Getting a Grip on the Reality of Bariatric Surgery

One of the Top 10 Advances of 2016 in obesity and health is better, more meaningful reporting. Gina Kolata of the New York Times has been producing outstanding reports on obesity for nearly a year. She continued yesterday with an in-depth story about the reality of bariatric surgery. Her latest report is the story of two people with fairly typical bariatric surgery experiences. It starts before their surgeries and follows them for a year afterward. She weaves perspective from some of the world’s top obesity experts into their stories.

It is a story of both joys and disappointments. Keith Oleszkowicz didn’t meet his goals for weight loss, but he looks and feels like his life has been transformed:

I expected all my weight to be gone, I wanted to be 230. I was hoping.

Some people I haven’t seen in years don’t recognize me. And I do have more energy. It is a huge difference.

Jessica Shapiro lost exactly what her surgeon predicted, 112 pounds. She describes the experience:

I expected myself to grieve a lot more for my loss of my old relationship with food, and I didn’t. I don’t have an excuse anymore [for unrealized dreams]. I’m smaller. But it’s been gradual enough that I still feel like I’m the biggest person in the room wherever I go.

Jeff Newell, Two YearsOAC Member Jeff Newell has confronted considerable challenges and positive changes since he had bypass surgery two years ago. He recently shared a pair of photographs and reflected on the experience:

These are two years apart. The left photo was 50 pounds down and 25 days after my gastric bypass. Today, I’ve dropped over 300. There is no magic pill. Losing weight is hard work no matter how you choose to do it, but the hard work is worth it.

Michelle Vicari, famous in the bariatric surgery community for her Eggface blog, found great insight in these stories:

Michelle VicariWeight loss surgery addresses the biological factors behind obesity in ways we are just beginning to understand. But the other factors also must be addressed. Those factors – emotional, psychological, and environmental – are evident in Jessica and Keith’s stories. They are part of mine as well.

I used to blame everything negative in my life on obesity. Society and the media falsely tells us “skinny” equals perfect, happy, loveable, and successful. But when the weight is gone, a light starts glaring on that other stuff – issues in my life that contributed to my obesity. I found it was necessary to start work on those “neck up” factors (emotional & psychological) too.

We are unique snowflakes. Yet we want a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Truthfully, obesity is not simple and the answer will be different for everyone.

Bariatric surgery can be a godsend. But it’s far from an easy path to choose. Living with severe obesity is an even harder path.

Click here and here for the full story in the New York Times.

Grip, photograph © jev55 / flickr

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December 28, 2016