Our bodies need energy to keep us alive and our organs functioning normally. When we eat lunch, drink water or just have a small bite, we put energy into our bodies. An average man needs approximately 2,500 kcal per day to maintain a healthy body weight, while an average woman needs 2,000 kcal or so. When we eat or drink more calories than we need, our bodies store this excess as body fat. If this process continues over a long period of time, we may put on weight. And while you shouldn’t be worried about a few extra pounds, you should seek medical help when you realize that you’ve entered the early stages of obesity. According to the EASO (European Association for the Study of Obesity), Italy has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Europe (36 percent for boys and 34 percent for girls), while adulthood obesity rates are among the lowest in comparison to many neighbouring countries. In recent years, countless facilities have been instituted to help patients suffering from obesity, some of which are here in Florence.
In 2017, Florence’s Careggi Hospital opened the Clinical Nutrition Center
(www.aou-careggi.toscana.it / 055/7946510), providing a wide range of services for those affected by nutritional diseases, from obesity to anorexia, bulimia and diabetes. Doctors, dietitians and healthcare professionals help individuals overcome weight-related health problems. A prescription issued by your GP and medical records citing the patient’s health conditions are required to access the clinic, although patients with diabetes can gain access without a prescription in case of emergency. All patients receive personalized medical care supervised by doctors and dietitians—psychological consultation is also provided.
In bariatric surgery, weight loss is achieved by reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band or through removing a part of the stomach. These procedures restrict the amount of food the stomach can hold, resulting in weight loss. Florence’s Santa Maria Nuova Hospital (www.chirurgiafirenze.it / 055/69381) provides complete medical assistance for those affected by severe obesity. A doctor’s prescription is required, but patients must take part in a multidisciplinary evaluation program before the surgery is approved. The evaluation includes mental health history, diagnosis and current treatments/wellbeing, cognitive abilities, self-esteem and personality factors, social functioning and eating behavior. The long process assesses if the patient is ready to change his/her lifestyle and if he/she is aware of the risks and benefits of procedural options. Santa Maria Nuova is a public hospital and all medical services are free, except for the multidisciplinary evaluation program where payment is needed for each treatment (maximum 36 euro). Bariatric surgery is also available in many private clinics all over Italy, although the costs are very high: approximately 5,000 euro per patient.
Emotional support programs
If you’re seeking emotional support, Overeaters Anonymous (www.overeatersanonymous.it) and Amici Obesi Onlus (www.amiciobesi.it) provide support groups and private appointments with qualified doctors and psychologists. Overeaters Anonymous organize monthly support meetings with people waiting for surgery and former patients, while Amici Obesi also offers news, detailed studies and online support via its website and social media. Participation in these groups is often essential for establishing a healthy relationship with food.