Have you noticed how I’ve just never really mentioned the whole subject of bariatric surgery? Right. I haven’t. That has been a bit of cowardice mixed with confusion on my part. But I feel less confused lately and today’s news cycle gives me reason and occasion to speak up.
First, I am not opposed to bariatric surgery. I didn’t choose it for myself. Never considered it really. Wouldn’t have been a proper candidate if I had. But I worked off my weight with the help of a bariatric (weight loss) clinic that performs many of these surgeries, so I know a lot of people who have been through it.
That experience fed my confusion about the surgical route. I met people whose weight made them immobile, who couldn’t have lost the weight any other way. I met people who seemed too young for it. I met people who wanted the surgery simply because they hated to monitor their food. (No, that’s not what they told the surgeon.) I met people achieved and maintained great health after the surgery, and people whose health took a horrible nose-dive. But mostly I met people whose surgery gave them a fighting chance to get their health and lives back.
I don’t believe surgery is a free ride. I don’t believe surgery is cheating. I don’t believe surgery is an easy out. Not at all. I don’t think these ideas require discussion, as a matter of fact, though they are discussed and perpetuated constantly, I realize. I’m not interested in those discussions, because I think they’re crazy.
I don’t think people who choose surgery are “Them” whereas people who choose to lose weight through diet and exercise (and therapy and education) are “Us.” That’s crazy, people. Just crazy.
I am made very unhappy — Very Unhappy — when I am used as an example to represent the “right way” to lose weight. There is no right way, folks. Have I not exhausted myself saying so? Is this not the whole point of these past two years of writing and writing and writing? Knock, knock, knock… Hello?
Do I worry about people who use surgery as a tool to lose weight? Do I bite my nails over it? Sure, I do. I worry about whether they’re getting enough nutrients. I worry about how they are healing. I worry about possible complications. But it’s not my risk. It’s theirs. And it’s theirs to take if they feel it’s right for them. Some people take the risk of death easily. Some people don’t see the possibility of death as a risk. It sort of depends on what life feels like to you, doesn’t it?
I don’t believe weight loss surgery is mutilation. Some people believe that. I respect their beliefs. But I understand too well that obesity is a disease that needs to be managed, sometimes by measures that may seem extreme to people who are not living inside an obese body.
I do believe that surgery is just a tool. It’s just one tool in a big bag of tools that we need to have at our disposal if we are to lose weight and then maintain healthier bodies. We choose the tools we need for the job at hand. Many of us will never choose surgery, many of us will.
Once someone has lost weight, whether by surgically imposed or by self-imposed calorie restriction, they are plopped into exactly the same boat: Maintenance. Maintenance looks the same for all of us. Maintenance is a bitch.
We all learn to eat nutrient-dense foods and exercise regularly. We all pick up skills and knowledge, and handle the psychology of managing our eating.
So today’s news cycle, announcing the long-term benefits and results of studies that appear to commend weight loss surgery? These are supporting what we already know about weight loss. Weight loss allows you to side-step a number of morbid diseases. Any way you get there, weight loss is likely to add years to your life, and make your life more worth living.
Right? There. I’ve said it. I feel better.