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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why Is Gastric Bypass Perceived to be the “Easy Way Out”?

by Kaye Bailey © 2005 - All Rights Reserved

If you listen, even for a moment, to the talk in overweight communities you will almost always hear that gastric bypass weight loss surgery is the “easy way out” of fat-land. People with weak spirits and good insurance get a lucky break, have their stomachs whacked and stapled and lose weight the easy way. Weight Loss Surgery: seen by pious public to be surgical baptism for the guilty gluttonous slothful.

But those of us who step in the water to be cleansed of our fatty sins know better. Weight loss surgery is NOT the easy way out, a simple dunking of the repentant, the sins atoned, and the price paid, the soul and body healed. We know the atonement is paid every day for the rest of our lives when we set our healthy house in order with gastric bypass.

We understand that WLS is not easy. Why, then, does the public think it’s redemption to weight loss?

First: all the public sees is a rapidly diminishing person recently repaired by gastric bypass. The pounds melt away seemingly in a plain sight. What hides behind the public curtain are the ugly demons. Dumping? We don’t talk about it. Vomiting? We don’t tell our regurgitating stories. Head games driving you insane? Who you going to tell? Who is listening? Exercising? Nobody wants to hear about the “E” word. So what the public sees front and center stage is a person consistently succeeding at massive weight loss; a person glowing in their own rebirth and betraying the fat and hopeless around them. How else can it be explained? WLS must be the magic pill, the easy-way-out of obesity purgatory.

Second: the WLS grass-roots public relations machine tells the public gastric bypass is easy, thus we become our own worst enemy. Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar: “I can still eat the same things, just less of them! ha ha ha!” or how about, “I lost 145 pounds and never had to do a moments exercise – WLS is fabulous that way – no exercise required.” And so the popular belief perpetuates that fat glutton slobs can lose weight just by eating less of the same foods and never exercising. Brilliant! How easy is that?

Let me tell you what weight loss surgery is really like for me.

I am six years post-op. Two nights ago I vomited my dinner (bacon-seared sea scallops and green beans) because it was just a bit too greasy for my sensitive stomach. A week before that I became deathly ill, it’s called dumping, from snacking mindlessly on Chinese chow mein noodles. Disorientation, hot sweats and then cold chills – dumping – a dire consequence of eating the wrong foods with the malabsorptive system. This morning, just like most mornings, I walked two brisk miles on the treadmill to begin my day. This evening I spent 25 minutes strength training to maintain my muscle tone, keep my metabolism running high and making damn sure I don’t regain one single pound.

And this is how it will be for the rest of my life. I will vomit, dump, exercise and be vigilant day in and day out if I want this easy weight loss surgery to work for me.

My body does not take weekends off from weight loss surgery. I don’t get chocolate cake just because it’s my birthday. I do not have a double-cheeseburger with fries and a shake just because I’ve had a stressful day and I deserve it. My body is on the gastric-bypass plan 24-7.

Do you think that’s easy?

Weight Loss Surgery post-ops understand what I’m talking about. Lots of us go through a phase of fighting the gastric bypass and engage in snacking or grazing. We out-eat the stomach pouch and regain weight and we become self-loathing. We vomit and dump and do it all over again thinking we can somehow trick the body. Eventually we learn and we get it: WLS is for life.

Weight loss surgery pre-op patients want badly to understand this, but the dieting culture has taught us to be strict for X-number days and then we get a free day. The culture has taught us if we can stick to a plan for X-weeks and lose X-pounds then we can “get back to normal”. We are all expert dieters by the time we elect to have gastric bypass surgery.

There is no back to normal after WLS – it is a lifetime lifestyle commitment.

So we here in the LivingAfterWLS community get it – we know this is, in fact, the bittersweet game of life after WLS. How do we convince others that gastric bypass is not the “easy way out”? After all, being judged for taking the easy way out is one of the most painful things WLS patients’ face.

First: We must accept that this is a judgement we alone cannot conquer. Misinformation and celebrity spotlights have perpetuated the belief that WLS is easy, painless and without sacrifice on behalf of the patient. The public, of which 60% are obese, will always chose to believe WLS is the easy way out. Any patient who goes public with their surgery will face criticism, scorn and judgement. This is a simple fact borne of jealousy and misunderstanding. Engaging in a defensive strategy seldom yields converts, it only distresses the person who had the surgery and who is already beaten-down from years of internal and external loathing. Accept that we are judged for having managed our personal health crisis with the best long-term option that medical science has produced.

Second: We have to stop the internal PR monster that bolsters perception WLS is easy. One of our frequent contributors, Kim Stover did this rather successfully in her workplace. Kim said, “I didn't tell anyone except for immediate family that I was having WLS done prior to doing it. I kept it to myself because I didn't want a single ounce of negative feedback from anyone. I didn't want to walk in on a conversation about me not having the will power. About possibly dying. Once I had the surgery and there was no turning back, I had my friend at work send out an email from me that I had wrote earlier, explaining what I was doing and what I expected from everyone when I returned in six weeks. I set the boundaries for everyone and it worked out brilliantly.”

Kim works in an office of 80 people who commonly share their exercise plans and goals. Because she shares with them Kim’s co-workers know the exact cost she pays, every single day, to lose weight, to maintain her weight loss, to be healthy. I suspect Kim has never sat at the conference room table gobbling a Krispy-Kreme doughnut and laughing, “I can eat anything I want, just less”. No! Kim sits at that table with her protein bars, her sliced apples and her vitamin pack and water bottle. She is honest and forthright about the cost of WLS. She is proud of her accomplishment and accomplishment is just that: achievement with effort, perseverance and genuine stubbornness.

Weight loss surgery is NOT the easy way out. Is the last resort for people who are dying slow ugly deaths from complications related to morbid obesity. Patients exchange the cost of dying for the cost of living. It is the best “cure” medical science has produced for a disease that kills more than 600,000 people in the United States each year.

Easy way out? Not hardly.

The best way out for many of us? Absolutely.


Hummingbird1964 said...

I agree! No matter what, most of us will always have to deal with the prevailing ignorance regarding our procedure.

I solve the problem by simply not telling anyone. Especially not at work. My closest friends and family know but as far as I'm concerned it's nobody's business but my own.

I arrived at my current position about 60 lbs from goal so I continued to lose while here and at the end I had a tummy tuck. When they ask "What's your secret?", I respond "Eating less and exercising more". That response protects my privacy and still allows me to be truthful. You can see most of them shut down at that point and tune me out. That small phrase is what nobody wants to hear.

Everyone is different, but I just don't want to deal with it so I don't open the door to discussion.


Anonymous said...

Amen! I totally agree with you Kaye and find it deeply insulting when I hear people complimenting dieters on "will power". Eventually everyone cracks and WLS is the best way out of that cycle.

Msbeverlyfavordiva said...

Hi Kaye,

Wow!!! What an awesome post and exactly what I feel. So many friends and loved ones think you have taken the easy way out. I have even had a friend admit to me that she thought I had taken the easy way out and all I do is eat less of what I normally ate before surgery and sit back and lose weight!!! Wrong!!! Thanks for the post. It was on time!!!