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Carnie Wilson Walks From Obesity

Dr. Donnica with Carnie Wilson at the Society for Women's Health Research Gala in Washington DC
By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
With medical adviser Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.

After deciding four years ago to undergo gastric bypass surgery, Carnie Wilson embarked on a 'long walk home' to find herself as she had always dreamed - thin and healthy. With her marriage, recent Playboy pictorial, a new Wilson-Phillips record deal and an upcoming solo CD, most would agree that Wilson has completed her personal journey.

But they'd be wrong.  Wilson is still walking.

"This is my first walk ever," says Wilson, referring to the Walk from Obesity being held throughout the country this Saturday September 20th. "I have never participated in one of these and if there was ever one to make my first - this is it. This topic and cause is so dear to my heart. I have been trying to spread the word about how to beat, or at least control, this disease for four years now so this is something I completely support."

And for Wilson the walk offers a significant first step for Americans of all shapes and sizes to help fight what former Surgeon General David Satcher called America's greatest health threat. According recent reports, as many as 64% of Americans are either overweight or obese. And if trends continue, obesity will supplant cigarette smoking as the number one cause of preventable death in our country. Currently more than 300,000 Americans die annually of obesity-related illnesses.

"If you walk down the street, within five minutes you will see someone who is morbidly obese or obese," notes Wilson, who is attending the event as a spokesperson for Spotlight Health's obesity awareness campaign. "There's no question this problem is an epidemic and it is frightening. But you don't have to be obese to join this cause."

"I hope that people come out and support the walk, because obesity is at the root of many of the other diseases so many annually walk for," says Bryan Woodward, developer and national Walk from Obesity coordinator. "We have walks for the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association but if we treat obesity, more than likely the majority of Type 2 diabetes will be gone.  The majority of heart disease will be gone. Instead of focusing on the diseases that come from obesity, why not treat the obesity directly?"

But many weight loss experts are concerned that discrimination against those who are obese will impede the battle of the bulge.

Overcoming complacency

"When AIDS started no one was supporting this cause until some celebrities came forward and sort of made it cool to help," states Woodward, who holds a masters in public health from Tulane University and is a licensed clinical exercise physiologist. "When is it going to be cool to help and treat people who are obese?"

If Wilson has her way, that time is right now.

"Not a week goes by when I am not helping someone with the surgery or talking about weight loss," reports Wilson, whose latest book chronicling her weight loss is called I'm Still Hungry. "Surgery is the only thing that has ever worked for morbidly obese people. But it is not right for everyone."

And Wilson cautions that having weight loss surgery does not mean that a person can do nothing.

"You can make the surgery work for you and really take advantage of it or you can erase many of the benefits it can have by not following your doctor's recommendations," Wilson says. "It's all about attitude and commitment."

Donald J. Waldrep, a laparoscopic surgeon whose practice focuses on weight loss surgery, agrees.

"Just because you have weight loss surgery you never get away from diet, exercise and behavior," says Waldrep, who practices in Roseville, California. "It's not a magic bullet. It is a tool that has to be used appropriately. Weight loss surgery simply provides a springboard that typically dieting cannot provide. The problem with most any diet is staying on it. Very few people can stay on them. In fact, maybe five percent of obese dieters can maintain their weight loss after two years."

Wilson, Waldrep and Woodward all agree that exercise is the critical component to weight loss and weight maintenance, particularly for weight loss surgery patients.

"People need some type of goal oriented program when it comes to exercise," Waldrep explains. "Even if it's just walking to the end of the driveway and back.  Then maybe doing it twice or doing it a little faster the next week. I have patients who can't walk across the room without stopping to catch their breath. Setting up goals you can attain is important. They don't have to be spectacular. You just have to keep progressing by increments."

Stepping out

Waldrep points out that people who undergo weight loss surgery, especially laparoscopically, are encouraged to begin walking and being active as soon as possible.

"Each patient is unique and their expectations should be realistic," Waldrep cautions. "Post operatively people feel very tired. So until the weight begins to come off, doing a lot of exercise may not be possible for many morbidly obese patients."

Wilson says exercise was never really on her radar screen because she wasn't physically able to really participate. But that changed.

"I don't have any panicked feelings about eating anymore," Wilson says. "That disappeared when I had my surgery. The self discipline is easier food-wise with gastric bypass, but the discipline to exercise is really a constant challenge for me. I haven't enjoyed exercise that much. I started with weight training and cardio and all these different classes but they fizzled out for me."

And getting complacent and not exercising is disaster for weight loss surgery patients says Wilson.

"Water and exercise equal maintenance," Wilson explains. "When you have the surgery you can snack all day long and still consume more calories than you expend. I was up 14 pounds at one point. I was starting to become complacent. I was losing some of my discipline. So I knew I just had to focus a little more on the exercise."

Wilson took up martial arts three times a week which she says is the "hardest thing I have ever done." She also walks or goes to Curves. Keeping her exercise fun helps Wilson stay focused and disciplined.

Wilson and Woodward hope people will have fun at this Saturday's event which supports the research and educational programs of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery Foundation.

"We're trying to welcome as many people as possible to the walks all over the country," Woodward explains. "This is a non-competitive, one to three mile walk. Each course will be set up to encourage people to exercise, because it's time to start moving our bodies and educating our minds."

Wilson is definitely excited to join the Walk.

"I can't wait to go and give everyone hugs," Wilson says. "I love helping people with this issue. I know it. I've lived it, and my heart just swells when I can help someone. It's the only thing I don't mind getting fat."

For more information about the Walk from Obesity, click here.

For more information on morbid obesity or gastric bypass surgery, click here.

Spotlight Health is the leading creator of celebrity-featured health-issue awareness campaigns, connecting consumers with impassioned celebrities whose personal health battles can open eyes, dispel myths and change lives. Spotlight Health helps sufferers and caregivers meet the challenges of difficult health circumstances with understandable, in-depth medical information, compassionate support and the inspiration needed to make informed healthcare choices.

Created: 9/18/2003  -  John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Reviewed: 9/18/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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