Friday, February 24, 2012

Guest Columnist Todd Hollst: Thoughts on Weight Loss Surgery

Some thoughts on weight loss surgery from someone who had it

  • Weight loss surgery does not address the psychological aspect of overeating.  Overeating is a compulsion and much like drugs and alcohol it’s very hard to overcome. When I could no longer eat large amounts of food, I needed another way to fill “the hole” of my addiction. I found that alcohol worked quite nicely; I got drunk quicker because I weighed less so it was cheaper than ever before.  I could just go to the bathroom and make more room for more beer.  It added a social component that hadn’t existed before. It is not uncommon for people who have had weight loss surgery to develop drinking problems following the procedure.
  • Old habits die hard: Success after surgery comes from a dedication to continually exercise and participate in an active lifestyle. Many believe that after they lose the initial large amount of weight they will be eager to start this type of lifestyle. Some do, but many don’t. They may begin, but the old sedentary habits eventually return. It’s better to begin those habits before surgery.
  • There’s no financial accountability: My insurance covered the procedure as it does for many who are lucky enough to have insurance. However, although I haven’t gained back all of my weight, I would rate the whole process a personal failure. In large part it was because I was not accountable to anyone for my post-surgery maintenance. Not that I would expect the insurance company to come back and charge me for the surgery, but if I had to pay for the surgery out of pocket, I might have been more accountable to myself for sticking with the program. Weight loss surgery should not be covered. It is an elective surgery just like cosmetic surgery.
  • It can wreak havoc on personal relationships.  Right off the bat, any major change in someone’s life can alter their personal relationships. Losing weight on your own without surgery can do the same. However, drastic and quick weight loss can have a tendency to amplify those changes. While this isn’t the case for everyone, the hard truth is if you’re obese, you might be socially isolated, lonely and feel as though you “don’t belong.” Finding romantic relationships are a challenge.  After surgery, patients are often suddenly hit with a new reality. People are more accepting of you (or at least you feel this way, whether it is true or not.)  Your options for relationships suddenly increase, and if you’re been in a relationship you might begin to consider an “upgrade.” This is not necessarily unhealthy if the relationship if dysfunctional, but if you’re simply looking to leave the “old you” behind then this might not be what’s best in the long run.  Understand, I’m not suggesting that this happens to every person who has had the surgery, but it’s happened to quite of few people that I know. Including myself. 
  • I’m glad I had the surgery, even though I haven’t done what I was supposed to do to continue the success. If I hadn’t had it, I’m sure I would be tipping the scales at over 500 lbs. Today, I weigh about 350. Still too much, but not the 425 lbs I did prior to the surgery. The problem was that my issues weren’t with food and eating, but rather a compulsion that I couldn’t and still can’t control. I wasn’t aware of it then like I am now. That’s a good outcome of the surgery. I still can’t eat nearly what I ate before. My problem is the beer. I only drink 3 to 4 nights a week (I know, that’s more than most,) but when I do, I binge.  I drink lots of beer in a short period of time…the same way I used to consume food. I didn’t eat like a horse everyday, but enough that I gained lots of weight. I was an emotional eater to be sure, the same way I became an emotional drinker. Now, it’s just a substance abuse habit that’s hard to break.

    On the other hand, if I had worked at changing what was going on with me emotionally and psychologically, I probably wouldn’t have developed a weight problem in the first place. I know what lead to the cycle of binging and it traces back to a bad marriage. 

Todd Hollst is the editor of Daily Musings From Dayton and a close friend of 20 years.  I'd like to thank Todd for sharing his personal experiences with others, in the hopes that it will help someone else. 


  1. As someone who also had weight loss surgery (eight months ago)but not as long ago as Todd, I want to share my experience.

    Weight loss surgery does not address the psychological aspect of overeating. I too was a compulsive eater but I have developed new habits since my surgery. I too have turned to drinking, I drink water, lots of water. When I feel the need to chew, I chew gum, When I feel the need to snack, I chose healthy ones. If I want a desert, I take a taste.

    Old habits die hard: New habits take time. I walk a lot, I do not do intense workouts. I just keep active.

    There’s no financial accountability: My insurance covered the procedure as well but I had to pay co-insurance. And this was not something I took lightly. I know that my insurance paid more but I believe in the long run they will save more as I now need less medical care, less medications and hopefully less health issues going forward.

    It can wreak havoc on personal relationships.  My marriage is better, my family life is better, and my friendships are better. I also have made new connections with other people that have had weight loss surgery through support group.

    I’m glad I had the surgery, so far I am doing what I was supposed to do to continue the success.

    Todd even though you had the surgery a long time ago, things have changed. Part of the program include help before and after from dieticians and monthly support groups. Perhaps you would like to come down to MUSC for their monthly support group and see what you can learn. Another change to the program is psychological support after surgery, this is an option for people with compulsive habits like us.

  2. Thanks for sharing such a personal experience, Todd. It's something that needs to be said. The loudest voices out there are the ones that belong to the folks selling the surgery, so it's nice to hear another perspective.

  3. lornogram, 8 months after my surgery I too was following the plan. Reevaluate your situation in a few years and maybe you'll understand where I'm coming from.


  4. I guess you are right Todd, I may as well give up and eat a dozen donuts because no one can do it with this easy way out. Thanks for your words of inspiration.

  5. lornogram,

    My words are not meant to whittle away your resolve, but rather serve as a warning as what can happen if complacency creeps in. Many people have succeeded with the surgery, but many have continued to struggle.

    Doctors who perform this surgery are in it to make money. I have no issue with this overall, but like any other good salesperson they're only going to stress the positive points and outcomes. If more people were honestly made aware with the "horror" stories, some may choose to give it another shot the way Bryan Ganey has.

    P.S. Move away from the donut...the donut is not your friend.

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