Breaking the Bonds of Obesity Before and After Weight Loss Surgery

If you’ve read a paper or watched the evening news any time in the past decade, you are already aware of the skyrocketing obesity rate in America and worldwide. The question is, what is behind the epidemic? A new video series from the University of California explores the numerous factors that have created a “perfect storm” for this widespread health crisis. Whether or not you have had weight loss surgery, understanding the external causes of obesity can help you make more informed choices, lose weight, and stay healthy for life.

Obesity has existed for millennia, but only in the past 30 years has it become so prevalent, particularly in Western culture. In the U.S. alone, two-thirds of the population is overweight, and 1 in 3 Americans is clinically obese. Are we really eating that much more than our parents and grandparents did? Not necessarily. For years, dieticians have taught that a calorie is a calorie, and if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Now, medical experts have determined that not all calories are equal.

A Culture of Addiction
For one thing, fast foods and processed foods have minimal nutritional value and are laden with added sugars. As a result, the body reacts in two ways: it stores what it has, and it craves more. Much more. Because these types of highly palatable foods are so inexpensive and easily accessible, most people are inclined to feed the craving, triggering the metabolic syndrome that ultimately causes obesity.

Other factors, such as the increased use of pharmaceuticals (both in humans and animals), higher stress levels, and a more sedentary lifestyle all contribute to the growing rate of obesity in children and adults. More obesity means more related health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

Breaking the Bonds
So, how do you beat the odds and overcome the obesity epidemic? Weight loss surgery is a start, because the surgery creates a physical barrier to consuming large amounts of food. Simply put, you get full faster. But, you still need to make sure you consume the right foods and avoid the types of foods that trigger the addictive craving for more calories. Here are four quick tips that can help you stay on track to a healthier lifestyle:

1. Shop the Outside Aisles. Visit any supermarket, and you’ll likely see a similar layout: produce, meats and dairy items are placed along the walls, while the aisles in the middle of the store are laden with pre-packaged processed foods. By shopping the perimeter of the store, you can fill your basket with healthy choices, like fruits and vegetables, chicken, fish, tofu, and soy milk. When you need something from the dry goods section, go directly to that item, and then back to the perimeter. If you start to browse the aisles, you are more likely to give into temptation.

2. Never, ever eat fast food. Yes, we are all pressed for time. Yes, drive-thrus provide cheap and easy access to a quick meal. But, other than “fast,” there is nothing good about fast food. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you’re going to stop by McDonald’s for a salad. Being there puts you right in the path of temptation. (Think of an alcoholic who goes to the liquor store to buy a pack of gum. Why take the chance that you will succumb to a moment of weakness?) Instead, follow tip #3 to protect your body and your health!

3. Prepare for cravings. Bariatric surgery will cause you to feel full after just a few bites and to be hungry less often. But, about a year after surgery, the prolonged feeling of satiety will begin to fade, and you can start to feel hunger pangs between meals. If you don’t plan in advance, you may find yourself suddenly heading toward the vending machine or picking up a less-than-healthy bite on the fly. Better to pack a small bag of apple slices, carrot sticks, whole almonds or banana chips, so you have a nutritious option within arm’s reach when you crave a little something.

4. Drink lots of water. Perhaps the greatest weight loss secret in the world is to simply stay hydrated. Drinking water frequently throughout the day not only keeps you from feeling hungry, but also helps cleanse your body of toxins. What’s more, reaching for your water bottle will keep your hands busy, so you’re less likely to reach for a sugary snack. Just remember, no beverages of any kind with a meal or within 30-60 minutes of mealtime.

By understanding the highly addictive nature of fast food and processed foods, you can make educated choices about what to put in your body. Whether or not you have had bariatric surgery, eating fresh foods and planning in advance for the hectic day ahead can keep you looking and feeling healthy and fit for life.

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