Saturday, January 05, 2008

Weight loss surgery ads disguise themselves

I shouldn't write another blog so soon, but an article I saw in Newsweek annoyed me just a bit too much.

It's because the article tries to disguise itself as written by a person who is "concerned" about fat prejudice and trying to "find herself" but is basically, merely, a blatant commercial for gastric bypass surgery.

It appeared in Newsweek Magazine and is entitled "My Secret History". It doesn't say it's a commercial for gastric bypass but it hits all the high points, including a photo of a lovely young lady who has likely had a tummy tuck and a makeover. She greatly resembles the lovely young ladies who smile out from the TV ads for Nutrasystems, telling us how wonderful it is to be slim. Her "before photo" is NOT included at least not in the web version of the article (maybe because she might have been equally lovely weighing 265 at 5'6"???).

In fact this lady DOES tell us how wonderful it is to be slim. For example, the handsome young doctor (ding-dong for point one - she's dating and she's dating MONEY $$$) she went out with, was obviously disgusted at one of his fat patients. Message - this handsome "catch" of a man would NEVER have dated her when she was fat. I'm sure it will never occur to either this lady or the readers that if this guy has such a nasty attitude toward fat patients, will he really accept her when she's pregnant, and/or gains the weight back and/or gets a few wrinkles?

She then describes her Great humiliation of her life. This was when she got her butt stuck in a hanging tire swing at the age of 19. (that's so important - she could have been smaller and gotten stuck also but would have laughed it off).

Not too far down in the article she writes:

I've had nothing but success, healthwise, from the decision to have gastric bypass surgery. I've even run a half-marathon since then (not a superhuman feat by any means, but one almost unimaginable to that girl dangling in that tire).
Oh my, a reference to the tire nightmare again. If that's the worse thing she can pull up about being a teenager in general, she's lived a charmed life, fat or slim!

I'd like to point out that she is not even 1 year out and probably was about 9 months out from her surgery in Feb 2007 when she wrote the article - those magazines have a lag of 2-3 months from writing to publication for non news articles.

The testimonial from the new op who is enamored with the fact that she lost a bunch of weight fast.

The problem is, we can only get sugar out of body fat so when we are only eating 300-500 calories a day during a quick weight loss period, most of what we lose is NOT bodyfat. It weighs heavy on the scale and so we FEEL like we are losing A LOT of weight, but does NOT really reduce our inches that much.

So doing the math, if she lost 135 lbs then only 40 lbs of that was likely, FAT. (about 20-30 percent of the gross loss). The rest was muscle tissue, bone mass (and organ meat) which her body "ate" to provide protein during her "quick weight loss" period. Well, just where do people THINK the NECESSARY calcium, protein and vitamins come from, when we do not eat enough food and have digestive problems?

  • B12 and iron from the liver
  • iron from the heart
  • protein from the muscles
  • calcium from the bones

YUM. Not quite the lovely "magic bullet" picture we are getting from the article, is it?

40 lbs???? She didn't need surgery to do THAT. She could have lost that and gained muscle and lost bunches of inches working just as hard as she obviously did (to be able to run a half marathon) WITHOUT the surgeon's knife. Eye opening, isn't it?

One doctor told a gastric bypass patient recently that he had seen many patients suffering the numerous maladies she is enduring, 8 years post op, including auto immune disorder, osteoporosis, anemia requiring iron infusion and more. He said:

"When you bypass the main food and vitamin processing center, there shouldn't be any surprise when deficiencies show up."
Oh but there WILL be surprise when the gaggle of desperate fat people running to their surgeons now with the dream of their gastric bypass making them look like the lovely lady in the article, start having those problems. Because no one ever told them about the other side. And media articles like this make folks think surgery is a "magic bullet" instead of what it really is, a medical procedure done for medical reasons when the co morbidities of obesity are thought to be worse than the co mobidities from the gastric bypass.

Did I say co morbidities from the gastric bypass? Yes that is EXACTLY what I said. And what potential patients are never told about in the media advertising.

I hope potential patients will research the internet including the yahoo group which has a membership of close to 2000 members, many of whom have seen the "other side of the mountain" which is never portrayed in the new op interviews in the media:

And the website:

Which contains informed consent information, patient histories and more.

Gastric bypass surgery has become for many longer term patients, what Stephen King prophetically wrote about in the novel "THINNER"

Perhaps, he thought, Houston was right and I'm thinking myself thin ... because that old Gypsy wanted me to. Only now I can't stop. I could make a million bucks writing a response to that Norman Vincent Peale book ... call it The Power of Negative Thinking. But his mind suggested that was a pile of crap. All that gypsy had said was "Thinner". He didn't say "By the power vested in me, I curse you to lose six to eight pounds a week until you die."
Luckily thanks to modern medicine, the picture for gastric bypass patients who have problems in the long term is not as bleak. But gastric bypass is by no means the magic bullet or "easy way out" that the media wants us to believe, either...

The lady pictured in this blog was a close friend of mine, a teacher, a mother and beloved friend who died way too soon. To see her memorial, click here


Robbin said...

I found your blog while searching for negative comments about WLS. The negatives are much harder to find than the positives. Especially when I had my surgery back in 2001. I couldn't find anyone who would say anything negative.

I know why though now. Because we are embarrassed and ashamed to tell people the negatives. We are embarrassed of our failures....afterall, we've failed all our life and now we've failed again. It sucks.

I was happy losing 163 lbs after my surgery. I dealt with the pain, the learning how to eat again, how to drink again. Now, 141 lbs heavier... I can tell you - for the first time - I will say I regret it!

Not only have I gained my weight back - my life is different now. I was a healthy fat person. Now I'm a fat person who is anemic, calcium deficient, lactose intolerant, tired all the time, my memory is bad, I throw-up more often than I'd like, my gasto-intestinal track is unpredictable and my stools are most often runny and urgent.... shall I go on? There's nothing positive left about the surgery. In fact, it's my "Secret Shame". I used to want everyone to know - now I hope no one finds out. I can't eat much - at least of the good for me foods. I can however pound away crackers and chips - they go down easily.

My biggest fear? How many years of my life did I steal from my 9 year old son and my husband?

Anyway - I hope someone reads this and thinks a little harder about their decision to have any type of gastric bypass surgery.

vesta44 said...

Oh how this resonates with me. Been there done that, down to losing my best friend to WLS 10 years ago (and having the same surgery in spite of her death).
I was sorta kinda maybe lucky when my WLS failed, in that the main problems I have from it are the occasional loose, explosive stools (depending on what I've eaten and how much walking I've done after eating), and not tolerating milk very well at all (cheese and yogurt are ok, it's just milk I can't handle). I'm still rather healthy, but I not only gained back the 70 lbs I lost, but another 40. Dr. wanted me to have the surgery redone, and I told her no, they had one chance to kill me, I wasn't giving them another one (and that's the way I see it, I've known several people who have died from this WLS/obesity hysteria).