Weight-Loss Surgery: Experts Advise About the Realities

Yesterday’s post was about the new book Stranger Here by Jen Larsen, whose fantasies about the effects of having weight-loss surgery weren’t exactly fulfilled.

One of the main reasons preconceived fantasies about weight-loss surgery may not come true is a lack of insight about the real needs an individual is trying to get met. In a recent article in The Guardian, Dr. David Kerrigan, the director of an obesity clinic in the UK, stresses the importance of addressing one’s underlying issues prior to choosing the surgery.

Fifty percent of 100 female patients studied by his clinic a few years ago were found to have had a history of physical or sexual abuse. A similar finding, as well as additional related ones, are cited by Dr. Carolyn Ross, an eating disorders specialist in the U.S. From her post in Psychology Today:

In Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences study, people with morbid obesity had a high incidence of severe trauma, such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or living with an adult who abuses substances, is mentally ill or in jail. Taking away the food doesn’t address the addictive behavior or the emotional pain that these behaviors are covering up, leaving patients at high risk for cross-addictions.

Although the above-cited risk is a common phenomenon with all types of addictions, there seems to be something about food addiction that many in our society don’t clearly see. Is this because of our collective fat phobia, both internalized and otherwise? People just see weight loss in and of itself as so desirable that they ignore the rest of the picture?

But let’s say someone does get help for the issues coexisting with his/her overuse of food and then opts for bariatric surgery, otherwise known as weight-loss surgery. Patients also need to know in advance, states Dr. Ross, not only the risks of surgery but also the lifestyle changes needed post-surgery—as in, the rest of their lives. She lists the following important considerations:

1. Following a strict eating plan for life.

2. Addressing how you will deal with your home environment. What type of emotional support will you have? How will you stay on a strict diet when others in your home are not?

3. Can you commit to taking supplements for life?

4. Can you commit to exercising regularly for life?

5. Do you fully understand the possible risks that surgery poses, including bleeding, infection, bowel obstruction, ulcers, gallstones and death?

How is dealing with all of the above possible? Expert nutritional guidance, counseling, and/or specialized support groups for post-surgery patients are all widely recommended.

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