Read Between the Lines

Hi, friends! Long time no blog, right? I hope you’ve been following along on Facebook, but if not, I hope all is well and that you’ve been weathering the pandemic storm. I’m half vaccinated, and fully ready to get back to traveling and hugging my friends!

Today’s unexpected post is brought to you by an article that showed up in the Rochester, NY Democrat & Chronicle this morning under the headline: Obesity, fluttering hearts not a good match. It’s a great example of how reading between the lines and digging deeper can help us to understand not just what we’re reading, but why it was written.

The first clue that something was amiss was the bio listed at the end of the “article”: Dr. Stephen Fleischer is an advanced laparoscopic general and bariatric surgeon at Surgical Healing Arts Center, dedicated to helping people with obesity, a chronic disease that can damage health more than smoking or alcohol abuse. For information, visit surgicalhealingarts.com.

What a lovely blend of fear mongering and help! Not only has Dr. Fleischer reminded me that my body size is a dangerous disease, he also has let me know that he’s here to help me get rid of it!

I wanted to share the D&C article here, but I had a hard time finding a direct link—I read the paper through their e-edition. Even though it says it was written for the Fort-Meyers New Press, the only place I was able to easily locate the text was on the website of Dr. Fleischer’s bariatric surgery practice in Florida. That’s right, the article isn’t actually news, it’s a press release.

A press release that uses scare tactics to convince you that weight-loss surgery is the answer to your health concerns, written by people who make money off weight-loss surgery. How convenient!

The article describes atrial fibrillation (afib), connects it to weight (while also kitchen sinking all the other things that are going to happen to you because you’re fat), and then explains how weight loss—and, surprise!, weight-loss surgery—can help to reverse or prevent afib. Thank goodness this was written by a surgeon who can give us that very surgical procedure!

Let’s look at my favorite passage from the article (emphasis mine):

The American Heart Association found that 45% of patients who lost 10% or more of their body weight no longer had AFib symptoms. However, losing and regaining 5% of body weight doubled the likelihood of symptoms.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know that what’s conveniently missing from the story is that the vast majority of intentional weight-loss attempts result in regain (and usually a few extra pounds). It doesn’t matter how you lose the weight—including weight-loss surgery. So here we have a bariatric surgeon advocating weight loss as a solution to afib, with the caveat that if you regain—which is entirely likely—you will have double the chance of afib symptoms.

When you see a headline related to “obesity” or weight loss, whether it’s meant to scare you or excite you, I hope you’ll take the time to discover the motives of the person or organization who shared the article or information.

Chances are, just like the diet industry as a whole, the motivating factor isn’t your health… it’s their pocketbook.