Saturday, May 25, 2013

You eat anything you want and you still lose weight!

My brother (18 months my junior) is a highly intelligent man. This was proven decades ago, when IQ tests performed while his teachers and parents tried to figure out why he was such a miserable little bugger showed a genius level IQ. I know that sentence sounds unsympathetic to my brother, but we were all miserable - our parents, his teachers, me, and my brother.

When I first talked with him about weight loss surgery, many years later, this highly intelligent and (by then) well-read man said, "Wow! So, you have the surgery, and then you eat anything you want and you still lose weight!"

Well, no. Not really. In fact, nothing like that.

During the 6 years of my weight loss surgery journey, I have (over and over and over again) witnessed bariatric patients who came out of the operating room after surgically successful procedures still wondering why they couldn't eat anything want and still lose weight. Their disappointing weight loss was and is a perpetual puzzle to them because somehow they had not grasped that behavioral change is required for weight loss success.

It's easy to label those patients as stupid or ignorant or deluded, or to blame their bariatric team for failure to properly educate those patients about what would be required of them both pre- and post-op. All of those things could be a factor.

In March 2012, almost 6 years since the start of my own WLS journey, I attended 2 sessions of a required pre-op nutrition and education class. My BMI then made me obese, but not morbidly so. I had gained weight after a complete unfill and was preparing to say goodbye to my beloved band due to medical problems aggravated by my band, planning to revise to vertical sleeve gastrectomy in the same procedure.

The dietitian leading the class was a perky, pretty 20-something girl, adorably pregnant, who had clearly never struggled with her weight before. Her slightly condescending attitude was hard to take, but about halfway through the class I thought I could understand her attitude. She had just named a long list of foods we should not eat after surgery (fried foods, candy, baked goodies, soda, alcohol, salty snacks, etc.) when I heard a woman nearby say bitterly, "I don't know. That seems like an awful lot to give up."

Since I had known the before and after of WLS, I was strongly tempted to respond to her, but I held my tongue (wisely, for once).

I don't know just why so many people think that WLS is magic, that you can eat anything you want and still lose weight, that you don't have to give up a single food or behavior or attitude in order to succeed. Maybe we can blame that attitude on the media, or maybe we can blame it on the deeply-entrenched denial that tends to go along with obesity. But the fact is, you can't eat anything and still lose weight unless you're dying of cancer or AIDs or some other fatal disease, and probably don't want to eat a single bite of anything anyway. And I'd trade dying of cancer for WLS sacrifices and success any old day.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Victim of Obesity

I’m seeing a disturbing proliferation of victimhood these days. Every day the media broadcast reports about victims of crime – of scams, fraud, theft, murder – and victims of acts of God, like weather, fire, and floods. My heart goes out to those victims because I feel a kinship to them. I too have experienced violence, loss, trauma, and pain. But I am not a victim. I’m a survivor.


Before we get into the meat of this article, I want to ask you a question: are you a victim?

Don’t tell me the answer yet, but keep it in your mind while you read the rest of this article.

Victimhood can be alluring. It garners attention, assistance and pity that you can milk for the rest of your life if you play the role well. You don’t have to be responsible for rebuilding your life or restoring what you lost. That doesn’t appeal to me, though. It sounds boring and tiresome, and it discourages laughter, which I find even more healing than tears, so why does victimhood continue and even proliferate? Let’s take a closer look at how obese people like us become victims.


Every victim needs at least one villain. Who or what are your villains?

Me – I got a lousy genetic legacy. I inherited every strand of obesity DNA my mother’s gene pool had to offer (plus the ones for thin hair and crooked teeth). We won’t discuss the humor genes I also got from her, though. Humor doesn’t enhance my victimhood. But that’s okay, because I’m actually not a victim.

While we’re blaming obesity on our ancestors, we need to look at the flip side of the nature versus nurture coin. I got a raw deal there, too. Neither of my parents encouraged exercise or sports. In fact, they ridiculed physical fitness programs and encourage scholarship and mental fitness instead, so I ended up being a very smart, very fat intellectual. And that’s fine, because I have a college degree and an impressive resume as a result. And anyway, I’m not a victim.

Another popular villain nowadays is addiction. Addicts will do anything to support a drug or other destructive habit. We need ever-increasing amounts of our substance just to prevent withdrawal, never mind to get high. For my brother, the substance is methadone. For me, it’s food, especially sweet or salty or fatty or chocolatey or otherwise nutritionally evil food, and it’s even easier (and cheaper) for me to score a hit of my substance than it is for my brother to score some of his. Baskin Robbins, McDonald’s, Lays and Duncan Hines are just a few of the virtually inescapable pushers I know. It’s sad but true, but I can overcome it, because I am not a victim.

Let’s not forget our celebrity-worshipping society and the flood of images of impossibly buff men and skinny women that wash over us every single day. The media and the likes of Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss and Angelina Jolie constitute a vast and powerful band of villains. The siren song of “Thin Is In” sounds all around me, but it doesn’t matter because I can shut my eyes, turn down my hearing aids, and remember something important: that I am not a victim.

In addition to obesity, I suffer from another incurable, chronic, debilitating disease that’s scientifically been linked to obesity. The pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome haunt me every day, with villainy that threatens to suck all the joy out of my life. But I’m not going to let pain get the better of me, because I am not a victim.

Now let’s go back to the beginning of this article, where I asked if you’re a victim. I want to hear your answer to that question now, after you’ve read the article. Think carefully before you speak.

Okay, here goes. Are you a victim? Really, truly, a victim?


That’s great! Neither am I. Like you, I’ve chosen to win the weight loss battle, conquer the villains, and emerge the victor. I’m not going to settle for anything less than that, and neither should you. So grab your swords, my friends, and fight back now!