Monday, February 9, 2009

Surgical Solutions

I’m staggered by the number of people who are going for weight-loss surgery these days. Several of them number among my friends and family who say they had to do something or they would have died. Recently, leaders from a North Texas county, amid voices of protest, announced they would stop providing the health insurance coverage for gastric bypass surgery because in these tough economic times, they just don't see it as something they can afford any longer. They have already spent 3-million taxpayer dollars on such surgeries for 100 employees. First, I’m stunned that any county government would agree to cover such an elective operation, and second I’m reeling at the number of people who needed it.

What people don’t want to realize, is that just as they used food to the extreme for immediate gratification, weight-loss surgery is simply another quick and extreme choice in the opposite direction. It's certainly not a treatment is it? It’s not keeping the person from physically putting something in their mouth. It’s not the equivalent of tying splints on the elbows or chaining the refrigerator door shut. What keeps people from eating after surgery? Knowing they’ll get sick. It’s the equivalent of aversion therapy or shock therapy where every time the lab rat reaches for cheese he’s shocked, so he eventually stops reaching for cheese.

And yet, for some that’s not even enough. Some people are so addicted to food that they gain weight even after their stomachs are reduced to the size of a golf ball. Why? Because none of these so-called life-saving surgeries deal with the real problem - not hunger pains, but the pain that goes on inside the head. How do they do a bypass on the brain??

One of the reasons groups like Weight Watchers have had long-term success for their clients is because they deal somewhat with people’s need to be noticed, appreciated, valued – and yes, loved. For some of us, there is a deep dark cavernous hole that yearns to be filled. It’s why we eat even when we’re not hungry. In fact, even when we’re full. Unfortunately, no amount of food we are able to consume, will ever, ever fill it.
When I was a child, it was customary for my dad to cook rib eyes out on the grill when family came to visit from out of town. One couple in particular could really put it away. I can’t recall what the husband ate, but the wife would eat 2 full steaks and the center out of a third; this along with French fried potatoes and a salad on the side. She admitted once that food looked just as good to her when she left the table as when she had arrived.

If you are thinking of any kind of weight-loss surgery, please reconsider. As major surgery, it's at the very least, risky. And whereas it alters the inside of your body permanently, what's inside the brain is still there - that deep void that makes us turn to food for artificial comfort. Talk therapy - counseling - would be a much better investment in the long run.

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