By Dr. Mercola
Bryan Ganey weighed 577 pounds when he collapsed, struggling to breathe due to a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) blocking oxygen flow to his lungs.
In about 25 percent of patients, the first "symptom" of pulmonary embolism is sudden death, but Ganey was lucky – he recovered.
While in the hospital, doctors suggested he consider weight-loss surgery to shed pounds, but Ganey refused, as he knew several people who had gotten the surgery and suffered complications.
That, and he knew he could lose weight on his own once he put his mind to it …
130 Pounds Gone in the First 6 Months
It took a near-death experience to put things into perspective for Ganey, but once he decided that his condition was "unacceptable," he began making positive lifestyle changes -- and that made all the difference.
His diet, which once consisted primarily of fast food, pizza and soda (up to a gallon a day), now consists of lean meats, vegetables and fruits.
He works with a personal trainer, exercising regularly.
His job, once the night shift, has been switched to daytime hours. In the first six months alone, Ganey lost 130 pounds, followed by another 140 over the next year. Now, at just under 300 pounds, he's still losing up to 7 pounds a month as he works toward his goal weight of 200 pounds. Aside from the weight loss, the lifestyle changes led to major improvements in other health markers as well:
- He was able to get off many medications he used to take
- His blood pressure medication has been reduced four times
- His LDL (bad) cholesterol is in the optimal range
- He was previously pre-diabetic, but now it appears his future will be diabetes-free
As he told CNN:
"I think what gets lost in the advertisements and everything that's written about weight loss is that if people would keep it simple, that everyone has that power in them. You can change your life."
Opting Against Weight Loss Surgery May Have Been His Best Decision of All
Weight loss surgery may seem like a quick fix to shed pounds, especially in extreme cases where morbid obesity poses significant health risks. However, bariatric surgery is major surgery and with it comes hefty risks. This is true for both types of bariatric surgery, gastric banding and the more invasive gastric bypass. Gastric banding consists of surgically inserting a band around the top section of your stomach, and cinching it into a small pouch. Whereas gastric banding is at least reversible, while gastric bypass is not, the complications are often so debilitating that patients opt to have the bands removed completely.
In gastric bypass, a section of your small intestine is typically removed entirely, and your stomach is reconnected further down your intestine, bypassing the duodenum, hence the name "gastric bypass." Your duodenum -- that first section of your small intestine -- is responsible for the majority of nutrient absorption. Hence, if you make it through the surgery, malnutrition is a common concern after this type of surgery.
All surgeries have inherent risks, but bariatric surgeries seem to have a much higher ratio of complications. In fact, nearly 40 percent of patients who undergo weight loss surgery experience major complications1, including:
Band erosion Malnutrition Infection Kidney stones Bowel and gallbladder problems Liver failure Black-outs Increased risk of death Abnormal band expansion
One Out of 50 People Die After Gastric Bypass
People undergoing weight loss surgery typically do so because they believe it will save their life … but according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, you have a one in 50 chance of dying within 30 days of gastric bypass surgery.2 And if your surgeon isn't experienced, your risk is even higher. Within the surgeon's first 19 procedures, the odds of death within 30 days were 4.7 times higher!
Please understand that you could end up making the ultimate sacrifice, losing your life, if you opt for weight loss surgery, which is especially tragic because there are safe ways to lose weight that can help virtually everyone.
This is true not only of gastric bypass, but also of gastric banding. Since 2009, five people have died after Lap-Band surgery from one group of weight loss clinics in California alone. Serious complications are also more the norm than the exception. According to LapBand.com:3
"Placement of the LAP-BAND® System is major surgery and, as with any surgery, death can occur. Possible complications include the risks associated with the medications and methods used during surgery, the risks associated with any surgical procedure, and the patient's ability to tolerate a foreign object implanted in the body."
Among the potential complications are:
Gastroesophageal reflux Band slippage and/or pouch dilation Stomach obstruction Esophageal dilation Reduced esophageal function Difficulty swallowing Leaking or twisted access port into the stomach Band eroding into the stomach
You Still Have to Make Lifestyle Changes if You Receive Weight Loss Surgery
This is a point many fail to realize! The surgery alone will not magically cure obesity, which is why even the Lap-Band web site states:4
"The results may seem magical. But the work necessary for you to achieve success is real. While the LAP-BAND® System is a powerful tool for success, you must also be ready to make lifestyle changes that support long-term weight loss. These include:
- Sticking to dietary requirements.
- Adding exercise to your routine …"
In the case of gastric bypass, the dietary requirements are extreme. Gastric bypass involves stapling your stomach into a pouch that's only a half-ounce in size, so it literally cannot hold much. The idea is that you'll feel full faster, since your stomach will be unnaturally tiny, but it also means you'll often be eating meals that are sorely lacking in nutritional requirements.
A small opening is also created to allow food to empty slowly from the pouch. Because the opening is so small (made this way deliberately to keep the small amount of food you've eaten in your stomach longer, making you feel "full"), food must be chewed very thoroughly or it won't be able to fit through the opening, leading to vomiting.
You'll also be instructed to eat the protein portion of your meal first, because you very well may get too full to fit in a vegetable or anything else. Even liquids must be restricted for up to 45 minutes before and after a meal, lest they take up what little space you have to consume actual food. As you might suspect, because bariatric surgery patients can consume very little roughage, constipation is often a problem. It is even described as "normal" to have a bowel movement only once every two or three days!
Hair loss and muscle loss are also common after the surgery -- both signs that your body is not receiving proper nutrition.
If this, plus constipation and vomiting are not enough to make you think twice, you should also know that certain foods, including tomato sauces, mayonnaise, fruit juice, dressings and others, will lead to "dumping syndrome," aka cramps, nausea and diarrhea. Snacking is also expressly forbidden after gastric bypass, as you're only allowed three small meals a day, and you may have to write off certain foods (like red meats, spicy foods, and fibrous vegetables) entirely because your body just can't digest them anymore.
This is simply NOT a healthy way of eating, and the long-term implications from malnutriton are just as severe as the short-term risks. For instance, people who receive bariatric surgery more than double their risk of fractures, and are about three times more likely to break a hand or foot than normal.5
Lifestyle Changes -- Not Surgery -- are the Key to Healthy Weight Loss
I believe there are two primary dietary recommendations that could make all the difference in the world for most people trying to lose weight, leading to a swift reversal in obesity and the horrific disease trends we're currently facing:
- Severely restricting carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, and grains) in your diet
- Increasing healthy fat consumption
I recently wrote about this recommendation in-depth, so for more details, please see This Substance Fools Your Metabolism - and Tricks Your Body into Gaining Pounds. If you want to shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight long-term, and RADICALLY reduce (and in many cases virtually eliminate) your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, then get serious about restricting your consumption of fructose to no more than 25 grams per day, with a maximum of 15 grams a day from fresh fruit. If you're already overweight, or have any of these diseases or are at high risk of any of them, then you're probably better off cutting that down to 10-15 grams per day -- fruit included.
Cutting soda, regular and sugar-free, from your diet is essential. However many fail to appreciate the importance of cutting out other sources of fructose, including those found in processed foods, fruit juice, excessive fruit and so-called "healthy" sweeteners like agave.
For the majority of people, severely restricting carbohydrates such as sugars, fructose, and grains in your diet will be the key to weight loss. Refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, bagels, waffles, pretzels, and most other processed foods quickly break down to sugar, increase your insulin levels, and cause insulin resistance, which is the number one underlying factor of nearly every chronic disease and condition known to man, including weight gain.
As you cut these dietary villains from your meals, you need to replace them with healthy substitutes like vegetables, proteins and fats (including saturated fats!). Your body generally prefers the carbohydrates in vegetables rather than grains and sugars because it slows the conversion to simple sugars like glucose, and decreases your insulin level. When you cut grains and sugar from your meals, you typically will need to radically increase the amount of vegetables you eat, as well as make sure you are also consuming protein and healthy fats regularly.
I've detailed a step-by-step guide to this type of healthy eating program in my comprehensive nutrition plan, and I urge you to consult this guide if you are trying to lose weight.
The foods you choose to eat will be the driving force behind successfully achieving your weight loss goals -- even more so than exercise. However, exercise is also important -- particularly high-intensity burst-type exercises like Peak Fitness, which will help you burn fat.
In your journey to your optimal weight, and beyond that to optimal health, please remember that you can take advantage of the wealth of free health information at Mercola.com by using the search engine above. It is a treasure-trove of valuable advice that is literally at your fingertips. As mentioned, the two places to look first in your quest for weight loss and health are my comprehensive nutrition plan and Mercola Peak Fitness. Both of these resources are free and can have a powerful and dramatic influence on your ability to lose weight and achieve optimal health.
- i Arch Surg. 2011 Jul;146(7):802-7.
- ii J Am Coll Surg. 2004 Oct;199(4):543-51.
- iii Lapband.com Weight Loss Surgery Risk Information
- iv Lapband.com Getting Emotionally Ready for Your New Life
- v Study presented at The Endocrine Society's 93rd Annual Meeting, June 2011, Boston, MA