Portion Control Tool, Ongoing Support Is Critical To Successful Weight Loss
Beverly-area gastroenterologist offers non-surgical gastric balloon.
Despite ever-growing awareness and messages about healthy eating and exercise hammering us every day, the obesity rate in the United States continues to rise. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that almost 35% of U.S. adults are obese; 78.6 million people. Healthcare professionals are constantly attempting to pinpoint causes, citing factors such as the proliferation of processed foods, stress and sleep deprivation. They are also seeking ways to reverse this condition in individuals and as a society.
Dr. Darrien Gaston, a board certified gastroenterologist here in Chicago, has seen this unfortunate trend in his own patients. “I’ve been in practice for over twenty-five years now and have definitely noticed that my patients struggle more and more with maintaining a healthy weight. Some have never been able to lose weight gained in college or while having a baby, some suffered from childhood obesity that is still a factor in adulthood and some have just put on 5 or so pounds each year, and suddenly woke up to realize that their weight is now a real health concern.”
Obesity is a real health concern, especially among African Americans, where almost half the population is obese, and Latinos, where over 42% are considered obese. About one-third of non-Hispanic whites are classified as obese as well. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These challenges, and the decreased mobility that comes with being obese, can radically compromise quality of life and life span.
One of the most significant obstacles to weight loss is portion control. “We Americans are trained not to waste food from Day One,” said Dr. Gaston. “Being a member of the “Clean Plate Club” was important growing up and no matter how hard we try, that training is ingrained in our brains. We eat everything on our plates. However, over the years, those plates and the portions on them have grown significantly.”
Since 1960, the average dinner plate has grown from about 7 inches across to nearly 12 inches across, causing diners to add more and more to the plate itself - and getting used to those larger and larger portions through the years. In 1977, a “small” soft drink at a restaurant was about 10.9 ounces. Today, it’s 17.7. French fries used to be served in about a 2-ounce serving and are now over 3 ounces. A hamburger was just about 6 ounces and is now over 7. That’s an additional 254 calories in just that meal - and Americans are trained to eat it all.
Portion control is at the heart of bariatric surgery. This drastic approach may involve stapling, banding or partial removal of the patient’s stomach. Unfortunately, that option is only available for the morbidly obese, those with critically serious health problems. For the rest of the population, those who are 50 to 100 pounds overweight, there was no such intervention. Patients had to use only diet and exercise to achieve results, which is maddeningly difficult at best.
“Now, there is the Orbera procedure,” said Dr. Gaston. “This is really weight loss “for the rest of us.” It’s a portion control tool that is temporary and definitely not radical.”
Dr. Gaston is referring to the Orbera Managed Weight Loss System, which he performs in his offices. He is the only gastroenterologist in Chicagoland performing this procedure. Because the non-surgical Orbera balloon is placed through the mouth, as an experienced endoscopist Dr. Gaston is most highly qualified to perform the procedure. Orbera is FDA-approved and has been in use for over 20 years, with over 220,000 people finding successful long-term weight loss with the device.
Using an endoscope, Dr. Gaston inserts the Orbera balloon through the mouth and into the stomach of the mildly sedated patient. Flexible and durable, the balloon is then filled with a safe, salt-based solution until it’s about the size of a grapefruit. “It’s like having an upper GI exam - quick and non-surgical. There are no incisions, no stitches and no staples - no hospital stay. The whole thing takes about 20 minutes.”
The Orbera balloon is kept in place for six months and helps control portion size by taking up room in the stomach. “The device is there to help you feel full, even as portion sizes change substantially and you learn what the proper size should be. There can be significant weight loss in those six months.”
Dr. Gaston doesn’t just insert the device and expect the patient to figure this out themselves. “There is usually some nausea in the first few days as the body adjusts to the balloon, and my patients can access me 24/7 to ask questions or address concerns. We partner patients with a wellness coach, so they learn from professionals what is needed to establish a healthy lifestyle and eating habits. Regular exercise amounting to at least 200 minutes per week is essential for successful weight loss with the balloon in place. We meet monthly so we can track results and ensure patients are making those changes.”
After six months, the balloon is removed just as easily, but the support continues. “For a full year after the procedure, we will meet each month to help. With this support, patients continue losing weight and they continue to practice the skills they’ve acquired to keep it off,” said Dr. Gaston.
Clinical studies back this up. Patients usually lose over three times the weight with a gastric balloon than with diet and exercise alone.
The obesity crisis is also costing the U.S. a mind-boggling amount of money. The CDC estimates that in 2008 alone, the annual medical cost of obesity was $147 billion. As obesity rates rise, that cost will continue to rise as well.
Dr. Gaston sees a way to halt this trend and change its course. He offers free initial consultations for those who are interested in finding out if their weight, BMI (body mass index) and medical fitness make them good candidates for the Orbera balloon procedure. “The Orbera system can be used with adults over 18 years of age. If we can reverse obesity in our young adults, they won’t develop all the problems and diseases that come with it - and ultimately have a shorter life span. In older people, we can see the significant health improvements that come with weight loss at any age. They will live to see - and actually enjoy - their grandchildren.”
“Portion control is a critical key to healthy, sustainable weight loss. Supported by informed food choices and balanced exercise, losing weight and maintaining a proper weight become attainable. This balloon and the guidance offered for a full year makes that happen.”
For more information, visit www.metrogichicago.com or call.