Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Teens, weight loss and obesity surgery
Clyde was an ordinary teen. When he was in 7th grade, he was intelligent, talented and liked video games far more than exercise. He lived the American lifestyle. In his family, there aren't many veggies available and a lot of fast food and pizza. He tried the swim team but it didn't appeal and he felt a bit odd in a bathing suit because he was about 15 lbs overweight. And back then, the obesity hype for kids had just started.
When reflecting on High School at the end of his 8th grade year, he told me, "The kids in school are MEAN!" I didn't ask details but assumed that, like all kids who are not the "ideal" size, he had taken his share of teasing and nasty comments. He had, already at that young age, learned to dress in cover up clothing.
Today Clyde is a senior in High School and he is relatively slim.
Is this a success story? I wonder. Because how he did it was NOT through eating 5-9 portions of veggies a day, avoiding fast food and junk food, and trying to do 60-90 minutes of cardio daily. He, instead, continued to live the American lifestyle with some modifications.
He drinks a lot of tea (caffeine speeds up the heart and makes it easier to lose weight and by cutting the calories - it may also, in the long run, be a factor in Parkinson's disease as are all stimulants - see the book, PROZAC BACKLASH for one).
And he smokes cigarettes.
If he went to the doctor, the doctor would probably be pleased at his BMI but at what cost did he attain his "ideal weight"?
Does he know the proven dangers of smoking i.e. hardens the arteries, strains the heart, and shortens lifespan as much as 15 years? Yes he does. "I know it's dangerous," he told me a bit sadly, "but it's hard to stop."
He does not receive any support from his parents. They want him to stop smoking but do not help him to accept himself at his natural size. And they don't understand that when you are a teen in school, the pressure is 1000 times what it is in life and right now, there is a lot of pressure and heat given to all of those who are overweight regardless of age.
The sad thing is most kids will keep within the "normal zone" if they eat healthy, avoid foods like potato chips and fast food which are extremely calorically dense and not particularly nourishing and if they exercise 1-2 hours a day. However, most kids are not really enthusiastic about this type of program and do not often get a good example of a healthy lifestyle at home.
Clyde is not alone. Statistics tell us that more teens are starting to smoke now, than in the 1960's before the dangers of smoking were known.
In considering kids like Clyde, is it really hard to understand that teens simply do not care if they are doing something unhealthy to keep thin because that is most important in the narrow minded society of High School?
Starting with Junior High School, "bulimia clubs" are flourishing, use of "uppers" are common and an alarming percentage of kids are already dieting or more extremely cutting calories. Very often it's the models in the magazines who are blamed, totally ignoring the heat overweight kids get from parents, teachers and the medical profession.
And now, with the encouragement of our wonderful news media and the surgeons who stand to profit, teens who are very overweight, have discovered Weight Loss Surgery.
As recent as a decade ago, the thought of doing something like a gastric bypass on anyone under 18 was considered unethical - inducing vitamin deficiencies in a body which has not yet matured, partially disabling a healthy digestive tract was considered bad medicine but now it's considered good medicine, the surgeons reciting the song of how the teen "was in danger" of a variety of ailments, many of which are non issues or not caused by obesity.
The "Today Show" recently, featured a teen, around 256 lbs who got a gastric bypass. In her before photos she was shown running around a field playing with a dog and smiling. A year later, she had lost 100 lbs and was of "socially acceptable size". But now she was not smiling. Even when the doctor told her she was a success, one saw only a hint of a smile on her face.
"I have to eat very differently now" she told the Today Show, "there are many foods which no longer go down right." She concluded, "It's not an easy road."
The rationale for giving this 17 year old a surgery which cut her stomach into two pieces and her bowel into 3 pieces, rearranging them in a very unnatural manner, a surgery which some studies show to pose a risk of serious complications in 40 percent of patients, by the 8 year point, complications like bowel obstruction, ulcer, pancreatitis and more... the rationale for doing this on the young lady was she had "sleep apnea", "high blood pressure" and "was in danger of going blind" (they never told us what endangered her).
Sleep apnea is a fairly new diagnosis. I don't doubt that some extremely large folks may have breathing problems, but I think the diagnosis of "sleep apnea" in everyone with a BMI over 35, may be way exaggerated.
I had an overweight friend diagnosed of that. She was given a C-PAP machine and found it way too noisy so she gave it back and went on and she was just fine without intervention. I think we CAN stop breathing for a few seconds without a problem and probably many people who are not fat might be doing that also.
So that left the "high blood pressure" (which can be easily regulated by medication) as their sole rationale for ruining this young lady's digestive tract for life, giving her lifetime problems which may really be biting her at the age of 30 when she would be in the prime of life had she not had the surgery, even if she was very overweight.
Sober faced, the young girl told the Today Show that it was "so nice to not worry about future health problems." How ironic that the procedure she had is, indeed, going to give her a new set of health problems which she might have never had to worry about.
It's time that the media and also adults stop pressuring our children. If they want to help them, they should encourage exercise (to be healthy) and eating veggies and healthy foods and most important, help them to understand that health and beauty is not about size. But when even our medical profession starts condoning unhealthy ways of getting thinner, things are out of control in my opinion.
On the Today Show, the resident doctor obviously approved of this young girl's gastric bypass. "Today's obese children are in the unique position of really having a shortened lifespan," she told the viewers.
With all due respect, the only reason that might be true is because society is pressuring teens to the extent that they are doing unhealthy things to lose weight, like smoking or gastric bypasses. That's a no brainer, isn't it? Apparently not to many folks.