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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why I Didn't Choose Gastric Bypass

A couple years ago, for an extended period of time, I researched WLS--banding and bypass. I was heading toward the big FIVE OH with morbid obesity still dragging my body down.

Reading about complications scared me, but the clincher was this: regain.

I didn't want to risk my life and health (some people die from WLS, some develop serious infections, some get chronic problems like anemia and bone depletion and seizures, etc), and then find that the weight comes back eventually. Some regain is the norm--look at Carnie Wilson and Randy Jackson. I've seen it in IRL, a friend of the family who, once his pouch stretched a bit, gained back weight, though, happily, thankfully, not all. Even one of the most interesting of the WLS bloggers, Melting Mama, with all she's already suffered healthwise post-surgically, is having regain issues.

I think keeping even half of a huge loss off is a victory. So, I'm not gonna say that I think WLS doesn't help. Plenty of folks keep 1/4 or 1/3 or 1/2 or more of the original loss off. If you lose 100 pounds and keep off 50, that's still progress in my book.

Let me repeat: Even keeping off part of a significant loss is a type of triumph.

Let me clarify: I am not dissing any person who chose/is choosing WLS. Hey, I know just what goes on in the mind of the desperate obese. That's me.

However--and this is coming from my little corner of the world, a totally subjective offering--I couldn't help thinking I'd be the one who gains nearly all back in five or 7 years. Forget that. I'm too scared of anesthesia, infection, and chronic malnutrition issues (not to mention super-saggy skin and loss of hair, ah, vanity still pricks the soul). I don't want to get chopped up inside if I'm gonna be back at 275 or 300 lbs down the road.

Still, it's tempting. Whenever I read good reports about issues resolved by WLS (diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, cholesterol, joint pain), it's still somewhat tempting. When I read that some people lose their huge appetities, I sigh with envy. I want to stop being hungry and stop bingeing.

But I keep seeing regain stories and say, "Um, let me try diet and exercise yet again."

If WLS patients end up, a year or more down the road, still having to resort to diet and exercise, then why not just work on that from the start, I tell myself? I mean, if the appetite returns for some, if the weight regains for many, if the overeating desires do not resolve, and they have to be worked on in traditional methods anyway, then isn't that kinda ending up at the beginning?

Of course, I say again: If the surgery helps folks keep a percentage off permanently, then it's still an option.

How long before longterm studies of the masses having WLS gives us a clearer picture of the lifelong trajectory?

I started this blog after I nixed WLS for myself a couple years back. I have an online friend who got banding and lost 100 lbs. She has kept most of it off, as far as I know. I don't ask, though I know she plateaued and got frustrated. Still, being closer to 200 than over 300 is great. Who wouldn't want that? (I just don't want to mess with my esophagus as I already have GERD and asthma which is exacerbated by acids). There's regain with banding, too,unless you plan to keep the band forever. I suspect as years go on, we'll find out people can't keep the band on forever, or erosion becomes a serious health issue. (I would worry about cancer, too, as repeated acid refluxing and erosion may cause those cells in the esophagus to go wonky.)

See, I worry too much about surgery. I even almost backed out of LASIK in 2007, making the doctor say, "Well, you'd be the 2nd person whose left while on the threshold." I almost did leave. And shoot, that wasn't even my insides.

I keep the option open, though, and hope that science refines things and maybe comes up with a chemical cure that is not worse than the condition. Yes, I dream for the pill that solves the appetite issue. I'd rather avoid the scalpel.

If you had WLS several years ago, how's it going? Regain? Success? No chronic issues? Disappointment? Regret? Strategies?

Considering it, like I did, and, like me, did you get scared, skeptical, worried?

Let me know.


Anonymous said...

want to meet a whole bunch of people who've had bariatric surgery of some sort or another? Try BTV: http://bariatrictv.com/

you list all the downsides of surgery, but not the down sides of obesity. There are plenty of us who would gladly trade one for the other.

Of course you're right in one thing: you don't have surgery and NOT follow the program and keep the weight off. Surgery is in part a behavioral tool as well. During the early stages, it's always important to develop healthy eating habits.

For anyone who says that they will go back to their previous diet/ exercise plan, I have to ask: How's that been working for you so far? I'd guess that if you've even considered bariatric surgery, it's not going too well.

Check out BTV for the stories, with all the pros and cons... and look into the forum to see real people discussing their thoughts about surgery (both those who've had the surgery and those just thinking about it) There are sections where people discuss regain, nutrition, and their hopes and fears.

Once Upon A Dieter said...

Well, I discuss the downside, Kate, cause that's why I didn't go that route when I was strongly considering it. Yeah, I'm a wuss. But I still think,always will, I think, that it's a viable option in the back of my mind. We all know that downsides of being MO, we live it, sadly. I just fear being one of the regainers, because it seems as if those folks are doing what the non-WLS folks have to do--diet control and consistent exercise. But I certainly do read on the positives--the improvements in lab numbers, diabetes, reduction in appetite (at least in the "honeymoon" period), improvement in confidence with the lost weight.

I never fully rule out WLS. I just really haven't been able to jump over the negatives.

I don't judge anyone who has it. Hey, I certainly understand how every WLS chooser feels: frustrated with not being able to do it on my own.

Thank you for the resource link.

The P

Anonymous said...

My husband's Aunt died earlier this year having her band removed. She was 42. It did help her to lose weight but they can not stay in forever. The saddest part for me was she was trying to get thinner and healthier and that killed her. It has really made me kick up teaching my kids healthy eating and exercise so they never have to reach the point where they have to do something about their weight. I am overweight myself and we are doing a lifestyle overhaul in our house.