Monday, January 9, 2012

Weight Loss Surgery for Children/Young Adults... Scary

I ran across this article today, which tells the story of a 19 year old girl who underwent lap band surgery.  You can read the article yourself (if interested), but a few things stuck out to me:

* Her doctor first suggested the surgery at age 17.  At that time, she indicated she wanted to handle it by dieting. His response?  “It’s not your fault, but you’re not going to be able to do it.”  Wow.  Motivating?  Hardly.  Now, I don't know the extent of the health problems this girl suffered that would make such weight loss difficult without surgery. But to tell her, a not-yet-fully-developed young adult that she had no chance of losing the weight? Is it terribly shocking that she did not?

* In the pre-surgery consultation with her mother, the doctor did not seem to take their questions seriously (obviously as judged by her recollection).  He had a quick, positive response about dealing with the band in pregnancy and a glib "we'll worry about that later" response to what to do with the excess skin.

* It is not clear what, if any, pre-surgery counseling the girl went through.  In any event, it did not seem to be effective, given that she did not obey the pre-surgery instruction of a liquid diet.  Further, only days after the surgery she was surprised and displeased by the reality of eating post-surgery.  She admitted to making poor nutrition choices.

I could go on and on, but so many red flags jump out and scare me.  The dangers of performing such a surgery on a physically and emotionally immature individual are huge. The implications on our society as a whole are disturbing as well. Why have we given up on our youth? Why are we willing to throw in the nutrition/exercise towel so soon?  Why are we willing to do so without proper pre-surgery preparation?

Now, many will think I am taking this too far and being unreasonably harsh on the patient and/or the doctor. However, I am not coming at this from an-always-size-4 marathoner place.  I have struggled with my weight and emotional eating for as long as I can remember.  Most of my family have engaged in such struggles to various degrees.  I have been medically classified as obese.  I have felt overwhelmed.  I know it's not simple and it's not easy.

But I also know that if someone had simply stapled my stomach shut 2 years ago, it would not have magically fixed my problems.  I wasn't overeating because I was terribly hungry all the time. I was overeating because it was my "fix" during stressful or emotional times.  I ate when I hurt. When I was angry. When I was bored.  And frankly, I probably would have continued to do so even after getting a lap band. Heck, I still do it now, although much less frequently.

Take me back 10 or 15 years?  Would I have jumped at the chance for this miracle surgery? Sadly, probably.  I went through a number of years looking for a magic fix. I was young, immature, and not willing to address my real issues.

Surgery couldn't have fixed me. Although my body often felt like it was working against me, my biggest battle was (and is) with my own mind.  Our kids need us to equip them to undertake that battle for themselves.  Better yet, give them the tools to make healthy choices before the mind battles begin...

1 comment:

  1. Yeah. It is scary. I went for lap-band orientation and I did have an appointment scheduled with the surgeon. I wrote about it here:

    It's a very serious decision.