Before jumping on the Gastric Band-Wagon
Can a gastric band - whether it's real or imaginary – help deal with cravings and unhealthy eating habits?
In this current war on obesity; the latest weapon that the weight-loss industry is keen to promote is bariatric surgery, or “the gastric band”. Even our NHS seems more than happy to spend countless thousands of pounds on these procedures; but not a single penny on helping people who have unhealthy food habits change their behaviour. This has now led to a bizarre situation of some patients who are under the weight threshold for surgery, being told to put ON weight so that they can qualify for the operation! (1)
There have also been reports of some of the more unfortunate patients apparently now finding that after the operation they can’t eat anything more than a cupful of solids; yet still crave food as they used to! (2). There are even Internet blogs and chat-rooms devoted to “beating the band”, where advice on how to continue to eat unhealthily after the procedure is posted and discussed.
The message seems to be that bariatric surgery is a safe and effective method of bringing about drastic weight-loss, provided that the patient learns to modify their food intake accordingly. But surely, if these desperately overweight people could be shown how to do that in the first place, would they not then avoid the need for surgery?
John Morgan, a consultant psychiatrist at the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders states: “If you're eating because of a need in your brain rather than a need for stomach satiety signals, then having your stomach reduced is not going to solve that.” (3)
This is obviously exactly the same for “virtual” or “imaginary” gastric bands too. The restriction in the gut may not in these cases be physical, but if the cravings are not addressed and greatly reduced, then the client will still be in a situation of wanting to eat inappropriately – exactly as they did before! And how many cases are there where no additional nutritional support is offered to clients who have undergone treatment, and then still have no idea how to eat healthily?
If lifestyle and habit have been the primary causes of weight gain, then common sense would tell us that these issues also must be fundamental when attempting weight loss.
The magic formula for any long-lasting weight loss solution for those whose eating habits have caused unhealthy weight gain has always been and always will be “less in and more out”; and clearly, this must involve behavioural change. Only a method that addresses this and enables it to develop can begin to yield results that have any chance of becoming acceptable and permanent.
(1) London Metro 27th Jan 2011
(2) Daily Mail 16th September 2010
(3) Professor John F Morgan MD(Cantab) MA FRCPsych MB BChir FHEA DipCBT. Senior Lecturer & Consultant Psychiatrist
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