Is Weight Loss at All Costs Good for Teens?

Jeanne Sager
6

obeseThe number of overweight kids in America is nothing to sneeze at. The First Lady has an entire campaign built around them. So why is anyone surprised that doctors are sneaking teens into weight loss surgeries that aren't exactly kosher for kids?

We're stuck in a lose-lose situation, and something's got to give.

By the CDC's numbers, obesity in children has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

?

Eighteen percent of teens ages 12 through 19 are now obese (it was 5 percent in 1980). And of the obese kids ages 5 to 17, a full 70 percent had markers for cardiovascular disease. Not to mention obesity means they're at a heightened risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

And they're not even old enough to vote! Or go to college and pack on the freshman 15!

So the news that the number of teens getting a gastric band to help them lose weight is up five-fold really doesn't surprise me. Yes, even though the FDA hasn't approved it for kids.

And yes, even though this story in Reuters calls gastric bypass the "gold standard" procedure for weight loss.

Because gastric bypass is a permanent change in the way the body digests and rids itself of food. The band (also called the sleeve or the lap band) is not. And when you're working with kids, you have one distinct advantage: you can still change their habits.

Which is the main point of the lap band: to train people to eat differently, forcing them to consume smaller portions and get used to eating less in one sitting. The point is to create a lifestyle change, which most reputable weight loss programs will tell you is the key to lifelong health.

And all this is supposing that teenagers can't be expected to lose weight the traditional way. Even weight loss surgeons require a certain amount of natural weight loss before they'll operate, and kids don't have to struggle with the hormonal changes of adulthood that make weight loss more difficult.

So why are we pushing kids toward the more drastic options? They need something to help make a difference in their lives lest their weight cuts their futures short, but they aren't tired old dogs like us who can't learn new tricks.

Give them an edge -- be it surgery or a gym membership or what have you -- and they might surprise you.

 

Image via tobyotter/Flickr


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