A few years ago, I was watching an old MadTV rerun when I was struck by the accuracy (and hilarity) of a particular sketch. It’s viewable here, and it satirizes the type of late- night informercials that advertise cheap, easy, diet-free weight loss programs.
The main character in the sketch gripes that she’ll do anything to lose weight—but when
an informerical-style narrator steps in to offer a foolproof program called Eat Less, Move
More, the woman isn’t sold.
“Cant I just get a doctor to staple my stomach shut?” she asks, eager for a less labor-
The narrator replies with incredulity: “You’d rather have invasive surgery than lose
weight by eating less and moving around?”
“At least I’d be asleep!” she quips, and the studio audience laughs—acknowledging that
it probably would be nice to wake up from an anesthetic sleep, knowing that weight loss
would soon follow, and effortlessly so.
Now, bariatric surgery may have been given a scientific and evidential boost.
A few days ago, the New York Times reported on a Swedish study, which found that
bariatric surgery (including stomach stapling or banding procedures) was “markedly
more efficient” than traditional diet-and-exercise routines in the prevention of type 2
diabetes. The study monitored non-diabetic obese patients: 1,658 underwent bariatric
surgery, and a control group of 1,771 participants attempted weight loss with traditional
methods recommended by doctors (i.e., eating less and moving more).
By the end of the roughly-15-year study, the evidence was clear. 392 participants in the
control group had developed diabetes, compared with only 110 in the bariatric-surgery
It seems the character from that MadTV sketch is in luck—why cut calories and spend
hours sweating at the gym when a simple surgical procedure can provide better results
with none of the effort? True, bariatric surgeries carry a number of risks, including
infection, leaks in the gastrointestinal system, gallstones, ulcers, bowel obstruction,
and malnutrition. But the allure of a one-step solution for both obesity and diabetes is
Still, despite the study’s findings, I’m inclined to side with MadTV on this one. Losing
weight the old-fashioned way might require more time and sweat, but in the end, it’s
more cost-efficient, more natural, and (aside from the occasional sore muscle) brings
minimal risk to the table.
Plus, eating healthfully and exercising can do more than trim waistlines. They are
essential habits for long lives and lower risks for many preventable diseases—not just
diabetes, but heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, and, according to some
research, even cancer.
As with most things—and, whether or not we’d like to believe it—the easiest way isn’t
often the best way of doing things. The cheaters are found out, the shoddy workmanship
begins to show, and the short cuts lead to dead ends. And when it comes to health and
longevity, why take any chances?