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Shrink Stomach, Lose Weight?

Today Deborah Roberts is a happy woman. A busy mother and wife, Roberts is in her 30s and has a job that she loves and an active life.

Two years ago, though, she was very unhappy. She weighed 270 pounds. "My knees hurt; my back hurt; I couldn't breathe right," Roberts remembered.

Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports on an increasingly popular - and controversial - surgical technique that helped her lose weight.

For years Roberts dieted and exercised regularly. Sometimes she lost some weight, but she always gained it back. "I can honestly say that I made every attempt to do everything I could," she says.

A little less than two years ago, she decided to try surgery. She had her stomach shrunk - a procedure called gastric bypass. This procedure is one of the most extreme and controversial methods for losing weight.

Dr. Mathias Fobi, one of the leading practitioners, runs an obesity clinic outside Los Angeles and performs the procedure on 600 patients a year.

He says that gastric bypass is not a radical approach and cannot be compared to diets, simply because diets do not work. The only effective way to lose weight, Dr. Fobi says, is to eliminate hunger at its source: the stomach.

"When we do this surgery, we cut the stomach," he says. After surgery the stomach is significantly smaller than it was before.

In a gastric bypass operation, the stomach, which typically holds 50 to 80 ounces of food and liquid, is separated from the intestine and divided into two parts. The larger part becomes inactive. The smaller part is made into a pouch, reconnected, and it becomes a tiny, new stomach, able to hold only 1 ounce of food.

As a result, people who have had the surgery feel full after just a few bites of food, and they eat much less. Since her surgery Roberts has lost 125 pounds and weighs a little more than half of what she used to. She says she eats whatever she wants - but just a little at a time.

Ruthie Rooks visited Dr. Fobi and decided to have gastric bypass surgery. "I am just really looking forward to doing it," she said. "I'm 19 and a half years old, and I weigh 515 pounds. I think that says it all."

She has a hard time getting into a car, combing her hair or putting on a shoe. She has trouble getting a job, other than babysitting. Without the surgery, Rooks said, she doesn't think she will live past 30.

Rooks has had a weight problem all her life. "I remember when I was 2, I was probably the fattest kid in preschool," she said. "I was always heavy." All her life, she has been ridiculed about her weight.

"In high school, when I first started, I had a new dress, and my mom picked me up and it was full of spit," she remembered.

"People would just spit on me. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and I think, 'Look how ugly you are, look how fat.' I mean, I think I have a pretty face that God gave me. And I wish that I could have a pretty body," Rooks added.

Rooks said her weight problem is no her fault. Her mother, Marie Johnson, and her doctor agreed. They think her obesity is a genetic condition.

Johnson has been fighting obesity most of her life, too. As a woman in her 40s, she was experiencing the effects: She had trouble walking and lost her breath after just a few steps. She found it difficult to move around. She also decided to get gastric bypass surgery.

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