Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On weight loss surgery

Weight: 250.6
BMI: 43.01

-1 pound day to day, -27.4 all in all. I'm getting really close to the 10% mark.

Anyway, I read a lot of blogs. I love blogs. I comment on many of the blogs I read (I love both giving and receiving comments). There are a few I read pretty much daily but rarely comment on. One of those is The Blubber Blog. Lynn, its author, just had weight loss surgery. Like just had it, as in a few days ago.

Lynn's a great writer, and I like her blog, but I have problems commenting on it because, well . . . I'm looking for a good way to say this. I think it's primarily that weight loss surgery makes me uneasy. It's not that I think it's wrong per se. I mean, we're all fighting the same obesity demon. Who am I to say that one way is less valid or less right than any other? Losing weight the old fashioned way is hard and I shouldn't cast stones at someone for choosing not to walk that road. Plus getting cut up isn't exactly easy. I mean, yes it is in that you're knocked out and lie there while surgeons do the actual cutting, but it obviously takes a whole bunch of courage to go under the knife.

Logically, all that, and yet. Maybe the best way I can put it is that while I don't think weight loss surgery is cheating, I feel like it is. I can justify in my head a billion ways in which it's not a wrong thing to do, but some part of me just can't get on board.

This road is hard. A few months from now, hell, maybe a few days from now, I might go off course. She'll have have a whole heck of a lot harder time doing so: weight loss surgery is pretty damn close to a permanent commitment device. It's easy for me to fall off the horse, she pretty much can't.

As I just wrote that last paragraph, I thought about a Freakonomics column from a few years ago that discusses weight loss and commitment devices, including bariatric surgery. (Also, while I'm discussing weight loss commitment devices, I can't not link to this op-ed about using money as a commitment device for weight loss.) I'm going to go ahead and block quote part of the Freakonomics column:

There are at least two ways to think about the rise in bariatric surgery. On the one hand, isn’t it terrific that technology has once again solved a perplexing human problem? Now people can eat all they want for years and years and then, at the hands of a talented surgeon, suddenly bid farewell to all their fat. There are risks and expenses of course, but still, isn’t this what progress is all about?

On the other hand, why is such a drastic measure called for? It’s one thing to spend billions of dollars on a disease for which the cause and cure are a mystery. But that’s not the case here. Even those who argue that obesity has a strong genetic component must acknowledge, as Bessler does, that “the amount of obesity has skyrocketed in the past 30 years, but our genetic makeup certainly hasn’t changed in that time.”

So the cause is, essentially, that people eat too much; and the cure is, essentially, to eat less. But bariatric surgery seems to fit in nicely with the tenor of our times. Consider, for instance, the game shows we watch. The old model was “Jeopardy!,” which required a player to beat her opponents to the buzzer and then pluck just the right sliver of trivial knowledge from her vast cerebral storage network. The current model is “Deal or No Deal,” which requires no talent whatsoever beyond the ability to randomly pick a number on a briefcase.

I think that passage from Dubner and Levitt maybe captures the ambivalence of my feelings. To someone who loses via surgery, I'm happy you won, just like it's great when people do well on Deal or No Deal. It's fabulous to get something (be it money or a new body) that will let you live your life as you'd like to. It's nice when good things happen to people, and I'm happy for them.

But to all the people doing it the hard way, I'm not just happy for you like you're happy for someone when something nice happens. I'm proud of you. I admire you. I respect you. You (and I) walk a long hard road doing it the old fashioned way. You're not likely to win as much money on Jeopardy as you would in an episode of Deal or No Deal, but my hat's off to you because every dollar and every pound was so hard fought.

There's nothing wrong with taking the easy way out, but there's something very right about doing it with nothing but your own willpower to keep you going.

How do you guys feel about weight loss surgery? Am I just entirely off base, or do you agree with me that there's something that feels off about the idea that losing weight via surgery is just as admirable as losing it on your own? Would you ever have surgery, and why or why not?

Thank you for all your wonderful comments on the photos yesterday. All the compliments definitely put a spring in my step. (And for those of you who asked, I did in fact get a new phone, upgrading from an original iPhone to a new iPhone 3G S.)


  1. Great post.

    When I had my baby, I had to have a C-section. Everyone--and I mean everyone gave me grief over taking the easy way out. It was *not* easy, I have the scar for life, I had to pull myself out of bed, sitting down was torture, getting up was torture. It took a minute to get up to pick up my crying baby, I couldn't just hop out of bed. It was deceiving.

    Then one day my good friend, who always said I had taken the easy way, had an emergency C-section. This was her fourth child. Guess what? She apologized. She had no idea that a C-section was so rough, that recovery was so awful.

    So I look at weight-loss surgery with that set of eyes. Personally, I would never consider weight-loss surgery. It's not for me. I certainly don't think it's the easy way. In fact, I think it's the harder way. They have surgery, then have to drink only liquids for so long, and then eat minute quantites of food. I don't know much about the WLS from there on, but isn't it that way for life? They just can't eat much? To me, that seems much more difficult. It doesn't *seem* like a real-life lifestyle.

    Do I think some people who go through WLS are taking the easy way out? Yes. But I can say that many people who go on Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or whatever "diet" do the same thing. They take the easy way out. The people that go into it without the mental readiness will fail. BTDT. That works for both the WLS peeps and "us." I don't know what to call "us" -- the traditionalists, I suppose, although we're all unique in our styles.

    I do read WLS blogs, but like you, I don't comment much. It's not that I don't care, because I do. It's more because their journeys are so different. They deal with things I don't deal with. I don't walk in their shoes, I don't know what their bodies are experiencing, and basically, I can't relate well.

    So I may be a bit wishy-washy, or my liberal side may be showing: live and let live. If it works for them--great! It wouldn't for me, but we're all different.

    Congrat on your loss! Next WI you should be in a new decade, past that 250 milestone! Woo-hoo.

  2. Hey girl! Congrats on the loss and thanks for commenting on my blog. As for commenting on other blogs, I have started reading them through Google Reader and can't figure out how to comment from there. Also, most days, I read blogs while at work. Oopsies.

    As for weightloss surgery, i know that though it is the easy way's doesn't undo what goes on in one's mind. it's almost like one has to have a lobotomy to correct behaviours etc. I remember when Carney (sp?) Wilson did her surgery and she gained some weight right after. She said she really had to change the way she thought to make the loss stick. It's still a lot of mental work in the end. Would I ever do it if I could afford it?? Probably not. I would rather get surgery to remove the loose skin due to weight loss.

  3. I don't judge people who choose that route, but I don't necessarily agree with it and I know it wouldn't be for me.

    Nice post.

  4. Really tough topic... I feel similarly to you although I don't neccessarily think that it is an easy route. I believe, from the little I know about the process, that it is actually very difficult with a unique set of challenges. I would never do it, I feel very proud of working at weight loss in the way that I am, and I think that when you said, "there's nothing wrong with taking the easy way out, but there's something very right about doing it with nothing but your own willpower to keep you going," that your words mostly rang very true for me. Congratulations on the loss, by the way! You are rocking it!

  5. I have been following a few WLS blogs and feel the same way you do. It was not something that would work for me but each person has their own path to follow. Mine just doesn't include surgery. Ultimately we are all trying to get to the same place. Healthy, Happy and at a decent weight.

    Thanks for posting this and WTG on the loss!

  6. I'm pretty much on the same page as you when it comes to WLS. To each his own, but that is a route that I dont think I could ever take. I'm sure that once I get down to my goal weight, I will have a huge sense of accomplishment and I will be proud that I did it by myself, for myself. To me, when people have WLS, I'm not very impressed that they lost a lot of weight.

    congrats on the loss!

  7. I don't think it is the easy way out but just another tool in the weight lost world. For some people the surgery is their only hope for a healthier life and most health plans in this country seem to agree. They have realized that the old way of thinking (just eat good foods and exercise will help)has not worked. I think it will always be a struggle even if you elect to have the surgery or do it the old-fashion way. My skinny friends talk all the time about how hard it is for them to keep the weight off. They hate doing the work but it's part of their life. I would never-never do the surgery because I hate being put-under and cut-on. I look at my weight issue as a weakness which drives me more to get it off myself. In the end it's personal!

  8. Well I have had a gastric band for a year now.
    I am 15 pounds down from that year.

    Many MANY people think it is a easy way out and that it wont take as hard of work as " the old fashoined way " does.

    I decided to get a gastric band as a last ditch effort ( so I thought ) of getting rid of the weight I had on for my entire life. It was not only taking a tole on me but my marriage as well. My husband did not like the fact that I could not lose the weight.
    I figured I could finally beat this thing with WLS.


    I heard many times the gastric band is a operation on your tummy not your head. I thought thats ok I will make it work.
    Because I was having a hard time losing it even after the band I believe due to a hell of a lot of pressure from the husband he decided to leave me and my two toddlers.

    I have come to realize I did have a lot of work to do on my past. Reasons why I did not want to leave my fatsuit. Reasons why I sabotage myself through binge eating. So now that i am working on those finally it is still a very difficult road to lose 150 pounds when I know how to cheat the band and eat whatever i want.
    You all might think what a freak but thats my story.

  9. Hi Hadley!!! Congrats on how close you are getting to that 10%, that is friggin AWESOME :)

    As for your entry today, I pretty much agreed with everything you said. One of my closest friends got the band 2 years ago and he lost a LOT of weight(84 pounds in 4 months) I was so super jealous and yet happy for him because he was so happy. Dont get me wrong, he isnt perfect and all in shape, but he is happier with himself and I think he has an extra bounce in his step now. I think to each their own but I know how great it feels once Im done working out, and how accomplished I feel. I dont think I could give that up because it might speed things up. Plus, Im always worried about that extra skin which would require yet another surgery and well, I am a huge chicken shit. I am going to need to get past that because I DO plan on getting my bewbies lifted once I finally get rid of all this excess baggage.

  10. Hadley - I don't know if you were reading my blog when I explained why I didn't have gastric bypass surgery either.

    It was fascinated to see the comments, especially from the people who had actually had the surgery. Why I Didn’t Have Surgery

    I think what I learned was although it wasn't a choice I made, I can see it's not always the easy way out.

    Great post Hadley and congrats on the weight loss. Almost 10% - that's huge!

  11. Awesome job on the loss, another step in the right direction. I agree with you on your opinion of weight loss surgery. I sometimes wonder if people that are obese due to emotional eating problems do well after weight loss surgery. I don't know, maybe they to psychological testing for that. All I know, is that two people I know that had bariatric surgery had life threatening problems immediately following surgery. They have both since gained back all of their weight and more and continue to have health problems. I do see weight loss surgery as a good idea for those that have severe health problems and are unable to lose the weight naturally. This doesn't include the people who are just frustrated with trying to lose the weight. I want to lose weight the old fashioned way because I feel like I will be proving to myself that I can do this!

  12. Great post!! I mean truly great. You handled a tough subject without bias though you made your own feelings quite clear. And this is a subject I have often wonderd about myself.

    Congrats on the almost 10%!! You'll be there in no time!

    I forgot to answer your question with regards to what I am going back to school for. I'm trying to (eventually) get my Masters in Science with a focus on Nutrition.

  13. i'm also a naysayer for weight loss surgery, although in some cases its life or death, and i can't put that down. but in the same thought, every person handles things differently. everyone finds different ways to deal with their problems, and to some people they think that surgery is the only way out.
    honestly though, personally, going the long road is the right way to go. it may take longer, but as the weight goes down, you also deal with your issues as they come. with surgery, you lose it all so fast you dont have time to deal with issues surrounding food and eating and hunger.
    i'm famous for doing things the hard way first, so it will always be a struggle and a long, long road. and i'm ok with that, i can learn more about myself that way.
    congrats on nearing 10%! milestones are awesome!

  14. Wow that is a brave post! Hope you do not get any hate mail.

    I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU. I read that blog too and never comment because she irritates me with that crap.

    Some people really need the surgery because they have no choice (like they are unable to move and exercise). Other people are looking for the quick fix. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, sometimes people die in surgery.

    You are doing it the right way. Not likely you will die and if you keep it up, it is a life style change that will benefit you forever. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!

    No better way than your way.

  15. I know 4 people who had gastric bypass surgery - 2 of them have gained most of the weight back. One nearly had her leg amputated after she went to Costa Rica for cheap plastic surgery to have excess skin removed and got an infection, and now she has gained it all back! It's not really a quick fix.....

    I know losing without crutches makes me feel incredibly invincible and smug in a way that surgery or pills or Jenny Craig meals - I can live the healthy life and am EMPOWERED!

    Looking forward to doing Gag 2009 with you!

  16. I'm not an expert on this touchy topic but my attitude towards weight loss surgeries kind of like the same way I see diet pills and such. I know there's a huge difference called scalpel and cuts but I just don't think these are the real solutions. I mean someone has to be really brave to choose the 'easy way out' (a surgery can involve complications, so the diet pills because no one can know those stuffs case to tour body on a lond term) but if we see the natural way of weight loss that's different. That's a freaking hard learning system a body and mind can accept and later on maintain. Not a magic wand.

    As for the comments I don't comment much either. I may say it's a European cultural heritage or something but some things just can let be. I read lot of blogs too, but not every entry needs to be commented. Not every story I can relate to. But still, I really enjoy reading those entries.

    And congrats on your loss!

  17. I guess this is a controversial topic. I don't really feel that surgery is an easy way out. Any major surgery requires lots of recovery time, and from what I've heard, the repercussions for not eating correctly after the surgery are pretty bad.
    My only issue with the surgery is that a lot of people never learn the right way to eat afterward, and they wind up gaining weight again anyway. I hope that by now there is a lot of counciling that goes along with the surgery so the patients learn how to eat healthily.