Bariatric surgery gains popularity

Obesity is commonly defined as an increased body weight caused by excessive accumulation of fat, usually as a result of eating.

According to the American Obesity Association’s Web site approximately 127 million adults in the United States, or 64.5 percent, are obese.

Scientific studies have shown a connection between obesity and several health risk, including clinical depression.

As a result, many are turning to surgical procedures such as gastric bypass or bariatric surgery, to combat obesity and depression

“I stayed depressed all the time,” said Dawn-Marie Payton, 31, a FAMU alumna and behavioral specialist.

Payton had been on a series of “yo-yo” diets and even changed her eating habits, but it wasn’t enough.

“I was 476 pounds and it seemed like everything I did to lose the weight just didn’t seem to work,” she said.

She turned to Gerald Rowland, a gastroenterologist, in Atlanta to perform the surgery.

“We as doctors have to be careful about whether people need the surgery or want it for cosmetic reasons,” Rowland said.

Rowland said gastric bypass or bariatric surgery is serious and must be taken with great precaution.

While the surgery is an option, patients still must follow a healthy diet with exercise or they can experience adverse side effects.

After undergoing a bariatric surgery, Payton rapidly lost 327 pounds. However, about three months later, she started gaining massive weight in odd places. The top part of her body remained small while the lower half increased dramatically.

“I looked at myself in the mirror and I was frightened,” Payton said. “I was so ashamed and I just couldn’t believe that happened to me.”

Rowland said he had cautioned Payton of the possible side effects that could occur if she didn’t maintain exercise and a healthy diet.

“Proper maintenance ensures that the weight loss will remain consistent or will decrease further than the original expectations,”Rowland said. “Without the proper maintenance, weight gain could once again erupt and cause some oddities.”

Payton, who is on medication to correct her condition, said “I will follow the doctor’s orders this time so that I will not have to go back to square one.”

Some people chose surgery for different reasons.

Mark Peterson, a 23-year-old business student at Florida State University, who has TypeII Diabetes, recounted his reason for choosing the surgery.

“It was either I had the surgery or died,” Peterson said. “I was always severely depressed and I didn’t have a life at all.”

Peterson’s insurance company did not provide coverage for the surgery, but that didn’t stop him. He began to look for other companies that provided coverage. After finding coverage nearly two months later, he began preparation to undergo the surgery.

“I was anxious and afraid basically the whole time,” Peterson said. “But something inside of me let me know that everything was going to be alright.”

Peterson, who stands 5 feet 7 inches tall, went from 318 pounds to 161 pounds. He said the surgery was a success and that he will continue to maintain the weight loss.

“My life has changed dramatically and I will do whatever it takes to make sure I don’t gain weight like that again.”

contact jamarr akins at