Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gastric Sleeve Surgery: A Wife's Perspective - Disease or the Easy Way Out?

Every Wednesday, I am going to write about the process of Eric going through weight loss surgery to record my feelings and perspective as the wife on the sidelines.  As this is an extremely personal decision on Eric's part to change his life, I am trying my best to stay true to my feelings, while at the same time accurately recording the events.

You can read the first two posts in this series here: Part 1 and Part 2.

I was planning to make my third installment of this series about the nutrition class we went to, but I realized there was something else I wanted to write about first.

This is a rather controversial topic in the obesity discussion, but here is the question: is obesity a disease or do people just lack will power?  Is surgery necessary for some people because traditional exercise and food restrictions just don't work?  Or is this a bunch of nonsense?

Prior to going through all the appointments with Eric and researching gastric surgeries, I never wanted to think of obesity as a disease.  This is partly due to the fact that according to BMI charts, I fall on the obesity scale.  It's one thing to consider all the "other" people out there, but when I'm having to take a really honest look at myself, it's tougher to answer.

I completely recognize that people have varying degrees of will power, which can be stronger at times and weaker at others.  But classifying extra weight as a disease?  Aren't people that way because they eat too much?  Don't exercise enough?  Eat a bunch of junk food?  Lay around the house all day?

I do not believe people are overweight for these reasons.  I believe it is much more complicated than that.  I know that I do not eat as healthy as I should or exercise enough, and I have to address that.  But I also know that my husband is not eating a bunch of junk food, he does not lay around the house, and he has plenty of will power, but these factors do not always lead to significant weight loss.

My mindset through this past month and a half has changed.  I'm going to try to lay out my thoughts and opinions I have developed so far in a way that makes sense.

First, I do believe that diet and exercise can and do work.  That being said, however, I believe they work in specific situations.  I believe they work when the person exercising and changing their eating habits is consistent and somehow finds that motivation to continue on with the plan they are following.

I have been this person.  I have found motivation and lost it.  I have been on Weight Watchers more than I care to admit.  I have started exercise trend after trend.  I have run half marathons.  The plans work when I follow them.  But then I don't want to follow any plan.  This happens for any number of reasons: I'm tired of counting points, I mess up, I want all the candy, I am stressed, I am tired, and on and on.  So what happens to my diet plan when all of this conspires against me?  Or against anyone who goes off and on and off a plan?

I am not at a point where I want to consider surgery to help with weight loss for myself, but I completely understand how Eric has come to this conclusion for himself.

This surgery will keep him from "falling off" his plan because he won't have the ability to do that.  His stomach will be physically smaller and won't allow for larger quantities of food.  This smaller stomach will also keep hunger cravings at bay.  I could simply eat less on my diet and exercise plan, but that doesn't mean that I won't crave large amounts of food.  Sometimes those cravings are overwhelming.  I sometimes crave sugar to the point where I am completely distracted.  All I want is the sweet feel of it.  I think it chemically affects my brain.

Another thing I understand now about the weight loss surgery is that chemical processes in the body are changed.  If after the surgery, your body cannot tolerate a specific type of food, likely the craving for this food will dissipate.  I certainly don't crave things that make me physically sick.

At the seminar we attended back in January, the doctor said you might hear the phrase, "Oh you are taking the easy way out."  That is the farthest thing from the truth.  No doubt, diet and exercise are TOUGH, but so is surgery.

Eric's entire way of life is going to change: types and amounts of foods he'll be able to eat, surgery, recovery, six weeks of limited food intake, learning how to sip water throughout the day, getting used to eating without drinking at the same time, navigating restaurants, saying no to alcohol, and so much more.  But he is ready.  And willing.

One person in Eric's life asked him if he realized how much he'd have to give up in going this drastic route.  When he said yes, it was suggested to him that he just give that stuff up now!  It's just NOT that easy.  This particular person does not have many facts about the surgery or process, so we can only hope to educate and share the journey.

Finally, do I think obesity is a disease?  Yes, I do.  And just as anyone would seek treatment from a doctor to treat a disease even if that means surgery, I think bariatric surgery is a legitimate way of gaining control over obesity.  This is not taking the easy way out and it is not a "get skinny quick" method of weight loss.  This is a whole life changing event that will give Eric years and years to play with his kids and grandkids.

Easy?  No way! Worth it?  Yes!

P.S.  Eric's changing life will undoubtedly lead to healthier changes for all of us.  I will also be taking some serious looks at my own health and physical fitness in an effort to get stronger, be happier, bit fitter, and also play with my kids and someday grandkids.  I can't let Eric have all the fun!

Let's get back to this place, shall we?

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put, Heather! Blessings to you in this new life.