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One hundred and two patients with body mass indices of 37 kg.m−2 or greater were interviewed in an outpatient assessment clinic over an 18-month period. All had been listed for elective surgery under general anaesthesia. All patients were given an explanation of the problems of morbid obesity in relation to anaesthesia. Three options were then offered to the patients: 1) to proceed with general anaesthesia as planned; 2) to undergo the planned procedure under some form of regional anaesthesia, or 3) to postpone surgery and attempt to lose significant amounts of weight. At this initial consultation, 24 patients chose option 1, 21 patients chose option 2, and 52 patients chose option 3. Four patients decided not to have the planned surgery. One patient decided to have his surgery performed at another hospital under general anaesthesia. Of the 52 patients who opted to lose weight, only eight succeeded in reducing their body mass index (BMI) by 3 or more during the period of the study. Of these eight, only four had reduced their BMI to below 35. In this study, an explanation of the problems of obesity in relation to anaesthesia, in advance of the date of surgery, had a significant effect on the type of anaesthesia chosen by most morbidly obese patients that were interviewed. Unfortunately, of those who decided to try and lose weight, only the occasional patient achieved significant weight loss. Although a laudable and advocated aim, optimization of patients with regard to their weight proved impractical in our study.