“I just wasn’t the person I wanted to be.”

So often, losing weight is about so much more than just the weight. Tom Morse of Iowa knows this. His story was recently published in The Daily Reporter, and echoes the story of millions of Americans – the the 34% percent of US adults 20+ classified by the CDC as obese (Body Mass Index of 30 or greater), as well as the 32% classified as overweight (BMI > 25), and the 6% percent classified as extremely obese (BMI >40).

Applying this classification, a person 5 feet 5 inches tall becomes overweight at 150 pounds (68 kg) and obese at 180 pounds (82 kg).

Tom has lost 135lbs – and twelve pants sizes – after having the adjustable gastric banding procedure known as LAP-BAND, a bariatric procedure that restricts the stomach to limit food intake, slow digestion and curb hunger.

With the weight loss, Tom says he is a former ‘dead man walking’ who has come to life again. He cites his parent’s deaths due to complications from obesity-caused Type 2 diabetes, as well as his wife’s pregnancy with their third child, as the reason to finally make the life-changing decision to go through with weight loss surgery.

“I had just turned 40 and felt like I had turned 80. I had no energy. The only thing I could barely do was work. I’d then come home and sit on the couch.”

Comfort Food
Morse attributes his lifelong weight gain to a lifetime of making food a focal point of his life. Like many lifetime dieters, including his own parents, he would periodically lose 40-50 pounds on a new diet, but his weight would always yo-yo back – and up. By the end of high school he weighed more than 300lbs. By the time he had children of his own, the 41-year-old Morse realized that his weight was robbing his children of having a full-time father, and his wife of a full-time partner. Eventually he tipped the scales at more than 400lbs.

“If I died at the same age my mother had passed away, this kid would be 16 and I’d be 56. That’s why I had the surgery.”

Obesity: The Most Pressing Issue in America?
In 2006, US Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona gave an unexpected response to a reporter’s question, “What is the most pressing issue before America today?” Dr. Carmona called obesity a greater threat than terrorism.

“Obesity is the terror within. It is destroying us, and our society, from within. Unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf September 11th and any other terrorist event you can name.

Dr. Carmona’s warning is prescient. Currently, the CDC reports that more than 9 million children – between 16-32% of children under 12 – are seriously overweight; experts estimate that within a decade, 50% of school age children will be insulin dependent. it has become such a problem that First Lady Michelle Obama created the “Childhood Obesity Action Plan”. Research findings reported by the National Institutes of Health indicate that the next generation of children may be the first in history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Studies have shown that a child who is obese at the age of 13 has an 80% chance of becoming an obese adult. If one parent is obese, there is a 50% chance that the children will also be obese; when both parents are obese, children have an 80% chance of being obese. In a study reported by the CDC, 70% of obese 5-17 year-olds had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

LAP-BAND to the rescue?
The FDA recently made the decision to lower BMI guidelines for qualifying patients for LAP-BAND surgery, significantly expanding the market for weight loss surgery according to Dr. George Blackburn of Harvard Medical School.

“You’re talking about millions and millions of people who meet these criteria.”

“I truly wish I would have done this 10 years ago.”

That quote by Morse is an attitude enthusiastically espoused by Laureli Srery of California (featured here in a radio interview, here in a television interview), who has lost 90lbs since she had LAP-BAND more than a year ago at leading obesity surgical center Hospital Angeles, the largest private hospital network in Mexico that has played host to some 5,000 Americans seeking weight loss surgery.

“Absolutely it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.”

Morse explored a number of bariatric alternatives such as gastric bypass, but found it to be too invasive with its stomach resection (the surgery removes 80% of the stomach) and lifetime of supplements. Another procedure – the fastest growing weight loss surgery called Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) also involves surgical removal of the stomach.

LAP-BAND, by contrast, is a 20-minute procedure requiring only one or two nights of hospital stay. Compared to bypass and sleeve, LAP-BAND features less risk of serious complications while providing the restriction Morse needed to limit his habitual large meals and constant snacking.

Today, he eats smaller portions of healthier food, exercises, and when he craves a $1 Burger King cheeseburger he just weighs himself – the thrill of being down another four pounds more than compensates for the former comfort of fast food. He’s also sparked something of a health revolution in his own family, with his wife and kids following in dad’s healthy eating footsteps.

Like most LAP-BAND patients, Morse’s only regret is not making the decision sooner.

“It was something that I was supposed to do. I probably was supposed to do it before I did, but that’s the great thing about God: He’s always willing to accept my little detours as long as I eventually go back to the right path.”

Further Resources