*Getting on soapbox*
I was watching Oprah today (it was the last day of my stay-cation so I was doing the daytime tv thing) and I got myself a little bit outraged (okay, a lot). The show today was about obese teens getting lap-band and gastric bypass surgery. We’re talking 14-17 year olds who are still growing, who claimed to be active and had tried every diet under the sun.
The same teens who admitted eating 2 cheese burgers in one sitting.
Now, these kids looked great. I’m not going to deny them that. They were obese to start with, either facing the prospect of diabetes and ill health or actually suffering from the effects already (one girl was already losing her eyesight at 15, directly from being obese) but surgery on a growing body? Come on.
And don’t tell me that they had tried EVERYTHING out there to lose weight – the one guy on the show (Mac) talked about how he would lose weight and then gain it all back. That shows me that he was looking at every diet precisely as a diet and not a lifestyle change. None of these kids had any medical reasons for their weight – no thyroid problems, nothing – only their emotional issues and eating habits.
Now eating habits can be changed. Yes, once you’ve had surgery, you physically can’t eat very much so that automatically changes your habits. If you don’t, you’ll throw up. Nasty. But the emotional side? All those issues that got you there in the first place? Surgery isn’t going to fix that.
And what about the rest of your life? Gastric bypass, which creates a walnut sized stomach and bypasses the rest of the stomach, creates a situation whereby the small stomach can be stretched. Meaning, that patients can, and often do, gain weight back if they don’t see their new life as a lifestyle change.
And what about the long term effects? These surgeries have not been around for long enough to really know what the long term effects are and these kids have a long life ahead of them. 10, 20, 30, 40 years later, what’s going to happen?
But the big thing in my mind – how the hell have we gotten to such a point that 15 year olds need to have surgery to lose weight? We as a society have let down this generation. We dropped the ball. We have an entire generation who sees diet and exercise as something that doesn’t work because it doesn’t work fast enough and they still want the high-fat foods. They see surgery as this quick fix. But it’s not. Nothing is a quick fix. Mac talked about how his mother was now stocking the pantry with low-calorie foods – why wasn’t she doing that in the first place when he was getting to 360 lbs? They all talked about eating less – why weren’t they doing that in the first place? Because it takes too long to see results?
I pity these kids. Sure they look great now, but where is the longterm knowledge about good nutrition and activity to keep them looking good? Where is the education about food as fuel? Where are those good habits that they need to carry them through and to pass onto their kids?
It’s gone. And in its place is a scalpel.