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.