Obesity is a condition, sometimes even considered a disease, characterized by excess body fat. The condition causes serious physical issues, ranging from reduced mobility to an increased risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Obesity is caused by poor lifestyle choices which are difficult to invert, such as being sedentary. The lack of information about correct dieting choices, especially pronounced in vulnerable groups of people, makes this pathology hard to tackle.
The modern lifestyle contributed to what is commonly called an “epidemic” of obesity: in Europe, up to 60% of adults suffer from this pathology. A combination of medical experts, psychologists and help groups working on a local scale are needed to effectively fight obesity.
Obesity is caused by more factors than simply overeating
«Obesity is a serious disease that interests every organ» Rosario Ranno explains. Ranno is a medical doctor, Plastic and Large Burns Surgery Complex Surgery Operating Unit Director, National Counselor for Sicrpe and surgeon at the Cannizzaro Hospital in Catania. «The extreme volume increase of fat tissue profoundly alters the balance between body parts» he adds. This excessive growth is often caused by two main reasons: excessive calories ingested and lack of physical activity.
Obesity may seem a purely somatic pathology; however, the psychological component of the condition is significant. «Obesity is complex and serious, and is a disease without a proper cure» Ranno insists, «however it is possible to coexist with it if people have the strength and cognition to understand the sacrifices one have to make.» As a matter of fact, Ranno has his patients followed by psychologists during the check-ups leading to surgeries. Psychological help aids patients not to relapse, a serious risk leading to demoralization and feeling of hopelessness.
Obesity stigmatization and the help of associations
Other than being a hard-to-treat pathology, obesity carries a significant social stigma. Iris Zani, president and founder of the non-profit organization Amici Obesi, said that back in 2005 she felt the need for an association that helped obese people getting information about their condition. There being none in Italy, she created Amici Obesi. In fact, education and acceptance are helpful in treating a condition that is common-place and yet hard to tackle. «When they come to us, the patients already know they have to fix a serious problem and start a healing journey» Zani said, explaining that these people have often carried this social and health burden for years.
«We are used to telling lies to ourselves, to escape from the facts pointing to our obesity» Cristina Rastelli, collaborator of Amici Obesi, explains. «Overweight people procrastinate until they realize their condition forces them to renounce to many things». This pathology is subtle, and obese people find themselves in a vicious circle, lacking socialization and options, driving them to the only friend they know: food. Defeating obesity is hard, as without a structured plan the risk of failing is around the corner. And failure has negative effects on morale and on willingness to change. «Relapsing is the demonstration that obesity is not a vice but a disease, and the risk of a slip-up is incredibly high» Zani concludes.
Bariatric surgery and obesity
Bariatric surgery is the kind of surgery that includes all the operations aimed to counteract obesity and its effects. For example, abdominoplasty is a surgery that may be used to remove excess skin after a fast fat loss. «This operation removes the extra skin on the abdomen» Francesco Russo, specialist in aesthetic, plastic and reconstructive surgery says. The operation is safe, even when carried out in tandem with other bariatric surgeries such as liposuction. Discharge from the hospital occurs after 2 or 3 days. «Daily activities can be resumed after just 3 weeks, light physical activity after 2 months, and heavy physical activity after at least 6 months» concludes Russo.
Bariatric surgery also includes interventions aimed to cure the effects of obesity, such as diastasis recti. Obese patients have a higher chance of suffering from diastasis, due to the increased pressure on the abdomen caused by excess fat.
How to overcome obesity and go back to a normal life? It is a long journey, but patients need a combination of psychological help, support from their loved ones and, if needed, surgical interventions. However, surgery has to be performed on patients educated about the risks they face and the sacrifices required to fight and beat obesity once and for all. «Food is like constantly having a drug at your fingertips» Cristina Rastelli says. «Until this mechanism is defeated, it is impossible to escape obesity with either surgery or a balanced diet» she concludes.