Saturday, January 26, 2008

Losing 200 Pounds via Gastric Bypass Surgery Does Not Make You a Hero

You know, looking at Mario Batali's full, cherubic face reminded me of this topic - something I had meant to write about before but had forgotten about.

I'm sorry but it's true. If you lose a few hundred pounds through diet, exercise and sheer determination and will - well now that's a heartwarming story. That's a story about character. That's a great, rousing, stand up and cheer, life affirming tale. You can sell that story to me over and over again. I will always stick around till after the commercial to see the new, slim gal and to watch the spouse's tears flow freely. I might even get a little misty myself.

But some fat tub who lost 200 pounds because of a gastric bypass? I mean sure, hooray and all. Nice that you're alive and not dead. But.... I'm supposed to be proud of you? I'm supposed to reach for the kleenex as I watch your touching story? Well, no. My opinion, madam, is that you didn't do shit. You learned nothing.

The problem originates with the TV people. You see, they have a "woman loses 180 pounds" script. They've had it for decades. They wait till someone loses 180 pounds and then they step in. They get the "before" photos from the woman's scrapbook, they film some new video, they get a few tearful interviews. Whammo, it's all done in one morning, and they can broadcast it that night at 5:30. But this gastric bypass craze is so recent, so unexpected, that the networks haven't had time to adjust their well worn playbook for fat women who lose 200 pounds.

They still frame the story like its a heroic triumph of great courage. So let me get this straight. Stop me if get any part of the story wrong.

1) A person gets fat to the point of imminent death.
2) Rather than summoning the will power to stop eating, she agrees to surgically reroute her digestive system, limiting the amount of food she can intake at any time.
3) Thanks to her insurance, society as a whole gets to cough up the 20-50 grand for the procedure and associated post-surgical therapy.
4) The post-op woman sheds 200 pounds, regardless of any will-power or lack thereof.
5) CNN rushes a camera crew over to interview the hero.

Am I missing something? Maybe there are a few heroes in the story. There are the medical researchers who developed this lifesaving surgery. There are the surgeons who went through a lifetime of study and training to be able to perform it. There's you and me, working away at our jobs so our health insurance contributions can foot the bill for the fat tub's surgery. I can't see who else qualifies for the hero label here.

Am I wrong or does the morbidly obese person have absolutely no redeeming qualities in the gastric bypass story? At least the old fashioned 200 pound losers had a character arc. They were gluttonous, they looked death in the face, then they made a commitment to fight for their life and turn over a new leaf. That's good TV. That's a story. But the gastric bypass people have no story. They started pathetic and ended pathetic. They didn't decide to turn their life around. They decided to have others turn it around, and at great expense on the public coin.

Look, I'm not saying don't have a Gastric Bypass. Go ahead, get the surgery. I encourage the surgery. Go and save your life. Rediscover the joy of having your leg not touching your other leg. But network TV: stop showing me these people. They've learned nothing. They destroyed their own bodies and were rescued from themselves by the charity of society. They're not heroes.

A small programming note: I will try at some point to get a reservation at Carnevino. And then I will try to engineer an encounter with Mario Batali. I will then ask him what the soil and air are currently telling him, and maybe we'll chat a bit about organic farming. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU FOR SAYING WHAT I THINK!!!! A friend posted this on her facebook saying, "This guy pisses me off" (she's on her second lapband surgery, the first one didn't work), so I decided to see what pissed her off so much to declare it on what is now the Sacred Writ of Human Culture, a networking site. And holy crap, I agree with you more than her!!!!!!! Don't tell her, but I think you're exactly right.

Rowsdower said...

Making some people happy and pissing other people off is what we're all about here. Thanks for reading!

ann-gel05 said...

I just had the surgery. It is no walk in the park. I have to be subjected to taking a butt load of pills and keeping track of exactly what protein, carbs, and fats that I am eating. Can you imagine barely being able to eat anything and having to make everything count? Plus, the surgery doesn't even work unless you exercise. So, while you are busy sitting at your computer desk (probably talking shit about surgery because you are still fat and can't afford to get it)think about the people that struggle with food addiction and have decided to get help. My father was an abusive and depraved individual and I learned to seek refuge in food at a young age. I am adult now and I knew that wasn't the way to live. This surgery is the best thing that ever happened to me and my story is a success! What have you done to make you feel proud?

Nicole Gentry said...

I myself have not had the surgery, but I am in the process of getting my medical clearances for Gastric Bypass, and I do think that you are missing something. I beleive that it takes just as much determination and will power to lose weight via surgical methods as it does without. I agree that to someone who is not educated on the procedure, the entire process, and the after effects it would seem that this is the easy way out. But in truth, gastric bypass is not a cure all. You cannot eat as you please afterwards and just see the pounds shed. It takes lifestyle changes that take pure willpower and determination. The surgery doesn't make all the sweets at the checkout counter disapear, or make your car not go through the Mcdonald's drive thru. Surgery may assist weight loss but the surgery its self doesn't make you lose the weight. It is the way you have to eat afterward that does. I think that you should talk to someone or attend a support group for post op patients before you are so quick to form your opinion. And if after educating yourself you have the same opinion, then you are fully entitled to that. Thanks for the conversation starter :)

chris3tom3 said...