Obesity operations should not be a 'quick fix' - we're failing to tackle the real problem

Research has shown that obesity surgery patients don't receive the appropriate care to ensure lifestyle changes pre and post-operation.

Share
Fact File
  • 8,000 The number of radical weight loss operations in the last year
Related Topics

Right now, it’s possible to make one phone call and within a week, be lying in hospital following a gastric bypass.

Obesity surgery on the NHS has been rising by about 10% each year, with over 8,000 radical weight loss operations taking place in the last year and probably thousands more paid for privately.

Not all people with obesity have eating disorders, but many people with eating disorders are obese. Anorexia is the most talked about eating disorder, but it is also the least common, meaning that illnesses such as Compulsive Over-Eating and Binge Eating Disorder are kept out of the limelight, not getting the attention or awareness they deserve or need.

We’ve had campaign after campaign, free sports lessons, free diet advice, nutritional information splashed across websites and menus and more programmes and more articles about dieting and weight loss than you can shake a stick at, but where are the results? Rather than encouraging people to make healthy choices, eat a balanced diet and get a bit of exercise, many make half-arsed attempts at dieting, fall off the wagon and feel more inadequate than they did in the first place.

"Eating is directly connected with emotions"


There’s something missing, and that is that we don’t acknowledge or address the fact that eating is directly connected with emotions. Overeating and resulting obesity are not signs of weakness or greed, but of something that, if we paid more attention to it, could have a dramatic effect on the health of the nation and reduce the demand for operations which are seen as a ‘quick fix’.

A review by The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death found that less than a third of patients who undergo obesity surgery received any kind of psychological counselling before their operation and worryingly, a quarter of consent forms didn’t contain appropriate information about the treatments, including the physical risks, and the follow-up was also lacking. In a country with such a huge problem with obesity, you’d think we would have formed some idea of how to tackle it, but it appears not.

I find it absolutely appalling that psychological profiling or counselling is not a mandatory part of the referral process before such drastic and life changing action is taken. Sometimes, no thorough checks are made at all to ensure that a person truly understands what impact their surgery will have on them. But if the psychological aspect of over-eating is ignored, then those emotional connections, urges, temptations and cravings will undoubtedly continue whatever bands or staples are thoughtlessly thrown into the mix.

"There’s a horrible tendency to look with disgust upon those who turn to food to make themselves feel better"


Insatiability is not simply a hunger for food; it is the desire to fill a void. Some choose to fill that void with alcohol, some with drugs, some self-harm, some starve and some eat. Often, but not always, we pity those who turn to drugs to deal with depression and we feel sorry for those who feel they have to become emaciated because otherwise they feel worthless. But there’s a horrible tendency to look with disgust upon those who turn to food to make themselves feel better, or those who binge to numb their emotions.

We turn our noses up at people who can’t control their food intake and feel too ashamed to get their bodies out in the gym. We bully them collectively whenever they’re on TV (you only have to follow Twitter feeds during certain Dr Christian Jessen fronted programmes to know that) and certain columns down the right hand side of certain websites say things such as “poured her curves” as though having any excess of fat is some form of disease. It’s disgraceful, but on it goes. Not the most sensible approach to a problem fuelled by crushing low self-esteem is it?

I’m not trying to stand up and say that every obese person has some tragic event in their past which they’re trying to cover up by way of inhaling multipacks of crisps, some people really do just love food, have no problem with being overweight and are happy with that, which is fine. But those who are morbidly obese, those whose lives are in real danger, who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and are at risk of heart disease, those who can’t run around after their kids, can’t have sex, get breathless walking up one flight of stairs, who can’t clothes shop for fear the high street doesn’t stock their size and those who have gone past the point of believing they are able to do anything about it themselves, are all likely to have something much deeper at play than an overactive appetite.

Many people who make that phone call, desperate enough to go under the knife without even being fully aware of the risks and whose lives will change forever as a result will be suffering. It could be from depression, stress, PTSD, anxiety or an eating disorder or something else, but knowing that their health is at stake and carrying on regardless is a sign of addiction, of dependence and surely, of ill health.

"The real problem is in the mind"

Treating obesity with physical surgery alone is not fixing the problem; it isn’t even putting a plaster over it because the real problem is in the mind. Not offering a multi-disciplinary approach, including work with counsellors, dieticians and physiotherapists to morbid obesity (as they do in Holland – well done, Holland) is as illogical as giving an anorexic person a Big Mac.  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower