stomach. An inflatable band is then placed around the stomach, creating a small pouch. If successful, these alterations will cause the patient to take in fewer calories each day than he or she burns, resulting in steady, safe weight loss.