HEALTH: Tacking the obesity epidemic

17 July 2017
Reading time4 minutes

If you have been struggling with your weight, you are not alone. Today, two in every three adults on the Gold Coast are estimated to be overweight or obese. Nationwide, 63 per cent of adults and 25 per cent of children are obese. The American Cancer Council has reported that by 2030 obesity will take over from tobacco as the leading cause for cancer and obesity is now considered a major health issue across Australia.

For most people, living with obesity has significant impact on their daily quality of life. Dr Harald Puhalla, General Surgeon specialising in bariatric (weight-loss) surgery believes that turning the tide on the obesity epidemic requires a holistic, long-term approach that involves both education and action. “Most people struggling with their weight don’t want to talk about it. Many people feel isolated and unable to reach out for help, but there is help available and discussing your challenges is the first step towards making a positive change.”

Obesity is a condition when a person has accumulated body fat to the point where it could have a detrimental effect on their health. This is usually when a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or over. In the long term, obesity can lead to many health problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, higher risk of diabetes (particularly in women), increased risk of cancers, as well as joint problems, back problems and sleep apnea. As well as the physical concerns, there can also be problems with body image, self-esteem, and strong links to major depressive episodes associated with obesity. Ultimately, obesity can reduce a person’s life expectancy by up to seven years.

“Obesity is a progressive disease,” explains Dr Puhalla. “As you become overweight and find it increasingly hard to exercise due to joint pain and exhaustion, you consequently gain more weight.
This can lead to withdrawal and depression, which can spark further unhealthy food choices, and so the spiral continues.”

This spiral can be particularly true for mums, who are too busy caring for others to put aside time to concentrate on themselves. “There is no easy way to lose 20kgs, particularly when other priorities come first and spare time is at a minimum.” Over a period of time, mums eventually find themselves in a place where they can no longer live a full life. “You might always put the kids first, but are you now finding it increasingly hard to keep up with them?”

As the disease continues, it can quickly become a health issue for the whole family, with children of obese parents being at a higher risk of also becoming obese. “Often mums drive the family,” Dr Puhalla explains. “They drive what’s in the fridge and cupboard, and the lifestyle the family pursues.” Therefore, addressing obesity is not just about one person, but the long-term health for the whole family. “You want to be around for the kids, to be able to play sports and be there for the grandkids. But you also want to ensure that your kids don’t ever have the same weight problems that you are struggling with.”

Weight-loss surgery often comes with many overwhelming emotions, but taking the first step for early action is the key to improving life expectancy and overall quality of life for the whole family. “Our dedicated team of healthcare professionals provide a warm, supportive environment and will support you through each step of the process so you can maximise your weight-loss potential. Reaching out to start that journey is what’s important,” says Dr Puhalla. “In a compassionate initial consultation, I look at all angles – what your habits are, what exercise and diet successes and failures you’ve had. With this knowledge, I can then provide you with a holistic and individualised treatment plan to assist you in reaching your desired goals.

“I find with many patients that once Mum successfully goes through our weight-loss surgery and nutrition program, the whole family benefits. Kids start to eat healthier and lose weight, the family has more fun together, they are fitter, and those unhealthy habits are changed for the long-term, for everyone. Your health is worth it!”

“Losing weight is about helping your self-confidence, your self-esteem and more importantly, saving your life.”

Surgeries offered:

•            Sleeve gastrectomy

•            Roux-en-Y gastric bypass

•            Omega loop gastric bypass

•            Revisional surgery

Dr Puhalla offers these bariatric procedures laparoscopically and robotically.

Dr Harald Puhalla is a General Surgeon with a private practice at Gold Coast Private Hospital and Pindara Private Hospital, Gold Coast Queensland. You can find out more information about the range of surgical procedures and weight-loss support offered by Dr Puhalla, at or calling (07) 5563 1360.

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City


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