When Obesity Surgery Is a Family Affair

Abkin says he's found group therapy a valuable tool, as long as it's run by qualified behavioral therapists, and not simply by other patients.

"Long-term success depends on this," he says. "People have issues that led them to become overweight, and if those underlying issues are not addressed there could be problems."

Snyder says that in addition to therapy he offers patients closed online chatrooms, but that he's often surprised by how many patients fail to take advantage of these support tools.

"Frank said it best, when he talked about the surgery as being a tool," Snyder says. "It's like a snowblower. It's only going to get you out of your driveway if you gas it up and use it. And if you misuse it, it can cause harm."

Yet in spite of the risks the latest studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that bariatric surgery is not only relatively safe, but that it saves lives. Some surgeons are quick to point out that for that reason, it cannot be put in the same category as a nose job.

But when it comes to society's acceptance of the procedure and of people who have it performed, perhaps the comparison will stand.

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