While food security and starvation are issues that dominate headlines, there are those queuing up in India's most literate state to tuck in their tummies, with a little help from the doctor. A. Harris, George's closest aide, who partners him in surgeries, said obesity is now a menacing pandemic, a modern lifestyle disease.
'Bariatric Surgery,' as the tummy-tuck procedure is medically known, reduces the size of the stomach so food intake is cut down. With this procedure, those who weigh over 100 kg can, in a matter of just a few months, cut down their weight by up to 30 percent.
Koshy George is among the most popular bariatric surgeons in the state. He works with a team of highly qualified professionals, who travel across the state helping people manage their weight through the surgical procedure.
George said, in conversation with IANS, that initially patients arrived in the hope of managing their weight. Once the results of the procedure were seen by others, even more people wanted to go under the knife to cut flab.
"In the two years since we first began, we have done this on a thousand patients," George said.
Latha Nair, a medical professional herself, and her husband, worried about their son's weight until they came into contact with George.
"At 180 kg, my son was hypertensive and introverted. We had tried all sorts of diets and exercise regimen, but nothing seemed to work with him. We then met George. After our son underwent laproscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG), his weight has reduced to 87 kg. As parents, we are just as relieved as our son is," said Latha Nair.
"India and South Asia now have almost as bad an obesity problem as the US, where 60 percent of all adults are obese. Since 2011, WHO has recognised obesity as a disease," Harris said.
These days, anyone with a body mass index of over 30 is considered obese.
"Although genetic factors play a role, lack of exercise and the growing fast food culture are the main causes of obesity. Weight loss is almost never achieved with just exercising and dieting, and bariatric surgery has now been accepted as a permanent solution," said George, who pointed out that diabetic patients who underwent this procedure could sometimes drop medicines for diabetes.
G. Jijimol, who used the procedure to shed 35 kg and now weighs 65 kg, said: "I was finding it difficult to cope. My shape made me stick out like a sore thumb. I was sceptical when I first heard of this procedure, but I am so happy with how things have shaped up. I no longer feel so tired playing with my kid."
It helps that surgery is performed in Kerala cheaper than elsewhere in the world.
"In a week, the patient is back to normal. On an average, the entire procedure would cost around Rs 2.50 lakh," George said.