As the famous song says, “Oklahoma is OK!” — and for us residents of the state, that’s the honest truth. From the farmlands to the ranches, from the Panhandle to the Arkansas border, “the land we belong to” is indeed grand. But another truth exists: the truth about obesity in Oklahoma. Almost 63% of the population of Oklahoma is overweight, with one in four Oklahomans (25%) qualifying as obese. That’s one out of every four of us! Oklahoma City is particularly plagued by obesity – our state capital was even named one of the most unfit cities n the nation by a major magazine only a couple of years ago.
Obesity is no joke. It kills people, and the ones it doesn’t kill right away usual suffer from co-morbidities, which are serious medical conditions directly related to obesity, such as heart disease, sleep apnea, diabetes, and hypertension.
We can’t afford to ignore this threat to our public health any longer. Oklahoma must act against obesity.
What is obesity? It is the condition of exceeding a medically healthy weight, based on a person’s height and build. Healthy weight is calculated in terms of individual body mass index, or BMI (weight in pounds x 703 / [height in inches]2). The only way to a better BMI is to lose excess weight. And that’s not hard: simply reduce the body’s daily caloric intake below its daily caloric needs. For some of us, just pushing back the plate, or switching to unsweetened iced tea instead of soda, is all that’s necessary.
But willpower alone isn’t the cure for obesity. Obesity is a disease that requires medical treatment that incorporates a complete change in the patient’s lifestyle and eating habits. This type of therapy will succeed in reducing BMI to a safe level in most people – but not all. For those beyond this form of care, there’s another option: weight loss surgery.
About Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery is not complicated. The patient is placed under sedation, then the surgeon performs a bariatric procedure—generally laparoscopically—to alter the stomach and/or bowel and limit how much food they can hold. These alterations force the patient to consume fewer calories each day than his or her body burns, resulting in the loss of excess weight.
But surgery is not a magical cure. It only works as part of a total medical treatment plan. Post-operative patients who fail to follow the diet and lifestyle program prescribed to them may fail to lose weight or quickly regain any weight lost. In addition, there are significant risks associated with weight loss surgery, and patients should consult with their physician prior to making a decision.
The Battle Begins
Oklahoma’s war on obesity can end up OK if the farmer and the cowboy – and the rest of us – join forces to fight it. By treating this disease as a disease, we can make our state a happier, better, and more beautiful place to be.