News & Events

Why do people get weight loss surgery?

Celeste Hebets, P.T.

Obesity trends continue to increase at an alarming rate, especially in the U.S. Today, more than one-third of all Americans are overweight, and an estimated 5 to 10 million Americans are morbidly obese. In 1995, about 10 to 14 percent of the U.S. population was considered obese. In 2005, that number increased to approximately 20 to 30 percent.

According to the CDC, in 2008:

• Only one state (Colorado) had less than a 20-percent obesity rate.
• 26 states had at least a 25-percent obesity rate.
• Six states (Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia ) had a 30-percent or greater obesity rate.
• In Arizona, close to 25 percent of the population is considered obese.

The idea that obesity is just a lack of willpower is not only an over-simplification, but also is unscientific and wrong. Obesity is a disease with many contributing factors including genetics, environment, metabolism and eating disorders. Recent studies show that at least 70 percent of adopted children follow the weight patterns of their biological parents, NOT the parents who raise them.

Due to its complexity, overcoming obesity can be difficult. The combination of the excess weight, medications for other health conditions, genetics and the inability to be active make the process extremely difficult if not near to impossible. Fortunately, weight loss surgery is now an option for many.

Weight loss surgery is sometimes thought to be a “cosmetic” procedure and is “the lazy way to lose weight.” This is not true. Individuals who undergo weight loss surgery must go through a rigorous process, including showing evidence of weight loss failure with traditional diets and weight loss medication.

Weight loss surgery is an important tool for those individuals who have tried to lose weight and have been unable to do so with traditional diets, exercise and medication. It allows them to finally lose the weight and get their health back!

When the excess weight is lost, many people have improvements and sometimes even resolution of their chronic illnesses and conditions: Sleep apnea is resolved 74-98 percent; asthma is improved or resolved 82 percent; Type 2 diabetes is resolved 83 percent; high blood pressure is resolved 52-98 percent; and the list goes on and on.

Additionally, there are many benefits that are not as easy to measure, such as an ease of movement in their daily lives, desire and ability to exercise more, less pain in bones and joints. People who have had weight loss surgery report a 95-percent improvement in their quality of life and a 55-percent reduction in feelings of depression.

If you are considering weight loss surgery, you are invited to attend a free information session at Flagstaff Medical Center. The sessions are the second Tuesday of every month from 6 - 7 p.m. in the Northern Arizona Healthcare Education Center, 1000 N. Humphreys in the Fort Valley Shopping Center, just south of the hospital. The sessions include a presentation by a surgeon on the causes and complications of morbid obesity and the types of surgeries available, with time for questions and answers following the presentation. No registration is required for this session. For more information on the sessions or on weight loss surgery at Flagstaff Medical Center, call 928 214-3737 or visit 

Celeste Hebets, P.T., is a physical therapist and coordinator of FMC’s Bariatric Surgical Weight Loss Center.