In this technological age we seem to have a quick fix for everything, gadgets and gizmos that ensure that we need to put in as little effort as possible, sadly it’s also the case with weight loss in the form of bariatric surgery. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work for some people, it does, but it’s a physical fix only i.e. it doesn’t deal with any underlying psychological issues which may have caused the weight gain in the first place.
There are several different types of bariatric surgery but they all have the same end result, they make your physical capacity for food smaller. However, they don’t take the mind’s ability to over-ride the body’s capabilities into account which means that some people will just ignore the discomfort of trying to force a quart into a pint pot and they will continue to over-eat despite their shrunken stomach’s protests.
Schenee Murry Hopkins was on a US show called My 600lb Life which charters the weight loss journeys of the super morbidly obese who follow a programme of healthy eating and exercise in preparation for bariatric surgery. She gained weight during the show and subsequently left for which she was heavily criticised. However, what most of her critics didn’t know at the time was that Schenee had made a mental connection with food very early on in her life which, unless broken, wouldn’t allow her to lose weight. She was sexually molested at the age of 5 and turned to food for ‘comfort’, furthermore she was humiliated at school for being over-weight and, at the age of 20, she was raped.
At the age of 5 we are not sufficiently developed to deal with the trauma of sexual abuse but we have to try and find some way to cope with the negative feelings and emotions that we cannot really understand. In this case it may have been that Schenee was given an ice-cream or some candy to ‘comfort’ her after her ordeal. A well-meaning adult who didn’t feel able to physically comfort the small child as she was a victim of physical abuse may have given her something sweet to eat telling her ‘here you are honey, this will make you feel better’. That’s often all it takes to take us on a path of self-destruction.
The mental connection had been made, food = comfort and, as it had been made at such a young age, it stuck. There may have been times when Schenee felt a physical discomfort from over-eating and she certainly suffered at the hands of bullies as she continued to gain weight but, emotionally and mentally, she was utterly reliant on the one ‘positive’ thing that had happened after her abuse. An adult spoke kindly to her but didn’t invade her personal space, which had so recently been violated and gave her something sweet to eat which then triggered the release of serotonin (the ‘feel good‘ chemical). She was perfectly well aware that gaining so much weight was bad for her health and could result in her death before the age of 30 but, in her mind, it must have seemed as though people were trying to take away the only thing that had allowed her to deal with her childhood trauma – food.
The events as described are conjecture on my part but it illustrates how easy it is for a strong mental connection to be made at a very young age that then dictates the choices we make in our adult lives, be they good or bad. For this desperately unhappy woman, cutting out or closing off part of her stomach will not sever the emotional link that she has to food. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if people who are morbidly obese would profit far more from the psychiatrist’s couch than a scalpel; it may take longer to get the desired results but at least they would be permanent. Apparently 1 in 2 patients start to gain weight again two years after surgery, one of the reasons is:
“Psychological state following surgery – Increased food urges and decreased feelings of well-being following surgery are directly correlated with weight gain after gastric bypass surgery (7). Food addiction is also a big (and under-reported) reason for gastric bypass weight regain”
Bariatric surgery is a choice that’s offered to people who want someone else to take responsibility for them losing weight but is it really the best way forward? Can’t we offer something better in 2018 than a quick fix?