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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Weight Loss Ward: what I thought about it

I watched the two episodes of Weight Loss Ward on ITV (see here and here), about some of the work of the obesity unit of Sunderland Royal Hospital. The patients featured were extremely obese and their lives were consequently full of difficulties, ill-health - including High Blood Pressure and Diabetes - and emotional and social problems. Various healthcare staff sought to help them.
The main help on offer appeared to be Weight Loss Surgery, aka Bariatric Surgery, and we heard a lot from the chief surgeon in this field. He clearly believed he could help these unfortunate people, and wanted to help them, but his help was contingent on their losing a set amount of weight first, or he would not do the surgery. The patients in question were extremely keen to have this surgery and seemed to regard it as the answer to their weight problems, even though it would bring problems of its own afterwards.
Certainly the surgery did in the main appear to help the patients and they were happy about it. But me - I don't think I'd ever go for it, were I in their position. I've read too often about things going wrong after surgery like that, and lives cut short, about huge new problems taking the place of those surmounted.
Patients and staff told us about traumatic life events that were thought to have started the obesity, like early loss of a loved one, or sexual abuse, etc. The idea seemed to be to talk about these matters, to confront them and 'deal with' them. Well, maybe that helped, I don't know. They also had meetings with dieticians who tried to help and encourage them with that initial weight loss required by the surgeon in order to be accepted for surgery. - Now that's were I felt really important measures were omitted.
Some found it tremendously difficult to lose that initial weight, and honestly it was made more difficult than it need have been. Putting an enormously heavy guy on a low calorie diet and expecting him to be able to stick to it despite great hunger, and pushing temptation into his path every day by way of someone taking a trolley round and selling chocolate bars! He was being set up to fail. And although one of the women succeeded in losing weight by limiting her food to Rice Krispies, skimmed milk and Diet Coke, she should surely not have been encouraged to eat such nutrition-depleted garbage instead of real food! - What on earth were the dieticians thinking of?
The easiest, fastest, safest way for obese people to lose a lot of weight is to cut down drastically on salt and salty food, eating real food, raw or cooked from fresh without adding salt. - Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I heard any mention of salt. As well as bringing about weight loss, salt reduction is the most effective way of lowering high blood pressure. It also reduces risk of heart attack and stroke, reduces breathing problems, e.g. with asthma, and lessens the pain of arthritis and many other chronic pains.
So opportunities were sadly missed. As well as the salt thing, it seemed that not even one of the staff recognised the desirability of improving these patients' vitamin D status. I reckon that the frailty and those falls the fat woman had had which had frightened her relatives and confined her to her bedroom, were in large part caused by low vitamin D levels.