January 27, 2006
Weight Loss Surgery Redux
I wanted to revisit a couple of topics I addressed in earlier entries. On December 23, I discussed Starting Over, a daytime reality TV show where six women live in a house and work towards life-altering goals with two life coaches. In that entry wrote about the life coaches' schizophrenic attitude toward weight.
Well, a new housemate has joined the Starting Over family. Christie has lost 100+ after gastric bypass surgery, and her goal is to learn to love herself. In yesterday's episode, Christie's life coach, Rhonda Britton was startlingly - and refreshingly - frank about weight loss surgery. First, she pointed out that weight loss surgery has a high mortality rate. That, in itself, made me sit up and take notice. Then she had Christie perform a very interesting exercise that I think it a good lesson to plus-size women everywhere.
Rhonda took cotton batting and Ace bandages, and wrapped Christie's arms, legs, neck, and torso. The effect of the padding was that Christie looked larger than she is today, and reminded Christie of her pre-surgery body. Then, Rhonda had Christie name all of the issues she thought that gastric bypass would solve. As Christie listed the various issues - anger toward her parents, addictions, feeling unloved - Rhonda wrote them on the bandages. Rhonda's point? That Christie thought that by changing her outward appearance through weight loss surgery, all of her inner problems would be solved. It turns out, of course, that Christie has all of the same problems she had when she was much larger.
I think the lesson for all of us is that we all too often fall into the trap of thinking that all of our problems would be solved if only we were thinner. That's the message we're bombarded with from the media and the diet industry, and it's an empty promise we all too often fall for. It was refreshing to see Starting Over address that issue in a way that made sense.
The other topic I want to revisit is my mention (in my January 15 entry) of Consumer Reports coverage of weight loss surgery. I've now had the opportunity to read the article, and it's left me more incredulous than ever. Consumer Reports calls weight loss surgery a "reliable solution" to making "fat people thin." It describes two procedures, gastric bypass and adjustable gastric banding. It then reports that after two years, "the average gastric bypass patient had a BMI [body mass index] of 30." Um, a BMI of 30 means that a person is still "clinically obese."
The article also says that, "Surgery dramatically improves, or cures, [diabetes, glucose intolerance, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, degenerative arthritis]. It is not uncommon for type 2 diabetics to go off insulin for good the day after bypass surgery...." Huh? If someone weighs 300 pounds the day of surgery, there's a good chance they weigh 300 pounds the day after surgery. Why do they need insulin the day of surgery but don't need it the day after, if their weight is the same?
But I'm getting sidetracked. The article reported that, "the risk of dying during or shortly after the operation is low and getting lower - about 1 percent for bypass and 1/2 percent for banding when done by an experienced bariatric surgeon." Let's set aside the fact that many of these surgeries are performed by surgeons inexperienced in bariatric surgery, and look at the 1 percent mortality rate. This is Consumer Reports. Would Consumer Reports give a glowing review to a car manufacturer that built 500,000 automobiles, out of which only 5,000 (1 percent) blew up? Or to an appliance maker that had only 5,000 (1 percent) out of 500,000 coffee makers cause kitchen fires? Highly doubtful. So, I remain perplexed as to why Consumer Reports would advocate on behalf of an elective surgery that has a 1 percent mortality rate.
Posted by conradb212 at January 27, 2006 04:18 PM