Monday, April 26, 2010

To Lap Band Or Not To Lap Band? My Thoughts On Bariatric Surgery

I'm feeling rather prolific today, hence the back-to-back posts. Anyway, this morning, a very close and well-meaning friend asked why I don't consider getting Lap Band surgery. I've also been asked why I don't consider getting a gastric bypass.

Before I answer this, let me just address this very controversial subject in the overweight community and state that I am not against the idea of bariatric surgery. For many, it's a lifesaver. I also do not think that getting weight-loss surgery is "cheating," by any means. In order to undergo a gastric bypass or Lap Band procedure, you must begin with psychological testing, then lose a portion of weight on a liquid diet, then get surgery which can be painful during the healing process, and then live a life where you eat extremely small portions of food and take vitamin supplements. Along the way, you can also suffer from things like malnutrition, hair loss, stomach problems, etc. This hardly sounds like cheating to me! Patients who undergo bariatric surgery have to commit to changing their lifestyles, just as those who don't have surgery do. But the benefits are that you can lose a lot of weight fairly quickly and avoid (or improve) health issues that come with being morbidly obese, such as fatty liver or sleep apnea. I've heard of many success stories involving people who've had bariatric surgery and I applaud them. If they've found a way to lose weight and be healthy and perhaps add years to their lives, I think that's awesome. I really respect anyone who wants to make a change for the better.

For me, however, I don't think that getting a Lap Band or a gastric bypass is the way to go. For one thing, I hate hospitals. I was freaked out getting my broken leg fixed last week, to the point where I was seriously questioning whether I really need two legs (my parents and husband convinced me otherwise). I can't see myself ever CHOOSING to get surgery of any kind, especially one that's pretty invasive. I'm a wimp, what can I say? I have to go to the orthopedist today to get my hard cast and I'm kind of nervous about that!

I also can't realistically see myself sticking with the program that needs to be followed once the surgery is completed. Gastric bypass patients have to eat food in really small quantities post-op. This takes a huge amount of discipline, which I just don't think I have. I like food. I love going to the many different types of restaurants here in New York City and trying all types of cuisines, spicy and otherwise. Frankly, I don't want that option taken from me. I know myself too well to acknowledge that I'd never stick with measuring out every portion. People do gain back weight from gastric bypass surgery and I can totally see myself being one of them.

Plus, for me, I don't think that making my stomach smaller will help me overcome my psychological issues with food. Yeah, I may feel fuller sooner because there's less room in there, but I can't see it preventing me from wanting to binge when I'm angry or upset. That's in my head, not in my body. It's the reason that I've gone from being anorexic to bulimic to morbidly obese. The issue for me isn't just knowing when to stop eating or what I should eat; it's knowing how to stop myself from reacting to the triggers that make me want to binge (or in the past, purge or starve myself). My goal is to change my relationship with food for the better, not just lose weight. I just don't see myself accomplishing this by putting myself in a situation where I have to eat tiny amounts.

This is why I've been a fan of Weight Watchers or diets like it. I like the idea of moderation - of being able to eat anything, provided you don't go overboard. I'm still working on avoiding binges, though. I've been pretty good, as of late, and didn't go crazy at the party yesterday. But then when I came home, I ate through a box of chocolates. Looking back, I guess I was excited and reacted. This is the sort of thing I need to stop doing. In the future, I'll put the box away or give it away or something.

There are some days where I question whether I need to do something that will give me quicker results. When you have as much weight to lose as I do, five or ten pounds don't make much of a difference, and I wish I could wave a magic wand to make me suddenly lose 100. But I know that in order to accomplish this, I need to change my entire way of thinking, which no physical change is going to do for me. You can make my stomach as small as a pea, but unless I get a labotomy too, I think that this is going to be something I struggle with for the rest of my life.

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