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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gastric Bypass

Very heartfelt video by a successful WLS patient remembering a woman who died after surgery.

I just read an incredibly sad story about a woman in the U.K. named Kim Swan who recently died from complications due to gastric bypass surgery. She was like many of us: merely chubby as a teenager, she gained a lot of weight after having her children, until she weighed nearly 300 pounds. She went on a crash diet and lost over 100 pounds, but gained it back, and more on top of that (sound familiar?). Apparently, she was too embarrassed to leave the house, and made the decision to have the surgery, believing it was her only hope for a normal life. It ended up killing her.

Gastric bypass and “less invasive” surgeries, such as the lap band, have become incredibly popular, and they are generally considered the “cure all” for obesity. Just last night, I was watching a couple of shows on TLC – one of them was called “Half Ton Mom”, another incredibly sad story about a woman named Rene. Apparently, at approximately 900 pounds, she was the heaviest woman ever accepted into Renaissance Hospital in Texas, a hospital that specializes in weight loss surgeries. She had been bed-bound for years, had two young daughters, and believed the surgery was her only hope.

At 900 pounds, she was warned about the risks she faced just surviving the surgery itself, but opted to do it anyway. She ended up dying two weeks afterward, after an initial “all clear” from her doctors. She suffered a fatal heart attack, while Kim died from an infection she was too malnourished to fight off.

Undeniably, there are also many people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and it has definitely improved their lives. My question is: Did their lives improve mostly because of the serious health benefits that resulted from the weight loss? Or did their lives improve mostly because they were treated better by other people, and felt better psychologically as they got smaller?

In cases like Rene’s, where someone is so seriously overweight that it definitely threatens their life, I can see the necessity of drastic measures like gastric bypass. If I weighed 900 pounds, I would probably have opted for the surgery also, even though it would have solved only half the problem. When someone gets to that size, clearly it is not food that is the problem. It is the person, the addiction, and their environment. If you’re restricted to a bed and can’t get up and move around, clearly someone else is giving you the food that is keeping you anchored to that bed. However, if Rene had simply gotten some serious help learning how to eat properly, dealt with her food addiction, and had positive, well-educated, encouraging people around her, who knows how long she would have lived? It certainly would have been a lot longer than two weeks … she might have even lost enough weight to get out of her bed and participate in life.

I believe that gastric bypass is being touted as a “solution” far too easily. How big is too big? It’s really relative. In my opinion, someone like Kim, who “only” weighed about 300 pounds, did not have to resort to gastric bypass. It is perfectly possible to weigh 300, 400, even 500 or 600 pounds and live a relatively normal life.

While I’m not about to divulge my weight to anyone except my maker (because it’s nobody’s business but mine), I will say that I weigh more than 200, but less than 300 pounds. I went for a physical recently, and all my blood tests came back normal: normal blood sugar, cholesterol was normal, no thyroid problems … my heart is fine, breathing is fine. No problems. But my doctor is one of those guys who thinks that weight is the culprit for every physical malady. He’s constantly hassling me about my weight, and he has mentioned gastric bypass to me on more than one occasion. I told him in no uncertain terms that I would never have the surgery. I am healthy. I walk every single day for at least 45 minutes, more often for 60-90 minutes. When summer comes around, add swimming on top of that activity. I don’t know too many thin people who exercise daily, but I do. I don’t crucify myself at the gym, but I take care of myself. Yet it’s never enough for this guy, or others like him, who believe that fat is simply a death sentence.

There has been a concerted effort in the past few years to actually try and scare us into believing that unless we lose weight NOW, we will die. It is complete bullshit. It is perfectly possible to be large and healthy. And gastric bypass is not even a guarantee that you will lose the weight and keep it off.

Remember Carnie Wilson? She went through a very public airing of her whole weight loss drama – had the surgery, lost so much weight she ended up victoriously posing for Playboy – and ended up gaining a lot of the weight back. I remember seeing her on Dr. Oz about a year or so ago, pleading with him to help her lose the weight. She was only about 200 pounds. I felt a combination of sympathy and irritation with her. Why don’t you just fucking accept yourself the way you are, lady? Wouldn’t that be healthier? But no, she had to go on Dr. Oz, humiliate herself, and beg for his supposedly learned help. From what I’ve seen of him, he’s a total quack, pulling all kinds of scare tactics on his show just to get ratings. He’s a fearmonger, another one of these “fat is evil” types, constantly pushing diets and such. It pisses me off.

The medical profession has done a sorry job of treating large patients. They have no idea how to deal with us. They blame our weight for this and that, but seem to have no clue that weight affects each one of us in very different, individual ways, and it’s not always unhealthy. I wonder if the day will ever come where we large people will ever be treated as more than just the example for what everyone should “not” be. From what I’ve seen, I’m not holding my breath. 


  1. i accept im a genius and everyone who doesnt can fry in hell..i will also live or die on my terms whether i weigh five hundred tons or five ounces...i dont think dr oz or dr phil even qualify as doctors if they were chosen by oprah where did they forge their degrees in barber college the clown academy the janitor university the more they talk the more i dont listen

  2. Dr. Phil is definitely not a legitimate "doctor" .. he is merely a glorified counsellor who calls himself a doctor. Don't know how he can get away with it legally.

    Unfortunately, I believe that Dr. Oz is a medical doctor, but he must have given it up to do his show. Must be more money in it. You know, more Benzes, more golfing, more bitches ...