Page last updated at 05:02 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 06:02 UK

Time to get tougher on obesity?

Chris Oliver, Consultant Trauma Surgeon
Chris Oliver
Consultant Orthopaedic Trauma Surgeon

Chris Oliver, Consultant Trauma Surgeon
Three years ago Chris Oliver could hardly climb a flight of stairs

One in three adults in the UK will be obese by 2012, according to UK researchers. Chris Oliver is an orthopaedic trauma surgeon in Edinburgh who had gastric band surgery to lose weight but believes it is not the solution for everyone.

He thinks we all need an annual weight check and firmer treatment from our doctors to control our weight.

This summer I cycled over 1,070 miles from Land's End to John O'Groats, climbing 58,000 feet, equivalent to twice the height of Everest.

'Morbid obesity'

Three years ago I could hardly climb up a flight of stairs - with a body mass index of over 53 and a weight of over 27 stone (171kg) I had become virtually immobile due to morbid obesity.

The inability to lose weight and the realisation that obesity had ruined my life caused me to have an adjustable laparoscopic band surgical procedure early in 2007.

Adjustable laparoscopic gastric band surgery is not the solution for all those that are obese

I had unsuccessfully tried various diets but had failed to lose any significant weight.

My morbid obesity had overtaken my life. I wrote a living will and went for it.

As a surgeon I was well aware of the operative risks. You just know too much!

After this surgical procedure I lost over ten stone (63.5kg)in weight and forced myself back to physical fitness.

I realised that the band was a tool to help me change my life.

'Prejudice and discrimination'

Many people really do not understand obesity. There is a great deal of prejudice and unfair discrimination.

Chris Oliver with bike
Chris Oliver has cycled more than a thousand miles this year

Obesity is now one of the most significant health problems to affect the Western world.

What was the inspiration to change?

I obviously wanted to get fit again and be healthy but most of all after my weight loss surgery I realised that this was a second chance at life and that each day we live is so valuable.

Much of my motivation came from an inspiration to do things I had done earlier in life and wanted to do again before it was too late.


Adjustable laparoscopic gastric band surgery is not the solution for all those that are obese, like all medical interventions, it has risks that must be carefully considered.

Patients presenting themselves for this kind of weight loss surgery must not have unrealistic expectations; they must learn to change their relationship with food and to have a new lifelong positive attitude to exercise.

Early after my surgery I set myself a series of graduated targets: aquafit, swim, spin cycle, cardio gym, cycle, resistance gym, run, white-water kayaking, sprint triathlon, endurance cycling and who knows what next?

'Obesity epidemic'

However, I now believe that society must do much more to control the mass epidemic of obesity.

The current policies just seem too soft

Health care policy for obesity should make yearly annual checks on body mass index for children and adults freely available.

Although annual weight checks could not be enforced, guidance and clear implications of being obese should be given much more directly and forcefully.

More controlled weight loss programmes and the benefits of daily exercise must be made more acceptable.

The current policies just seem too soft.

If I had been weighed every year and had a rigorous health check I might have listened and not put on all that weight.

We need to be much more proactive, in assessing obesity and its dire consequences on society.

I really might have thought twice if my own weight had been checked on a regular annual basis.

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