If you find yourself trapped in a cycle of dieting, losing weight, only to gain it back and then some, don’t entirely blame yourself, says a top expert in weight loss surgery.
Instead, blame it on evolution. The same process that made it possible for humans to walk upright, develop tools, engage in trade, farming, and eventually work with computers is now making us fat.
“Our body is very outdated for the society we live in,” said Aram E. Jawed, MD, a surgeon at Saint Claire’s Health who is certified by the American Board of Surgery and specializes in laparoscopic, bariatric, and robotic surgery. Dr. Jawed is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). He also studied Biological Anthropology (the study of Evolution) at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.
“Morbid obesity… can feel hopeless because no matter what you do, your biology is going to win – unless you change it.”
For example, early humans spent their days hunting, foraging, gathering and running from predators. Their stomachs were able to hold as much as 1.5 liters at one meal, which they needed for energy to survive. Yet they dined mainly on low-calorie leafy greens, nuts, and fruit, with an occasional meat treat if they managed to kill an animal. The result: a trim physique.
“Today, we’re sitting in cars, at desks, and behind computers,” Dr. Jawed says. “We don’t do nearly the physical activity such as farming and running around like we used to, and so we are not burning enough calories.”
Despite this drastic lifestyle change, which has only occurred over a very short period of time, in the last 100 years or so, our stomachs have not changed in size.
A healthy diet and regular exercise are important in our daily lives and can help up to a point, he says. However, when it comes to significant weight loss, they may be effective only for the short term.
Throughout history, mankind has struggled with starvation and we have built biological defenses against starving but have never needed defenses against overeating. When someone loses large amounts of weight from a diet, their metabolic rate falls in response because their biology is fighting to regain the weight back (prevent them from starving). As the person slowly returns to their former eating habits after losing weight, they pack on even more pounds than before because of their lowered metabolic set point. This leads to unhealthy yo-yo dieting, which contributes to morbid obesity.
“I have many patients who come in after years and years of dieting and are still obese, who are eating lettuce and tomatoes and going to the gym every day and can’t lose weight is because their metabolism is shot,” says Dr. Jawed, who also offers metabolic rate testing in the office.
For whose lives are at risk or whose obesity is accompanied by diabetes, high blood pressure joint pain or infertility, Dr. Jawed recommends bariatric surgery. It’s quick and involves altering biology to depress the secretion of hormones that drive us to feel hungry and overeat.
“It’s an extremely safe surgery,” he says. “It takes only about an hour and is totally life-changing.” The surgery, however, is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. Healthy eating and exercise remain important to maintain a healthy weight
Dr. Jawed thinks that by altering our biology for those who are suffering from morbid obesity and consequences of diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, etc., we are in a sense updating our digestive system to the society that we live in today. We can still enjoy food and at the same time feel satisfied with smaller amounts.
“If you’re already struggling with morbid obesity, it can feel hopeless because no matter what you do, your biology is going to win – unless you change it. And that’s what I’m here for: to help you change it.”
Saint Claire’s Health presents:
‘Innovations in Weight Loss’ seminar
Dr. Jawed is the monthly speaker at Saint Claire Health’s seminar entitled “Innovations in Weight Loss” in Saint Clare’s Dover Hospital in Conference Room D, 400 West Blackwell Street, Dover, New Jersey 07801. Admission is free. For more information and to register call 973-989-3047.
Dr. Jawed is a general surgeon, board-certified by the Ameri- can Board of Surgery specializing in laparoscopic, bariatric, and robotic surgery. Dr. Jawed is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS). He is also certified by da Vinci® Surgical as a robotic surgeon. After successful completion of his general surgery training at Morristown Medical Center, he received the Resident Achievement Award from the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. He completed an additional year of minimally invasive bariatric and robotic surgical training as a Fellow at the Innovation Health in northern Virginia and a Bariatric Center of Excellence.