By this time, my perspective on healthy eating was so skewed by ten million media sources. Almost everyone’s is. We, as a nation, have no idea what constitutes “one serving” of anything anymore, are being told via endless commercials that a greasy burger and fries is an acceptable between-meals snack, that drinking soda all day every day is perfectly normal, that if you’re busy – and aren’t we all? – that a bucket of fried chicken and some side dishes of potatoes and slaw is a fine family meal a couple times a week, that a big slab of frozen lasagna or a box of starchy crap with some browned hamburger is a “home cooked” meal, that baking a bunch of cookies is a way to spend quality time with your loved ones, that if it’s a special occasion you want to really celebrate with this big steak and seafood platter or prime rib and all the trimmings, that you need to get value for your dollar and it’s actually cheaper to order the super-size than the regular size or have the “endless” pasta bowl and bread basket and ribs ‘n beans combo at those chain restaurants, that there’s something called “fourth meal” which is a good excuse to go to the all-night fast food place for more grease and fat as a late-night snack, that what is essentially a huge frosted cupcake and a giant chocolate-coffee milkshake is a normal, average breakfast-
So, as a very busy grad student and English professor, I didn’t have or make a whole lot of time for planning meals, budgeting calories, or really doing much more than acknowledging the body’s initial pang, “hunger!”, with whatever was quickest and easiest: gyros from the stand outside the English department, a drive through Taco Bell because I only had $2 that day for dinner, a slapped-together PB&J and can of Pepsi during a 10-minute study-break at home, take-out from the Chinese place across the street from my office building, a pizza during a rare night away from the books....
Like almost every other human being in the western world, I usually ate without a whole lot of thought.
Every new diet did the same things that the old ones did. I’d end up cranky and sick and HUNGRY, dammit! I’d have a big “last meal” on a Sunday night (or December 31), and the next day, would try the Carbohydrates Addicts regimen, or the latest soup-and-juice fast, and within 24 hours, be headachy and dizzy and queasy and grouchy. Or I’d get swamped with a bunch of schoolwork and just not be up to devoting hours to cooking and counting calories and shopping and everything.
Unlike those Fat Books and Stories, for me, there was never One Big Moment, a watershed moment, a never-look-back event of “OMG! I’m going on a diet and this one’s working!” I joined Weight Watchers. Again. And I continued to struggle. And continued to think of possible solutions to the never-ending problem of my weight, my body, my physical being. Just dieting wasn’t going to cut it at this point. I couldn’t do the non-stop yo-yo any more. I needed to find a permanent solution to my problem.
About five years ago, one of my best friends had started working for a medical facility that specialized in plastic surgery... not the Hollywoody kind, but a place that primarily provided reconstructed breasts for cancer patients or removed severe scars after bad accidents. And she told me about the Lap Band, something I’d never heard of.
In fact, up until fairly recently, most people hadn’t heard of the Lap Band. Rather, gastric bypass surgery was getting all of the media attention, what with Carnie Wilson and everything.
Between the experiences of another friend of mine who was dealing with her own obesity, and a thread on the now-defunct Hissyfit forums that included more horror stories than I can count, I was (and still am) primarily against gastric bypass surgery except for in the most extreme cases. Gastric permanently changes your stomach, your digestive system, the way your body processes and responds to food, how it absorbs nutrients. It is invasive and intricate, and there are tons of potential complications. It is irreversible. If it goes wrong, or if you put the weight back on, or if you have an unrelated health problem, you can’t just go back and re-do or undo it. The rapid weight loss that follows sounds ideal from a TV talk show standpoint (“WOWIE, I lost two hundred pounds in less than a year!”), but is actually quite dangerous, and can cause everything from hair loss and vitamin deficiencies to heart attacks, because it is a huge shock to your system. Plus there’s the whole thing with “dumping” (which for me, as an already anxiety-prone person, I really didn’t need as a side effect). Over several years, I heard and saw some of the horror stories: the co-worker of O Nancy My Nancy who lost and then re-gained over two hundred pounds by consuming Starbucks’ Venti Frappuccinos after her bypass, the neighbor of my cousin who did the same thing and has now gained an additional hundred pounds on top of what she had weighed before the bypass, the people online who told stories about relatives or friends (or themselves) whose stomachs were permanently damaged and had to live off only specific kinds of protein shakes and cubes of cheese in order to get enough nutrition or who ended up in the hospital after having a soda or eating too much and splitting sutures or died in surgery or soon after....
But because it was the most well-known bariatric surgery, it was also the one the insurance companies would approve. So I considered it.
I looked into a number of other options: the Fobi Pouch, mass amounts of lipo, illegally obtaining more Fen-Phen no matter what the health risks, fat camps, sleep cures- I researched for over two years, and finally decided that I was going really really really do it and to go for the Lap Band procedure. I got lots of info from my friend, met with doctors in Los Angeles, read a lot, and asked a lot of questions. Most important to me, the Band was a less-invasive procedure than the other options – it’s inserted laproscopically – and while the weight loss was much slower than with high-profile bypass surgeries, studies were showing better long-term success with maintaining weight loss. So yes. I finally did it.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that a bariatric procedure, generally, is NOT the “easy way out.” You still have to do all the work. It provides a crutch, but you still have to change your entire lifestyle (and if you don’t, obviously, the procedure will not help anyway). You still have to exercise and get medical check-ups and count calories or “points” and take vitamins. You are not going to magically, heroically lose weight and be an inspiration to everyone and fit into those Nicole Richie-size skinny jeans. You are going to still struggle and cry and be frustrated and hate your physical being sometimes.
The Lap-Band isn’t perfect, either, and there are always side effects and hassles and issues (which I’ll get into in detail later), but you know what?
Totally fucking worth it.
So! Join us next time as Dwanollah continues to yammer on and on about her body, and promises to regale you with all sorts of TMI Babblings about her Lap Band surgery and her Life with the Band.
But in the meantime....