Carnie Wilson Walks From Obesity
By John Morgan, Spotlight Health
Donnica with Carnie Wilson at the Society for Women's Health Research Gala
in Washington DC
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.
"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
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."
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
For more information about the Walk from Obesity, click
For more information on morbid obesity or gastric bypass surgery, click
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Created: 9/18/2003  - John Morgan & Stephen A. Shoop, M.D.
Reviewed: 9/18/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.