The Biggest Loser: "Weight Loss Surgery is Unhealthy"

Patient Expert

A comment that aired on the season-final episode of NBC's "The Biggest Loser" has the weight-loss surgery community up in arms. The Biggest Loser is a reality television show which started in the U.S. in 2004. The show centers on overweight contestants attempting to lose the most weight, and fight for a cash prize. So what's the problem?

During this episode Dr. Robert Huizenga bashed weight-loss surgery as an 'unhealthy choice.' Dr. Huizenga is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at UCLA. He is also the author of multiple scientific abstracts and papers on the radical, exercise-centric, non-surgical approach to obesity treatment he's championed during the last 14 seasons of "The Biggest Loser."

I am disappointed that Dr. Huizenga, given his position of authority and influence, would make such a blanket statement in the media. Additionally, he did not back up his opinion with any clinical evidence that shows weight-loss surgery is unhealthy. In fact, Dr. Huizenga did not explain his rationale whatsoever. I cannot help but wonder if his implication that weight loss methods used by "The Biggest Loser" are far superior to surgical approaches, was a publicity stunt to promote the show. Or perhaps it's a veiled attempt to sell more copies of Dr. Huizenga's book, "Where Did All the Fat Go? The Wow Prescription to Reach Your Ideal Weight and Stay There."

In any event, the sting of Dr. Huinga's negative comment is felt by the bariatric community. On the BariatricPal community, site members have a thing or two to say in response:

"If we as the WLS community just stand idly by and let people misinform and misguide millions of people about it, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, current and future WLS patients"   If we all in the WLS community aren't willing to speak up and fight the ignorance and misinformation that's floating around out there, who will?"

"The audience of the Biggest Loser likely has a huge segment that could benefit from WLS and it is a shame that they are being told WLS is "distasteful" by a "trusted" doctor. It seems medically unethical to disparage a surgery that could save thousands of lives and is widely medically accepted as the most viable treatment for obesity."

None of us consciously choose to be obese. Even I tried all the non-surgical methods to lose weight but those approaches were not successful. My BMI was above 40 and I had life-threatening diseases of diabetes and hypertension at 38. As a last resort, I made the very hard decision to undergo a serious bariatric surgery for weight loss. There is no doubt in my mind that the gastric bypass surgery saved my life. As a tool, bariatricsurgery enabled me to make the necessary lifestyle changes to achieve permanent weight loss. I conquered obesity and defeated my obesity-related diseases. I'm not a doctor, but my choice to have weight loss surgery doesn't seem to have been an unhealthy one.

There is enough difficulty coping with people who ridicule us for being obese. But to then have the media condemn our choice to have weight-loss surgery is very unfair. For many of us, bariatric surgery was the only solution that allowed us to take control of our health and our lives. And that, I think, is a very healthy choice.

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