Today, 65 percent of adult Americans are overweight according to the National Institutes of Health. Of these, more than 9 million are severely obese—at least twice their ideal body weight, or 100 pounds heavier than they should be.

Entrapped in a prison of body fat, severely obese people are faced with serious physical, emotional and social issues. Not only are they at high risk for disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, and respiratory problems, but they often have trouble finding jobs, establishing relationships and dealing with daily necessities such as walking and climbing stairs.

What’s the answer?

For an increasing number of severely obese people, it’s gastric bypass surgery. “Typically, these procedures result in a loss of up to half a patient’s excess weight in 12 months,” says Peter LePort, M.D., medical director of the MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Medical Center. The hospital’s team of gastric bypass surgeons has performed thousands surgical weight-loss procedures over the past decades, achieving success rates that surpass national standards.

“Choosing weight-loss surgery may be one of the most life-changing decisions a person will ever make,” says Diane LeMont, Ph.D., an Orange Coast Medical Center clinical psychologist who works with gastric bypass patients. To help severely obese people understand the many issues associated with their condition, the Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Medical Center also offers an obesity support series. The program addresses current treatment options and success factors that determine weight loss and maintenance. It also provides an overview of the physical, medical, psychological, cultural, genetic and behavioral contributors to obesity. The series is designed for people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or higher and those who are 75 pounds or more overweight.