Cheated my way out of obesity? I beg your pardon!

The day before yesterday was one of those days in which it left me a bit dumbfounded and slightly shell-shocked. A message I received from an old acquaintance of mine that I met during a power walk left me feeling a bit numb. Although I was pleased to have met this person, I felt offended that he thought I cheated my way out of obesity. Even more so, I got lost in my own thoughts and started to overthink. What if this is the common perspective? What if people really think that I (and anyone that had weight loss surgery) actually cheated their way out of obesity?

If anyone thinks that getting a weight loss surgery is a short cut and taking the easy way out, they’re really and sorely mistaken. By having this surgery, all of us patients had to go through a whole lot of cash, blood, sweat and tears. It’s not cliché, we really had to go through all that.

Imagine after all the money spent, physical recovery of having an operation, hours upon hours spent at the gym and holding back from eating your favourite food; you finally think that your stomach can handle a humanely sized portion of food and after looking forward all week to dine out with your loved ones you have two bites of your favourite food and your stomach shuts down and feels like you just ate a ton of bricks. Unfortunately that’s just one of the many hardships that bariatric surgery patients will go through at random times for the rest of their lives. If you still think that it’s a short cut from obesity, kindly think again!

Before anyone decides to undergo a weight loss surgery there’s a long process of deliberation. In most cases the patient would have tried, for many years, various types of diets and training regimes and would only opt for a surgical intervention as a last resort. A last resort to literally save their life! It’s not a guarantee that everyone goes through that process, but I wholeheartedly suggest to anyone that before they opt to go through a bariatric surgery please do seek out the professional advice of your family doctor and also speak to a dietician and a gym instructor. Together with these professionals you can then come to the best decision for yourself. If all roads have been tried and you finally opt for a bariatric surgery, please do understand that it’s not a walk in the park and that we’re only doing it to give ourselves the best chance to live a long and fulfilling life away from obesity.

Obesity as we all know is a silent killer. Heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases & diabetes are in the top 10 leading causes of death everywhere in the world and these issues are all exponentially increased if someone is obese. By beating obesity, whether it’s by traditionally diets or by bariatric surgery, we’re all saving ourselves the hardships of these diseases.

More so, I strongly believe that in the long run we’re also saving our country millions of euros in health care. By beating obesity once and for all we will hopefully (fingers crossed!) require less medical care which in return will free up more money and other resources which can be used for those that need them the most.

Hence why, not only do I not agree that anyone that tried their best to beat obesity somehow cheated anything or anyone, but may I once again take this opportunity to urge all the authorities to invest more in efforts to beat obesity. I do believe that the authorities can do more in this fight against obesity on many different fronts such as;

  1. Incentivize the consumption of health food. If need be decrease VAT on healthy products and those products that have good consumption macros. Do this WITHOUT penalizing unhealthy items. Unfortunately some lower income families can’t afford anything apart from the most unhealthy items and penalizing these products will have a repercussion on poverty as well. In the meantime if VAT is reduced on the healthy items, it means that they will become slightly cheaper, thus making them more affordable to the lower income earners too so it can have a win/win effect there as well. Positive incentivization always had a better end result than penalizing anything so we should focus on that.
  2. We just made public transport free to everyone. What about taking the plunge and making gyms/swimming pools and health facilities free as well? Paying a gym subscription for a whole year might not seem a lot of money to some people, but to others might be a lot! Give everyone a fair chance and incentivize these health facilities by making them free for everyone. We all know that even if they’re free, not everyone will opt to participate so the cost of this measure will not be something that the government can’t afford.
  3. Change the way weight loss surgeries are done at Mater Dei Hospital. The process is a bureaucratic one and the way the whole process is managed raises a lot of questions. The only surgeon at Mater Dei Hospital that can do weight loss surgery is the only surgeon that also does them privately. It makes you wonder why there’s a 4/5 year waiting time, but I will not point fingers to anyone. I’ll just say that the system needs a heavy revamp.
  4. Create think tanks that involve health professionals, physical trainers/gym instructors, successful bariatric patients, patients that suffer from obesity, experts in the field of diabetes, sportsmen, sports coaches and anyone that represents any of the stakeholders that will have an interest to make Malta healthy. These think tanks will work on various projects that can be suggested to the authorities in this country and then work towards getting them over the finishing line. I strongly believe that wherever there is a will, there will always be a way and this is a very achievable battle that we can win.

There’s a lot of things we can do and I believe that together we will achieve this. May I kindly ask everyone to be kind in their words. Do not assume that anyone took a short cut whenever they do anything to better their life. We’re not in anyone’s shoes and we have no idea what people go through. Let’s celebrate success, let’s be kind to one another and let’s ensure that we’re always ready to encourage and champion positive change.

Much love to all of you,

Alan