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Friday, April 15, 2005

Defending WLS: Never Easy

Dear Readers:

We’ve talked before about the struggle to defend our WLS and be accepted by the “normal” people. This week an example of prejudice played out in a community of people struggling with weight issues: and online diet/weight loss community. A beautiful and courageous member of this community came forward with her plans for WLS. With her permission I’m posting her message and some of the feedback she received: much of it kind, compassionate and supportive, but also some arrogant judgmental and simply rude feedback. Take a look, this is a long post but there is much to learn:

Lisa’s Post: Having Gastric Bypass Surgery

After a lot of research and a very informative meeting with a bariatric surgeron, I have decided to pursue gastric bypass surgery. I applied to see this doctor over a year ago and I just got an appointment last week! So, even though I've been reading and researching for a while - I am still in the beginning stages.

The surgeon gave me a statistic that really got to me. She said that morbidly obese people (100 lbs over their ideal body weight and/or a BMI of 40 or higher) only have a 3-5% chance of losing weight by diet and exercise alone...and KEEPING it off for more than 5 years. That's not a very encouraging statistic. :-(

It makes sense considering I've been doing nothing but "dieting" since I was in junior high and I'm currently at the heaviest weight in my life.

With this surgery, I will have a 95% chance of keeping the weight off for the rest of my life. That's certainly more encouraging. But, don't forget about the risks!

Personally, I'm in a good position because the stats are on my side. I'm young, I don't have any other serious medical problems and I'm a woman. Women tend to fare slightly better than men do in gastric bypass. So, I can't help but feel that the benefits of this surgery far outweigh the risks.

I've been dealing with some negative people however. People who say, "why can't you just lose the weight on your own?" or "you're too young for that!". Well, those are actually the EXACT reasons why I'm having the surgery. I haven't been able to lose weight on my own and I am young enough to endure an operation to PREVENT all those weight related health problems. Let's face it, if I could lose the weight on my own...would I be in this position? It's not like I haven't tried for years.

Anyway, I have a re-visit appointment on May 18th...when we should be able to put me on the surgery schedule. In the meantime, I have to get some bloodwork done and get a psychological evaluation. I'm not worried about either of those, and neither is my surgeon. It's just something everybody has to get done.

I'm excited and nervous. It's going to be quite a challenge, but I'm up for it. Heck, in the long run...I can't afford not to.

Wish me luck! :-)

This is some of the feedback Lisa received:

-- It sounds like you've done your homework on this! If the traditional methods aren't working, and you have your physician's support, then all the best to you. Good luck

-- I had gastric by-pass on 3/13/03. I lost 190 lbs. I love to exercise now and still watch my diet. I am in the second phase of the process. I had a tummy tuck and skin removed from my arms in Dec. of 04. I would do it all again.

-- I guess I'm one of the "negative people" you talk about; what is it you've "tried for years"? Eating healthy food in reasonable portions and exercising consistently? Since you applied to the doctor over a year ago, how proactive have you been in making permanent changes to your lifestyle? Did you meet with your general practitioner and ask for assistance in a healthy eating program or a recommendation to a dietician? Did you start any kind of exercise program?

-- Have surgery if you want, it's your decision and yours alone regardless of what us "negative people" think.

-- I'm not sure how I feel about this. I know about 6 women who have had this done ( all about 10 to 15 yrs. ago) and every one of them have gained back what they lost and more. My best friend had it done before her wedding and today she weighs more than ever. I understand what you're saying when you say you've tried everything else and failed - I did the same thing, but, my Dr. wouldn't talk to me about surgery until I could document everything else had failed, that's when I started, but, first I had to make up my mind that I wanted to lose for ME, not my HB, not my kids, not everyone who ever passed judgment on me, ME. I've done pretty darn good with this and I'm proud of my hard work, granted there are times when I want to give up and have said "what's the use?"

-- I'm not trying to push anyone to see this side, I am just trying to open the door a little, so you can see the other side. I have held many people at this site in the highest regard for many years based on their will-power and success. I commend people who find their "it" and are successful, but sometimes (certainly not always!), maybe this really is the best option.

-- This is not a solution to weight loss; it is a tool. Those who view it that way are ultimately the ones who are successful. (signed Snick)

Lisa responded:

Snick, thank you for making that point - the surgery is a TOOL. I think a lot of people (even here on this board) have the misconception that surgery means you don't still have to diet and exercise. Believe me, I'm well aware of this.

I guess my point is, if my weight is hurting my health and life expectancy, the risk of surgery is worth it. The struggle to keep it off will still be there, of course! Anyone who thinks WLS will "cure" their weight problem is foolish. That's not what I'm saying at all!!! I know I will always have to battle with food, but I'd rather battle food at a healthy weight.

It's a controversial subject, but Snick is right. People who look at WLS as the ultimate CURE will never be successful in the long run. It is a TOOL, one I plan on taking very seriously.

Also, I know personally WLS patients from my support group in town that have had bypass of many variations (r-n-y, agb, etc...). I have learned from them that there will always be ups and downs. That's life! But every single one of them has kept the weight off (maybe a fluctuation of 5-10 pounds here and there), one woman for almost 8 years now.

I added my 2-cents

Dear website members:

First, I must commend you for being a wonderful, supportive and thoughtful community. Your posts in response to Lisa’s announcement have been thoughtful, compassionate and fair. Secondly, thanks for allowing a non-subscriber to post here.

Life after WLS is never easy. There are daily challenges. Some 6 years after my surgery I struggle with my weight; only now it is 10-15 lbs, not 50-80 pound fluctuations like before surgery. I get sick at least once a week: dumping or vomiting. I eat a boring menu of the same foods day after day after day after day.

However, I am fit and exercise 5 or more times a week. I sleep without complications of apnea. I do not suffer blood-sugar swings. My blood pressure, heart rate and insulin levels are stable. My BMI is textbook perfect. I feel better about myself than ever in my life.

Do I question myself, “Maybe I could have done it (lost all that weight) without surgery.” Absolutely – now it’s difficult to remember all the plans and programs I tried and failed. Do I regret it? Only when I get sick or can’t eat something that I know will make me sick. Would I recommend it to others? Only if they understand the whole story: that for good or bad, being a WLS patient will impact every day of the rest of your life.

To Lisa I wish you the best of luck and make myself available to offer encouragement or answer questions. I must say, I’m jealous of you – you are one step ahead of the game by having a supportive community online. Part of WLS success is an on-going supportive community.

Thanks and best wishes,
Kaye Bailey

To that someone immediately replied:

Wow, Kaye...getting sick once a week and eating the same foods day in and day out for 6 years and conceivably for the rest of your life? And you think it was worth, more power to you, you're a better person than I am, I'd consider that a worse death sentence than obesity.

Snick responded beautifully

testing123 said:
"I'd consider that a worse death sentence than obesity."

I respectfully beg to differ. Living in a family of people who love to be active and never participating because it is just too hard... always lagging behind everyone else because you simply cannot keep up... having your child hug you and not be able to give it his all because he is unable to reach his arms around your body... getting sick once a week maybe doesn't sound so bad.

I realize that due to the nature of this site, people have very strong opinions on this subject. I was once one of them! All I ask is that you all remember that there are two sides to any debate. Yes, there are bad surgeries. Yes, some people are successful losing weight through diet and exercise alone. There are also people who are (and this is scientifically proven!) genetically predisposed to weight problems - if all these folks ever do is work out and count calories, they may be fine, but that is not realistic. There are people who have this surgery and embrace every single inconvenience that comes along with it, just because it means they can ride a bike alongside their spouse on a Sunday afternoon.

I commend each and every person here who is working to make a difference in his or life - regardless of the method. The fact remains that everyone is striving for the same goal - to be able to maintain a healthy weight and live an active and enjoyable life.

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