Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

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.

Today’s buzz, AP wire

11 thoughts on “The Surgical Route

  1. Quinn says:

    Isn’t is interesting how people insist that surgery is an “easy way out”? Years ago, when i had my bout with major surgery, people insisted to me that i should try other methods first. The surgery was for invasive cancer of the cervix, not something you wanna play with at all. That surgery wasn’t fun, but it saved my life. And even today people dare to tell me I took the easy way out.

    For that reason alone, i salut anyone brave enough to undergo bariatric surgery.

    It their body, so they get to make that decision. No one else needs to get into it.

  2. DeAnn says:

    It’s hard because I do know some people that it’s worked for. But I’m completely resistant to it, because I want to eat healthier not NOT EAT at all! And it usually literally makes people full after two bites of food. I would rather die. And I don’t say that lightly. I love to eat. I just need to eat healthy!

  3. Wendy says:

    Thank you for the wise words. I have had bariatric surgery and am extremely happy with the results.

    I’ll be the first to tell you that it is not a simple easy panecea! You still have to work at losing the weight! I have to exercise daily in order to take the pounds off. I also have to carefully plan my meals and make sure I get enough nutrients. I, too, love to eat, but I have learned in the last 10 months that I can eat to live rather than live to eat.

    No, two bites doesn’t fill me up, but I am satisfied with a Lean Cuisine or a small Healthy Choice entre when I’m on the go. I don’t feel deprived either because I can eat small amounts of things that I like. I do know that if I eat too much I will get sick and that doesn’t feel good.

    I have not yet gotten to maintainance, but I am well aware that it will also take effort on my part. Keeping track of my intake and output is one of the keys as JuJu points out repeatedly. Not worrying about food is just something that will never happen, food will always be a part of our lives, we need to be able to control it rather than have it control us!

  4. Wendy says:

    Thank you for the wise words. I have had bariatric surgery and am extremely happy with the results.

    I’ll be the first to tell you that it is not a simple easy panecea! You still have to work at losing the weight! I have to exercise daily in order to take the pounds off. I also have to carefully plan my meals and make sure I get enough nutrients. I, too, love to eat, but I have learned in the last 10 months that I can eat to live rather than live to eat.

    No, two bites doesn’t fill me up, but I am satisfied with a Lean Cuisine or a small Healthy Choice entre when I’m on the go. I don’t feel deprived either because I can eat small amounts of things that I like. I do know that if I eat too much I will get sick and that doesn’t feel good.

    I have not yet gotten to maintainance, but I am well aware that it will also take effort on my part. Keeping track of my intake and output is one of the keys as JuJu points out repeatedly. Not worrying about food is just something that will never happen, food will always be a part of our lives, we need to be able to control it rather than have it control us!

  5. MARY says:

    JUJU,

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR WORDS. I HAVE KNOWN SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD THE SURGERY, 2 OF THEM HAVE DONE VERY WELL AND ONE OF THEM DIED FROM COMPLICATIONS OF THE SURGERY. IT IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS FASCINATING TO ME HOW PEOPLE TEND TO MAKE JUDGEMENTS WITHOUT WALKING A MILE IN SOMEONE’S SHOES. IT ANGERS ME, AND FRUSTRATES ME AS WELL. I KNOW THE ANGUISH EACH ONE OF THE PEOPLE STRUGGLED WITH WHEN MAKING THE DECISION FOR SURGERY, ANDI UNDERSTAND THE POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS, BUT LIKE YOU SAID WE ALL HAVE TO MAKE THE DECISION THAT IS RIGHT FOR US, NOT EVERYONE ELSE, BUT FOR US. THANK YOU AGAIN FOR DOING WHAT YOU DO, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

  6. Amy says:

    I underwent bariatric surgery in August 1998. My decision was not arrived at lightly. I had lost over 100lbs three separate times in my life. My body had taken a tremendous beating from repeated diets. I was ready for a permanent solution, and chose bariatric surgery to accomplish this.

    I had my surgery at a well-known teaching hospital in San Diego. The medical staff was excellent, and I was fully cognizent of the pros and cons of the surgery beforehand. I had the traditional, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure, not the less-invasive laparoscopic method. Thus, my recovery was quite painful. But the weight came off at a very swift pace, which was an enormous boost to my confidence.

    I lost approximately 1/2 of my body weight over a period of about 2 years (I weighed 260 the morning of my surgery, and finished at 130lbs., which is a comfortable weight for me at 5’6″)

    I am satisfied with *much* less food than pre-surgery, but must comply with common sense eating habits to maintain my weight. I backslid into bad eating habits over a 2-year period, and my weight climbed back up to 196 before I confronted myself. After returning to healthy eating habits and exercise, most of the regained weight has come back off (still have about 15lbs to go).

    So what did I learn? This surgery is not for everyone. And it’s not a magic bullet. Like *any* weight loss program, if you’re not ready to change your eating habits permanently, the weight *will* come back. I have to take additional vitamin & mineral supplements due to the slight malabsorption caused by having 10′ of my intestines removed (part of the Roux-en-Y procedure).

    Would I do it again? Absolutely. But that’s me. Anyone interested in this surgery needs to do their due diligence and decide if it’s right for them.

  7. Megan says:

    My comment has nothing to do with surgery. But when I read the post something clicked. I had such a strong reaction to Amy’s response (she’s my height and we weighed about the same in 1998) that I now can articulate why surgery is not for me. I realized why I’ve been going about things the way I have.

    (Sorry, the realization is rather long. I hope it’s helpful to someone else.)

    I know that I can lose weight by closely monitoring my food intake (counting calories, WW, whatever). And that knowledge is valuable to me.

    But the thing for me isn’t the weight loss, it’s the healthy habits. I want eating and exercise habits that I will be proud to pass on to my kids. The weight loss is an indication that I’m achieving those habits, sure. It’s an accomplishment I can point to. It makes me healthier and increases my lifespan. But it’s not sufficient.

    I want to get to an end point. Not a point where I can eat whatever I want. Or never have to weigh myself. My end point is all about the mindset. I want to get to a point where I’ll never be afraid to get on a scale. I want to get to the point where I can adjust to changes in my environment by adding new habits, without going through a stage of angsting over how I have failed.

    I can see that end point on the exercise front. When I don’t exercise I’m not angry at myself. I just know that I would be happier and feel better if I had exercised, and I try to exercise more. See that “try” in the previous sentence? That’s how I know I’m not at the end point yet. I can still go a week without exercising; I can still become a stranger to the feeling of gaining mastery over a physical skill. But I can imagine what it will be like when I have reached exercise success.

    I’m trying to “maintain” my way to weight loss. Maybe counting calories would be the “easy” way. Then I want to do this the hard way. I want to learn the eating habits of the new thinner Megan, one step at a time, and have the maintenance stage built it.

    It’s not good me vs. bad me. There are just consequences. My current habits are the habits of the 235 pound me. If I keep these habits I will keep being a 235-pound me.

    So what habits does the 225 pound me have?

    I’m just picking two to start:
    – She eats fruit before every meal.
    – She stops eating before overfull.

    Let’s see if using those, ON TOP OF THE OTHER HABITS I’VE GAINED, I can become the 225 pound me over the next six months. I don’t need a checklist, or gold stars, or anything else to track whether I’ve behaved well. If I gain the new habits the weight will come off. If I don’t it won’t. For me, right now, it’s that simple.

    The 235 pound physically active me has a lot of great habits and resources the sedentary 260 pound me didn’t. Exercise. Body awareness. Cooking Thin on the Food Network. Desire to consume fruits and vegetables. Sufficient water intake. Curiousity about new foods. Recognization of the physical sensation of hunger. The occassional vegetarian meal. A passion for whole grains. This blog. Weight lifting.

    I don’t mean to say that the way other people are trying isn’t right for them. Or even that it wasn’t right for me or won’t be right for me at another time. But at this moment in time I don’t need rapid transformation. I need permanent transformation, and for me that comes slowly.

    Thanks to Juju and everyone who makes this a place where I can figure this sort of thing out.

  8. peach_linen says:

    (Sorry this is long.)

    I admit that I’m a person who’s always thought of people who’d had weight-loss surgery as “them.” I did feel like they had “cheated” and I was suffering by doing it the “right” way.

    After reading this post, it made me stop and think long and hard about why I felt that way. And I think it’s a mixture of reasons.

    There are the basic reasons – It’s bad for your body to lose weight that quickly; for the cost of surgery you could get a gym membership and join WW; some people use it as a first resort instead of a last one. But then there’s one that hit me hard. I’m extremely jealous of the people I know who have the money (or insurance) to have the surgery, go through with it, and come out the other side, well, flaunting their rapid weight loss and glossing over the whole thing as if it really was a magic cure. I’ve met three people like that and honestly, I’m jealous because I feel like it isn’t fair (only because I can’t afford it and am not even a candidate).

    And after going through all that, I have to admit that JuJu is right. It’s their decision, and maybe I never got to see the hard part of the surgery and the struggles the people I know had. And so what if people think it’s a magic cure and are flaunting their loss? They still do have to maintain, they still do have to learn better eating habits, and they still do have to be concerned about their weight.

    We need to congratulate people who find their success no matter how they find it. Because when we say “success” we mean definitive habits, good nutrition and better health management. If they aren’t successsful in those ways, no matter what pill, plan, or procedure they’ve done, they’ll still fail.

    I’m defintely going to start being less critical about things like that. It just makes me bitter and sad. And when trying to lose weight, no one needs that, least of all, me.

  9. Suburban Island says:

    Hi from Suburban Island – I was talking about The Skinny Daily in my latest diary entry – http://sunnflower.diaryland.com/fridayfinds.html!

  10. Marie says:

    I don’t think at about 250, I’d consider it for myself. The thought of the wrong food making me ill, or the complications that could occur really scare me. But I can see why it would be good in some cases.

    A friend of mine told me the other day she is really down and she was considering this. I think she’s just over 300 and not too tall.

    I think before I read this I might have discouraged her, but now I just said it could be worth considering, just make sure she really reads up first and decides based on both sides of what is out there. I said I’d heard that some people come out totally thrilled with it, it changes there lives dramatically for the better…and some people have major bad complications (or even like the person above mentioned someone she knew had died).

    I also brought up the thing you mentioned in an earlier post..about the extra skin especially if you loose really fast. I know I never thought of that till I read that article, I just figured, hey loose 100 lbs, and jump into the bikini right? Maybe not. Sure wouldn’t stop me from wanting to loose it but its good to know the chance. So if its going to be something that is really going to bother you, its probably good to consider the cost of plastic surgery (or whatever its called in that case) to tighten things up too.

    my 2 cents

  11. M.P. NY says:

    I have had the WLS surgery and it is not true that we can eat whatever we want and not exercise. It is not always true that you lose too quickly either. I am losing slowly and I do have to exercise and eat healthy food choices to continue to lose.

    The way my surgeon explains it–this is not a procedure that enables you to stop dieting–rather this is a procedure that enables you to be successful when you do diet. In the past I have dieted many times and the scale refused to move. Or it moved temperarily and then always moved back up.

    Now I am still dieting and exercising but now I am see results from the dieting and exercising which is something new for me.

    By the way a painful dangerous major surgery is not an easy way out. If you went thru it you would realize that. This lifestyle is not a breeze by any means.

    I am sorry that the folks who have the surgery and continue to eat whatever they want are the ones who seem to get all the publicity. There are many of us who are stuggling on a daily basis to stick to the straight and narrow with our eating plans and also exercising. M.P. NY

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