Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Little Background: Me and the Lap Band

In June of 2007, after struggling with a weight problem my whole life, I decided to get a lap band. I fell for the sales pitch, hook, line and sinker. There are some things the lap band sales people don't tell you before you get the surgery, the main one being, the surgery only helps if you are someone who ONLY eats if you are physically hungry. Now seriously -- you do not get to be morbidly obese eating only when your body needs food. Even if you ate chocolate covered steak, if you only ate it when you were genuinely hungry, and stopped eating when you are full, you are not going to become morbidly obese.

Another thing they don't really talk about is the fact that things like broiled chicken and raw veggies can get stuck in the band, but candy, ice cream, pretty much anything made out of sugar goes right through without a problem. This means that at the times you are stressed, or sad, or have the urge to eat for any reason other than hunger, you quickly realize that not only can you still eat junk, you can still eat it in large quantities, without any problem at all.

And the last thing, the ugliest thing, that the lap band sales people don't tell you is that the surgery does absolutely nothing to help you with self control. Now okay, you are probably reading this and saying to yourself, "Well, FREAKING DUH!" But no, I honestly went into the surgery thinking that the lap band would help with self control issues -- I mean, to me, that was really the entire purpose for having the surgery, If I thought I had any semblance of self control, I would not ever have had the surgery, I wouldn't have needed it in the first place.

So, I had the surgery, came home from the hospital, and pretty much lost my mind. I thought about food constantly. I had always been pretty obsessed with it, but this was seriously pathological. It only took me about two months post surgery to realize a few ugly truths about myself:

  • I have never, literally never, been hungry in my life
  • When left to my own devices, I eat like a four-year old whose parents abandoned her in a candy store
  • I have absolutely no self control

It destroyed my soul that after about a year I hadn't lost any weight. Ok, well, I lost about 30 pounds, but honestly, I've lost more than that after a good fart; when you start at almost 270 pounds, 30 doesn't mean jack. So, I started going to counseling. Oh my. The first shrink I saw, I went into her office, sat on the couch, and when she asked me why I was there, I started crying and said that I just can't stop eating and I don't know why. I swear I am not making this up: she replied with, "Oh, I know just how you feel, this morning I ate a box of pop tarts and then I..." She rambled incoherently for quite a while before she let me speak again. It went downhill from there. I went back for a second appointment, and I mentioned that I am an atheist. She told me that was my problem with food, I need jesus in my life. I walked out and didn't go back.

A while later I tried another shrink. She seemed a little more sane, but she only had experience with alcohol/drug addiction. While I can appreciate they are similar problems, she clearly only had one hammer (the 12 steps) for this nail. After trying to explain the whole "atheist" thing to her, and after a few weeks of her telling me about the wonders of the 12 steps I finally bailed on her as well.

Now I was not only destroyed, I was pissed off as well. By this time I had lost count of how many lap band adjustments I had. I was afraid I was going to go postal the next time the lap band salesperson told me that I just hadn't hit my "sweet spot". After over two years, I pretty much just stopped going for adjustments as losing three hours of work for nothing was serving no purpose other than making me stressed that I was missing three hours of work. The only thing I gained from the lap band sales person was on my last appointment, she told me about a new shrink in town who specializes in eating disorders and works with lap band patients. To be honest, I was beyond skeptical, assuming that this person was just someone else on the lap band payroll, but out of desperation, made an appointment.

I actually made quite a bit of headway with this shrink. I found out a lot about myself, a lot about why I eat, but I found out one last thing about myself that may or may not be a good thing. That is: I don't hate myself anymore. I don't know that I ever really did, but I am fat, and society really kinda frowns on that; I don't think I hated myself as much as I felt really guilty for not hating myself.

My biggest epiphany came a few months ago. I decided to make two lists for myself, short term and long term goals. The list consisted of stuff like, I want to see a Green Jay, I want to hike the grand canyon, I would like to sell another piece of my art. There was nothing on that list about losing weight. The epiphany was that it just isn't what I want to do with my life. I'm not saying that I'm giving up, or that it's not something I will never do, I am realistic enough to know that I'm pretty healthy now, but that won't last the older I get. I'm just saying that losing weight is not something I have any desire to spend the rest of my life obsessing over. 45 years is enough. It's just time to move on to bigger and better things.

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