While I don't normally watch "weight loss" shows, I tuned in to My 600 Pound Life on TLC last night. In fact, I recorded it. *See this post for her "after.."
Why this program, and not others? For one - My 600 Pound Life features super morbidly obese persons whom lose weight via surgery. And? I was also a super morbidly obese woman, who lost weight with the aid of a surgical procedure. Regardless of size difference, there IS a level of complete understanding of the process.
"TLC's My 600-lb Life follows four individuals--Melissa, Donald, Henry, and Ashley--over the course of seven years as they struggle to go from weighing over 600 lbs. to being at their ideal weight. Their journeys begin with gastric bypass surgery, which allows them to start losing weight."
Melissa, the 31-year-old woman featured last night, had much more weight to lose than I can even fathom carrying on my body. I said to my husband -
"That's like me -- at my highest weight -- carrying you at your highest weight -- on my back."
I cannot even begin to describe what it might feel like to be 600 lbs or better. Dealing with 600 lbs of body is beyond my understanding -- but somehow -- I still get it. Also, she had the same surgery as I did, the gastric bypass. She also had surgery around the same time my husband and I both did more than seven years ago.
Prior to her surgery, the video clips were heartbreaking. I am sure she was a full on spectacle just going to the grocery store with a cameraman. I know it was a TV show, and it was supposed to be dramatic, but being 600 pounds brings the drama.
It’s true -- people ARE cruel, people DO stare, people DO say things. I can remember back in the early 2000’s when I had two small toddlers at home, my next-door neighbor would casually walk by and call me a cow, and “moo” at ME. And, I was “only” 320 pounds. “Only” 320 pounds and taking care of my personal business – which when you are morbidly obese – apparently becomes everybody ELSES business. My husband was taunted at work about his size, he was “only” 375 lbs, and he was pushed so far that we ended up in a weight loss surgery seminar. (That’s how all of this began!)
Why does a random onlooker give a single gram of fuck about you taking care of your home, your children, or your grocery shopping at the store? Morbidly obese people immediately become a sideshow at times. You might recall what it feels like to be stared at in the aisles of the grocery store – or to have your cart analyzed by other shoppers. Have you ever been to the store while shopping with your overweight spouse – or GASP! – What if you have overweight children? Your grocery cart choices are somehow – PUBLIC DOMAIN. “Can you believe that fatty is buying frozen dinners? Doesn’t she care about her kids?” I would gather that many of us have been there. You want to fall into a hole in the floor, just like Melissa on My 600 Pound Life described.
Maybe that’s why I can empathize – I have been there too?
Later, as she’s losing weight dramatically and dealing with some of her food demons, I had the urge to climb through the screen and had to realize that it was filmed many years ago.
Watching the plastic surgery for her massive skin excesses is something I have not dealt with firsthand, but I watched as my mother in law had numerous skin-removal procedures and plastic reconstructive surgeries and failed to heal properly like Melissa. I also played nurse for my husband who had a panniculectomy and thighplasty with smooth sailing and quick healing. Admittedly, my mother in law’s plastics horror story has scared me away from having my own procedures done. Watching Melissa on the show just brought back the drama of broken plastics. But, it’s real, it can happen.
And then, Melissa hits her low weight post-surgery.
You can FEEL her BOUNCING OFF THE SCREEN in the true post-massive weight loss honeymoon stage. She is in a word that I LOATHE: “Uh-MAAAAAAZING.” She’s got on colors and form-fitting clothes, and she’s working for the bariatric surgeon! Life is wonderful and we love our newness!
The Consumer Guide To Bariatric Surgery says, “After years of fighting the battle of the bulge unsuccessfully, this dramatic weight loss may also be quite energizing and empowering. It is often called the “honeymoon phase.” You may feel that the battle has been won forever. This can set you up for depression down the road if you do regain weight. What further complicates this is that those who experience weight regain after bariatric surgery often feel shame and humiliation, preventing them from seeking professional help for their depression.”
For someone like Melissa who had not just 100 excess pounds to lose but, more than 450? Her honeymoon period was likely exaggerated – perhaps she’s got what many of us HAD – but times three. You can feel her happiness – and absolutely expect a crash later on.
And, crash she did. A few times. I can relate to a lot of it.
It happens, bodies get tired, overworked and sometimes malnourished, and brains often get overwhelmed. Weight loss cannot fix what's in our heads.
"The anatomic and physiological changes resulting from bariatric surgery can affect both nutrition and psychological attitudes. Modifications of the gastrointestinal tract lead to a diminished ability to absorb nutrients, electrolytes, and bile salts, as well as deficiencies in iron, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. Dehydration, lactose intolerance, and protein calorie malnutrition are other common sequelae. Alterations in bone metabolism increase long-term risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. Noncompliance with postsurgical nutritional regimens has been estimated to occur in from one third to almost two thirds of cases and can exacerbate these complications. Psychological issues are often present in patients with morbid obesity and can affect surgical outcomes. These issues include mood and personality disorders, destructive eating behaviors, and poor body image. Nearly one third of patients undergoing bariatric surgery also have a history of substance abuse disorder. The literature suggests that although the mental health of patients improves as a result of bariatric surgery, the benefits may be transient, and problems such as negative personality profiles, detrimental eating patterns, and negative body image persist to some extent. Identification of presurgical psychiatric problems can help identify those patients more likely to achieve lasting weight loss when surgery is combined with long-term follow-up to minimize medical and psychological complications."
Like many of us – life happened. This is where we reiterate that Weight Loss Cannot Fix You.
Weight loss cannot fix your brain, your spouse, your family or anything other than making it physically easier to deal with those things. I think you need to watch the episode to really GET this, if you haven’t already.
I appreciate that the TLC Channel actually showed a realistic view of long-term life after weight loss surgery – complete with it’s painful, dramatic and yucky parts.
We get it. If you don't get it now, you will.