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Losing Weight with Surgery

I've always felt that one reason Americans eat too much is because so much of our food is tasteless. So we substitute quantity for quality.


Speaking at the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit in November, this view was supported by a professional chef who had bariatric surgery at the age of 39. His BMI was 52, or 150 pounds over his ideal body weight. Now looking quite trim, Mario Izzo said, "Now I know I can only eat a small volume of food, so I want it to be tasty. Before, I went for volume." He said he maintains his weight loss with a "high-protein diet."


Unfortunately, I think most Americans still go for volume instead of taste.


We grab fast food or microwave processed dinners and gobble them down. They have so little inherent taste that the manufacturers stuff them with sugar and salt, or provide sugary, salty sauces.


The French, on the other hand, traditionally worship food, shop at the market every day, spend hours preparing tasty meals at home, and then spend a long time at the table. Until recently, when American fast food and quick eating became popular in Europe, the French had no major obesity problems. They ate rich food, but not a lot of it.


Chef Izzo was one of three bariatric surgery patients who gave their stories at the clinic Summit. You can hear the three men describe their situations here.


Izzo said he always thought he was OK because

even though he was obese, he was thinner than his father and didn't have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Then his diabetic father died from a heart attack at 59 and Izzo wanted to avoid the same fate. So he had the surgery, lost 140 pounds, and now works out 5 days a week.


Another patient, William Baughman, was diabetic and had cirrhotic NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis), or fatty liver, which caused low platelets and easy bleeding. His BMI was only 32, but he needed to do something about his medical problems.


The third, David Brown, was overweight (370 pounds; BMI of 41) and diabetic. He said he was taking 27 pills a day, plus 5 daily injections of insulin.


None of the three men said they had any regrets about their surgery except that they hadn't done it sooner.  (Of course, because the surgery was done at Cleveland Clinic, which sponsored the Summit, it would be unlikely they'd choose for the presentation patients who had complications or who regained all the lost weight.)


Baughman successfully battled the insurance industry. Because of his relatively low BMI, they first refused to approve the surgery. He went ahead with it anyway. And eventually, because he was doing it for medical problems, not obesity, they paid.


When asked if they thought obesity is a disease or a lifestyle choice, Izzo suggested that in his case lifestyle was important: as long as he was thinner than his relatives, he thought he was OK, and "I'm going to eat this because that's what our family eats."

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