The Alternative and Traditional Approaches to Losing Weight

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There are countless different ways to lose weight. In fact, in the United States, there’s an entire industry behind weight loss, providing tips, strategies, classes, diets, pills, and surgery, to name just a few of the many methods. There’s always the classic “exercise and just don’t eat as much” approach, but methods of losing weight have become so creative that some people even ingest tapeworms to aid in their efforts. An increasingly popular option, gastric bypass surgery limits the size of a person’s stomach, but as attractive as it sounds, it may not be the best option. But with some many different methods to choose from, how is anyone supposed to know what the best option is?

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It seems that just about any weight loss product that is being advertised begins with the adage, “When diet and exercise aren’t enough…” But how can diet and exercise not be enough? It seems the common sense option—eat fewer calories, and burn more of them (so that you use more than you take in)—but it is not a viable solution for everyone. The issue here is that people suffering from debilitating conditions like arthritis may not be able to handle as much exercise as an otherwise healthy individual. However, anyone can make an effort to watch what they eat and at least maintain a diet, even if they cannot handle exercise. For a person in generally good health, diet and exercise together are the best option for weight loss, because they require no surgery, pills, or any other risks, and they are proven to increase overall health beyond mere weight control. Diet and exercise are also proven to curb laziness, unlike most other weight loss methods (that may very well be used because a person is too lazy to actually exercise), and thus can provide a wide array of benefits beyond physical health because they promote discipline as well, increasing productivity and decreasing stress resulting from lack of discipline-related habits such as effective time management.

In light of all of the benefits of maintained diet and exercise and a healthier lifestyle, it is important to note that temporary diet and exercise that is only used to meet some particular weight loss goal is worthless in the long run. “People who devote themselves to exercise and diet programs shed about 10 percent of their weight, and they regain as much as two-thirds of it a year later, according to the National Institutes of Health” (Beyond Stomach Stapling). In other words, a temporary program of diet and exercise will help with losing weight, but not maintaining the weight loss that they achieved initially. Diet and exercise must become part of an overall healthier lifestyle if they are to be effective and fully beneficial. To that end, programs like Weight Watchers exist to help give people practical tools for holding themselves accountable and sticking to their commitments to—at the very least—watch what they eat. It is important to note that fad and crash diets are often not in any way healthy, and are an impatient and often reckless way to go about losing weight, so they have not warranted any discussion here.

As mentioned earlier, there are some people who are just not physically healthy enough for exercise, and many of these people are turning to gastric bypass surgery to help them practice better self-control over their eating habits. Gastric bypass surgery typically involves using staples or bands to reduce the size of the stomach, thus reducing the amount of food that a person can eat in any given situation, which makes them feel more “full” with less food actually in their stomachs. According to the article Beyond Stomach Stapling:

A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients lost an average of 61 percent of their excess weight. And the majority [of them] keep the weight off. Gastric bypass surgery adds years to people's lives, too. In 2007 The New England Journal of Medicine reported that obese individuals who went under the knife decreased their risk of dying within the following decade by 40 percent.

So it seems that gastric bypass surgery is a very viable option for people who want to lose weight, but it should not be used as a substitute for diet and exercise unless absolutely necessary. Indeed, even those who have the surgery often still need the aid of regular diet and exercise to help them achieve their goals, because having the size of one’s stomach reduced may help keeping off extra pounds, but it does not eliminate extra weight that is already present.

Like with any surgery, there are inherent risks involved with gastric bypass too. “’Infection, bleeding, and intestinal obstruction are real risks, and weight loss results aren't always permanent,’ says Ron Palmon, MD, a clinical instructor in the division of gastroenterology at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. ‘There's a definite need for a less invasive alternative’” (Beyond Stomach Stapling). This dreamed-of “less invasive alternative” will likely become the next big trend in weight loss if, that is, it ever becomes more than just a dream. So far, weight loss drugs are not very promising, and their potential side effects make most doctors hesitant to even prescribe them.

For a less conventional method of losing weight, some people are so foolishly desperate that they will purposely ingest parasites known as tapeworms in their—at that point—completely misguided attempts to lose weight in all the wrong ways. Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says, “Ingesting tapeworms is extremely risky and can cause a wide range of undesirable side effects, including rare deaths. Those desiring to lose weight are advised to stick with proven weight loss methods; consuming fewer calories and increasing physical activity” (PSA). The popular television medical drama, House, even includes an episode where a patient almost dies from a tapeworm that made its way into her brain (apparently the can actually do that in rare circumstances). Tape worms are nothing but bad news, and even if they do somehow help a person to lose weight, they are not worth the risk of losing one’s life in the process. They are not friendly little symbiotic organisms that will live in a person’s digestive tract and help them to digest food, they are very dangerous parasites. Instead of ingesting worms, why not just eat less food and avoid the problem altogether?

Sure, it is much easier to ingest tapeworms than to get gastric bypass surgery or stick to diet and exercise, but most of the time the easy way is not—in general—known for being the best way. Ingesting tapeworms may even be the least time-consuming way to potentially lose weight, but the potential benefits do not by any means outweigh the potential costs. No one should ingest tapeworms intentionally for any reason whatsoever. If nothing else, it is simply and utterly lazy, and has little or no net benefit. Take it from The Week Magazine, “You should probably try Weight Watchers instead.”

The body—including the life lived in the body—is a gift from God and as such must be well stewarded. To steward well always requires some measure of discipline and a whole lot of self-control. Getting regular and strenuous exercise is always the best way to lose weight, and combined with a maintained healthy diet, this discipline is a sure-fire way to not only shed some pounds, but to dramatically improve a person’s overall health with benefits as lasting as the discipline behind them.

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