How to Control Your Weight? Have Surgery.

How to Control Your Weight? Have Surgery.

by Boyd Jentzsch

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Anne was 43 when she had bariatric surgery. She had no choice. Her scale was nearing 600 pounds, and it was either surgery, or a long slow decent into death, with every moment until then a disappointment that life had turned out that way for her.

Her dietician said she “ate hedonically.” It wasn’t a term Anne understood, but, she knew from the disapproving tone with which it was delivered, that it meant she should be ashamed of herself.

Weight Loss MotivationIn Annes’ life everyone spoke to her in disapproving tones. And if it wasn’t the words, it was the stares, the pointed finger from across the street, the quickly dropped eyes when she passed close to anyone at the store.

Being severely obese is being an object of scorn.

“Where is your willpower?”

“Why don’t they just say no to the third helping?”

“Looks like you need more exercise – pushing away from the table.”

“Do they feed you from a trough?”

The sight of obese people turns off the humanity in others. We assume they are overeaters – to be sent to OverEaters Anonymous. Somehow we allow cruel words to be spoken within earshot of an obese person. They need to hear our disapproval, maybe that will motivate them to quit eating so much. Right?

And what are they to do about the rude comments? How can they respond? How can an obese person say, “Look at me, there is a real person inside here. Look at me, can’t you see me?” Who would listen?

Anne had the face of an angel. An angel in exceptional pain. And sicker than any angel you could have imagined.

Meeting the Human  Face of Obesity
I met Anne while I was a short term resident of the Bariatric Wing of a large hospital. They called it a “wing,” but it really was an entire floor.

First, I didn’t know there were so many bariatric patients they had to dedicate an entire floor to them. Second, I didn’t know exactly what “bariatric” really stood for. I was about to find out in a very personal way.

Wikipedia says “Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity .”

Now, I WASN’T there because I was obese – far from it – I had wasted down to the skinny weight I was when I got out of the Army. I was sent to that ward due to hospital overcrowding elsewhere. That turned out to have a powerful impact on me.

(My apologies for this digression, but it may help you understand why I had to spend several days in the Bariatric Ward of the hospital.)

Speaking of the Army, that was why I was there. Thanks to the genius of the minds running the Vietnam War, they sprayed highly toxic Agent Orange to defoliate the jungle, making it easier to spot and kill the VietCong.

I began my pain-filled strolls. With an IV on wheels, my hospital gown barely tied in the back,
my bare behind felt every draft.

As it turned out Agent Orange killed more GI’s than enemy…it just killed us slowly years later after we returned home, each with one of a variety of horrible diseases that left many of my comrades dead over the ensuing years. Thus, I was at the hospital for emergency Agent Orange-related surgery, and they sent me to the Bariatric Ward.

Now, I’d never been to a Bariatric Ward before. And I was surprised. Curious. Astounded. In the end, saddened.

This was the place people come to prepare for and recuperate after bariatric surgery – lap band, stomach stapling, gastric bypass, etc. Anne had been there almost a month, with many days ahead before she would be well enough to leave.

Now my doctors told me I couldn’t leave the hospital until I could walk three continuous laps around the entire floor. At first, it was all I could do to get up to go to my bathroom, so it was going to be a challenge.

Highly motivated to leave as soon as possible, I began my pain-filled strolls. With an IV on wheels, my hospital gown barely tied in the back, my bare behind feeling every draft, I ventured out as often as I had the strength.

Stomaching the pain, I had to take frequent stops to rest up. And that is how I met Anne.  A resident just two doors down from my room, she became a frequent stop on my slow excursions. I had many heart-to-hearts with Anne.

Weight Loss MotivationAnne’s mom came to visit daily. Fully 350 pounds herself, she was a master at chit-chat. She was not a supporter of lap bands, and found occasion to throw in little digs about Anne’s choice. After all, she said, she learned to control her weight, what was wrong with her daughter. Anne’s face always turned to the small window to the side of her bed in those moments, but never replied.

My second day there, during late afternoon visiting hours, Lacey came in and plopped down on a side chair. Lacey, Anne’s daughter, was 16, brooding, with a bad complexion, and over 200 pounds. She didn’t talked much, grunted when spoken to, and left as quickly as she arrived.

Clearly there was a three-generation weight problem in Anne’s family. And whatever was said prior to Anne coming to the hospital, they had no way to discuss their weight problems, nor solutions. The mood was always thick with sarcasm and negativity in that room.

Only after I had been to Anne’s room a dozen times on my rounds, and after my third day at the hospital, did she open up. And it broke my heart. When I think about it now, I still feel her despair, her hopelessness, that divorce from ordinary life she opened to me that last night.

As it turned out, my life-saving surgery opened a door into a world that
had been hidden from me – I never knew it existed.

Losing 500 Pounds
Except for me, the entire wing (totally booked – they gave me the last bed) was made up of pre and post-operative obese people. Three dozen or more. Everyone seemed to weigh in excess of 500 pounds. Besides their extreme weight, they were beset with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, various forms of cancer, asthma, and obstructive sleep apnea, knee replacement surgery, to name a few of the big-name problems.

Now, as it turned out, my life-saving surgery opened a door into a world that had been hidden from me – I never knew it existed. I came to be very thankful for my time there, despite the close call to my mortality that brought me there.

Like Anne, for nearly every one there, surgery was their only hope, their last link to life – literally to life – for salvaging whatever quality from life they could. After surgery, they were immensely sick. Recovery slow. Some had been there for weeks. I had never seen any of this up-close. The pain sunk deep into my chest and wouldn’t leave for days.

I was totally surprised that so many lives were at stake to extreme obesity. I knew the numbers, of course, and knew the percent of persons with extreme obesity was climbing faster than the total number of those who were obese. But, they were just numbers quoted by myself and all of us weight loss professionals. Up close to human souls trapped in these out-sized bodies, the numbers quickly became very personal.

The Curiosities of the Bariatric Ward
Ever curious during my journeys down the hall, as I peered into the small cramped recovery rooms with open doors, I saw the widest arm chairs aside the beds I had ever seen. Weight Loss MotivationThe powered beds tilted straight up to help the occupants get into and out of bed, after strapping them in with huge velcro fasteners for the tilting. The wheel chairs were large enough to fit 2 people side-by-side. I didn’t know they made such things.

I wondered how they could possibly use the tiny restrooms, with their coat-closet-sized rooms stuffed with a toilet. A nurse told me they didn’t – couldn’t – they were just too large to fit, so an orderly had to help them use hospital alternatives.

It was the look on the too-human faces that struck me – and in many ways they still haunt me today. These weren’t fat people. Nor obese people. These were people. Very sick people.

Extreme Obesity: Is It Contagious?
I visited with family members of the bariatric patients. Most of them, too, were exceptionally overweight. The pain and concern written with ingrained frowns and forced smiles on their faces made we want to cry. How could it come to be, I wondered, how entire families, even those not blood-related, were themselves obese, or closely following that path?

For those who had undergone surgery, they were on the road to some kind of recovery. Many things would improve in their lives, and perhaps they would even get some kind of life-quality back. But their family members were still on the road to accumulating their own excessive weight, and their journey was far from over.

For all the recovering patients, they could not again consume food like they had formerly. The surgery had permanently changed that. For each, they had to change nearly every aspect of their lives in order to allow the surgeries to do their jobs.

None could tell you how they got from 250 pounds to 300 pounds, from 400 pounds to
500 pounds and beyond. It just happened.

But, whatever the success surgery would have in reducing their weight, the personal pain, the emotional scars, their sense of losing a lifetime of what should have been pleasant memories, the catastrophic dis-assembling of their sense of self-worth, would take many, many more years to recover. If then.

No One Chooses to Be Obese
None of these bariatric patients started out with a desire to be captured by extreme weight. None thought their excess weight would eventually land them there, confined to a hospital bed, trying to figure out how to piece a shattered life back together.

Being extremely obese is not a statement of character. It is a near fatal assault on your life.

None could tell you how they got from 250 pounds to 300 pounds, from 400 pounds to 500 pounds and beyond. It just happened. Not overnight, but it happened step-by-step until there was no other solution than the one that had brought them to the brink of death, and here to the hospital.

Somewhere along the road to accumulating their debilitating size, they dieted. Repeatedly. They fasted. Dieted again. Worked out. Walked. Read everything they could get their hands on about how to lose weight. Worked out the best they could. And all of it, sooner-or-later, failed them.

Losing Weight Before Her Last Dreams Are Lost
Anne married young to her high school sweetheart. Already overweight, her husband had said, “I’m overweight too. Besides, I love a woman with real curves.”

Three years after Lacey was born, he was gone. “You’re too fat” he said, as  a thinner woman appeared in his life.

Anne had been alone since their divorce, and moved in with her mother. A few years later Anne had to quit her job, her increasing weight making it difficult to do just about anything. She became depressed, angry, then resolved that life would just keep getting worse.

“Lacey went from being my cute, cheery 5th grader, to a sullen teenager in middle school,” Anne said. “Her grades are terrible. She has few friends. I know she never brings them home because she is ashamed of me. Lacey spends most of her time after school online.”

“Mom, I’m too fat and ugly for anyone to date me, so get off my back,” Lacey had told Anne when the subject of her first prom came up.

“I had dreams for myself before I got married. I had even bigger dreams when Lacey was born. But in just a few years all my dreams evaporated,” Anne told me through ample tears. “What is the use of dreaming?”

“Then I had all those dreams for my beautiful little girl.” She reached for another tissue. “But now she won’t even talk to me. And her life is evaporating even faster than my did. At least I got married and had her.”

Somewhere along the road Anne lost the life she had, the dreams she had nurtured, her sensuous sense of self long ago vanquished. Her every moment had been consumed for a very long time with just survival. Survival. And survival isn’t living.

“What’s the use of bariatric surgery if you don’t have a life?”

For many years she questioned if life was worth the titanic struggle. Her interior pain was larger than her body could ever be. It showed. Her anguish, like that of the three dozen souls on that hospital floor, radiated despair deep into the halls.

Somewhere along the road Anne’s weight quit being a problem of will power, of insatiable cravings. Somewhere along the road a tipping point occurred in her body. Weight gain accelerated.

 “Do you think I should just give up? Should I just say my life is over and
give in to whatever happens after here?”

Every person I talked to at the hospital described the same sensation she had of helplessly standing by while their weight ballooned. It was as if they were watching a 3D image of someone else doing all kinds of things that caused unstoppable weight gain.

That last night, after visiting hours, on my final stroll before my release, Anne motioned for me to step into her room. Alone, the room lights dimmed, she had clearly been crying for some time. Tissues were scattered across her bed and on the floor.

“Do you think I should just give up? Should I just say my life is over and give in to whatever happens after here? My mom doesn’t respect me. My daughter – I just don’t understand how I can help her – I don’t even know what to help her with. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t have a life any more. What should I do?”

I didn’t know how to respond. Words escaped me. Looking directly into her eyes, tears falling fast from my own, I leaned in, kissed her on the forehead, her angel face sad beyond measure. She closed her eyes as I held her hand for a very long time. She squeezed it one last time when I moved to leave. “Turn off the lights, please,” Anne requested. I could hardly see the switch through the tears.

As I began my wobbly stroll back to my room in the dim hall, a nurse leaned in as I moved past, and whispered, “Don’t you think at some point they would just tell themselves it’s time to quit eating so much?” Astounded, not usually taken with violence, I had a sudden urge to push him down the stairs.

Excess Weight Is a Symptom of Disease
Excess weight is a symptom of a disease. The greater the weight, the greater the disease, and the more additional diseases will attack the overweight body. At some point, that cluster of diseases will find a way to kill you. If you are a woman, it will take multiple diseases over decades for them to kill you. For men, heart disease will take you relatively quickly. Or a stroke will leave you confined to having others care for your every need for the rest of your life.

At a certain point, weight loss surgery is the only way to control weight – it is the only way to save a life.

Sadly, at some point surgery is the only option to lose weight. No one knows why so many people gain so much weight. No one. It is way past blaming it on too many calories, or too little exercise. It is much more complicated than that. But the “why” is tragically unknown.

Thus, at a certain point, weight loss surgery is the only way to control weight – it is the only way to save a life. But saving dreams? …Saving dreams is not something that surgery is very good at.

At some point considerably before the surgery option, before your entire body runs amuck, you may still have the option of doing something effective. If you don’t take that direction, you have about a one-in-six chance of meeting your family from the tilting bed of a Bariatric Ward. Of course, you know that the 1 in 6 will NOT be you, right?

HOW DO YOU CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT? HAVE BARIATRIC SURGERY. Or visit with someone who has. I thank the Army for giving me just such an experience.

Thank you Anne, for opening my eyes through your heart. Everyone should have an Anne in their life.

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© 2014 Boyd Jentzsch. All rights reserved.

By special arrangement with the author, CHAPTERS from the book HEART PLAN are published here regularly. HEART PLAN is not about what you eat. It is all about how you FEEL – your sense of SELF – when you are trying to lose weight. Sign up to receive the new Chapters as they are published here.

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-by Boyd Jentzsch

View Boyd Jentzsch's profile on LinkedIn

Boyd, a recovering Attorney, turned to weight loss research 20 years ago when he lost his mother to the lifelong effects of obesity. He has spent the ensuing years searching the science, and formulating a comprehensive metabolic map of the body — the only complete map of its kind. The map reveals the causes and effects of obesity and related chronic lifestyle diseases. It shows the only proven pathways to preventing and losing excess weight. From that unique foundation, he and his team created a weight loss education program that has helped tens of thousands to lose weight and keep it off. Plus, they created innovative and fun fitness and nutrition education programs for elementary school children, proven to reduce the early bio-markers for childhood obesity. HEART PLAN is a collection of his observations over the years of the emotional impact and motivational challenges nearly everyone faces when trying to keep lost weight off permanently.

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  1. This information is very interesting, as I’m overweight but would never have a surgery to lose my weight, but I understand for some people, it works their choice, but not for me

  2. Amanda Alvarado says

    I agree with Boyd – it is a disease! No amount of dieting or exercise can help some obese people and sometimes surgery is the only way!

  3. This is so sad, NO ONE should ever feel this way and if I could help them I would… I have to be very careful of gaining any weight because I always end up in CHF and have a lot of health issues of my own. I always pray that I will make it threw the night and wake up the next morning. I never know what the day has in store for me.I pray she makes amends with herself and with her family. She needs to do it for herself.

  4. Karen Hinkle says

    wow what a really great story and it was touching to me I was deeply engaged with this story well it kind of hit home but we all can do what is best for us as humans and we didn’t gain it in one day

  5. It makes me sad when people judge obese people. Even if they do eat a lot. There are genetics to factor in, and for my friends mom it’s the result of Hypothyroidism. I can eat whatever I want, which is probably at least close to what these people will eat and I stay in a 20 lb range, because I’m lucky. People are so quick to be “PC” when it comes to race, religion and and other things but they forget to forgive genetics and to forgo judgement. The idea is the same – love every human being and never judge because you will never be in their shoes.

    • Celebrate Woman says

      What really is going on with all the obesity rates rising like crazy is not people’s appetite. They eat normal portions more often than not.
      From all the research for the past 10 years I’ve been reading while working on my projects we’ve been actually creating a poisonous environment for ourselves.
      Take all chemicals they are finding in newborns!
      It’s our living that actually produces the changes with our bodies.

  6. Wendi Watson says

    its great info and i always tell my children dont ever make fun of anyone because you dont know if it is health related or not and that they are the same as you

  7. constance ralph says

    I think it is a disease. I have a few friends that are obese. It always seems there are more then just them in their family

  8. wendy c g says

    This is a sad story. You never know what’s is behind someone issues, that’s why I don’t judge.

  9. Virginia Rogers says

    So sad and people are so quick to judge, I know am overweight, also family history, doing all I can to change eating and diet as exercise not really an option at this point due to fractures from falls that have not healed. It is a hard battle and at times can be down right depressing. Although trying diet as to not get to point of surgery. Pray daily to stay strong for my kids and grandson, to be there for them and show them better ways to live healthier.

  10. Jessica Parent says

    Surgery isn’t a cure all but I have known several people to have it and succeed and several that have failed and slowly put all their weight back on.No matter what methods are used to lose weight….habits must be changed to keep it off.My mom is getting gastric bypass at the end of the year (she just had a lapband removed) I don’t like the risks of surgery but then again obesity (which my mom has always struggled with) is dangerous itself too.

  11. VEry nice post, i am one that fights with obesity am deciding if i would like to get surgery done , but going on a very strict diet should be #1 for myself, As most know that there are many complications that can arise dring and after surgery, so i still havvent decided what i want yet

  12. I believe that the surgery is good as one of the last resorts, but that is just me. I would never judge anyone regarding this. I wish they would come up with a better solution, but modern medicine has too many issues to fight at once. Thanks for an informative blog.

  13. Katrina A. says

    What a touching story. I hope Anne found her way and her own peace.

  14. Very interesting story. I think surgery is scary, but if it helps them get to a healthy weight, good for them.

  15. A really great read with good insights. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Interesting read- I believe in old fashioned methods to lose weight (healthy eating, and excersize)

  17. I wish people would not judge. I do believe it is health related in some cases. Very touching story, thanks for sharing.

  18. I think that the most important thing that has to accompany bariatric surgery is counseling. I think that obesity can be a disease but its usually mental and that counseling and finding ways to cope are essential. I am a nursing student and work with patients that suffer from some pretty severe depression and self esteem issues that tend to resort to food as their escape and the consequences are deadly. I do have a few patients that told me outright that they had no desire to change their lifestyle it made me sad as I stood in surgery with my one patient as his leg was being amputated because he didn’t want to change his lifestyle and his type 2 diabetes was basically killing him.

  19. Great article! Eating right and exerciser is still the number one way to live a healthy lifestyle. My friends have either had the gastric sleeve and are wanting it hate to admit it but I am also interested.

  20. For my grandparents, surgery was the only way. They tried EVERYTHING before hand. They live much healthier, active lifestyles post surgery.

  21. Sounds like a choice each individual makes and it’s tough especially when you get into the hundreds of hundreds of pounds categories. Great article with such powerful messages.

  22. Chasity Boatman says

    I think that it’s much easier to make healthy choices and exercise. Although I can understand if you have a hormonal imbalance that prevents you from loosing weight.

  23. I am not cray over weight but i could use to lose 30lbs.. I have someone who works for me that is a candidate for biaratric surgery. We have constantly asked him to go to the gym or diet, nutritionist, but he is depressed and will not take care of himself.

  24. Thank you for sharing. I think it is important not to judge anyone. We never know what is going on in someone’s life.

  25. Thank you!

    People think that the surgery is an easy way out and it’s not. My sister in law had to work HARD for a year prior to hers- she had to meet with a psychiatrist, nutritionist and a trainer. She had to show she could lose not just weight but keep muscle and build muscle. She worked very hard before and after the surgery. She struggled with her weight for years and this was important for her. I am proud of her.

  26. 3 generations of weight problem is difficult as each generation inherits the same culture when it comes to food and habits. I guess surgery is important for extreme obesity and the other part would be instilling the right mindset to the individual.

  27. I have known many who have had bariatric surgery. Then a couple years down the road they had again gained the weight back-thise bands stretch if you don’t really watch it. I have been watching my weight most of my life-up and down like a yoyo I go. Luckily not up enough to need bariatric surgery. There is definitely something in what you said up there about the people being depressed and sad or angry with themselves or others. I wish there was a switch I could move to make people more considerate of other peoples feelings!

  28. Thi is a great story, so touching. Thanks for sharing.

  29. A very good read makes me think about the choices I make, Thanks for sharing

  30. You are right, no one chooses to become that big. It happens while we are not paying attention.

  31. I know someone who recently lost ALOT of weight by lifestyle change. I wish I had the willpower to do what they did but I have a deep fear of needles and surgery so I don’t know if I could. I don’t think bad about those who do but I know I couldn’t go through with it.

  32. I can see that it was truly an emotional experience. I can’t even imagine all you saw and heard from others going through this process.

  33. This is a powerful story of why judging others makes us “wrong.” What a beautiful person suffering disapproval while fighting hard battles. I read about Anne and I just want to reach out and hug her, but the issue is that we don’t know everyone’s stories, so the skill I’m practicing is imagining what they must be going through or what pain lead them that way. Obesity is a disease and that’s enough in itself. We must embrace people as we want to be embraced.

  34. There are so many people suffering such pain. That is why it is so important to not judge other people. I can’t imagine much worse than knowing that your teenager has already given up hope at such a young age. That must have been such a heartache for Anne.

  35. I am overweighed and I have considered bariatric surgery. But I had a huge problems with my cesarian and the wound hasn’t healed, even after 10 years, so I don’t think it’s an option to me. As for how to control my weight and why I can’t do it, I think I have found at least one reason. I don’t want to be thin, and I don’t want to look thin and I don’t want to be considered a thin person. It’s strange but it’s something I need to work through.

  36. Wow this is very sad and totally worth reading.

  37. I feel that everyone should be able to chose the way they want to lose the weight and shouldn’t be judged. For me it’s watching what I eat and exercising. I have lost 50 pounds so far.

  38. My only struggle with weight has been post babies but I always bounce back

  39. The story of Anne made me sad. I’m not overly overweight but I do struggle with my body image. My problem is will power to get of my butt and work out. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. I have a choice. Some doesn’t so i can see how surgery would be an answer for them.

  40. Cheryl Christian says

    I feel their pain. Such a hard journey

  41. Elizabeth O. says

    This is such a sad story. We can’t really blame people about their weight. Sometimes, it could be their reaction to an even larger problem in their life, in Anne’s case she was never really given any option growing up. I hope things go well for her and her family.

  42. I am very much in favor of bariatric surgery – when other options have been tried first. No two people are the same, no two people have exactly the same reasons for being overweight, and no two people will have the exact same results as someone else. By the way, I’ve had bariatric surgery – twice.

  43. Maintaining a health weight from the start is ideal, but for those who cannot or do not, weight loss surgery can definitely help on the road to healthiness.

  44. The extremely obese have no other choice then bariatric surgery of one type or another. I am certain;y no light weight and watch what I eat pretty carefully–I know people who don’t. They have had the surgery then gained it back-not all of it but a lot. Which makes me think there are psychological issues which really should be addressed professionally after that surgery.

  45. lexie lane says

    This story makes me sad, we don’t know or we don’t need to blame about their weight. I think this one would be a lesson for others.

  46. Nicole Escat says

    It was a sad story. Yes we can’t blame other people about their weight, its so important to keep maintaining our body.

  47. As someone who works in healthcare I can truly say that obesity is a disease and that many people suffer from it. I wish there was an easy fix but unfortunately, for most people, there is not.

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