Lap-Band for Those with Smaller Laps

There is an article in the New York Times today about the quest to increase the number of people who qualify for Lap-Band surgery by lowering the BMI requirement.  The hero of our quest?  Why the manufacturer of the Lap-Band, of course: Allergan.  The change being sought would more than double the number of potential consumers.

Obesity Surgery May Become Option for Many More

Under the current rules, in order to qualify for the surgery, one must have  BMI (Body Mass Index) of 40 or greater if no “obesity related health problems” exist.  If you are lucky enough to suffer from an “obesity related health problem” then you can get this surgery if your BMI is greater than 35.

The proposed change would lower these numbers to 30 for those with health problems and 35 for those without.

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I would have qualified for Lap Band at my starting weight of 287 pounds.  At my height of 5’8″ I had a BMI of 43.  I can’t say I’ve ever had an “obesity related health problem” except perhaps some mild depression, which probably doesn’t count.

When my BMI got to 35, I weighed 230 pounds.  Simple diet and exercise for 9 months got me there.  I most certainly had no health problems then.  In fact, I think I was just starting the Couch to 5K Running Program.

Here’s what I don’t understand about Lap-Band or Gastric Bypass: the reason you lose weight is because you are forced to eat less.  So why not simply choose to eat less and save the money, pain, and whole bloody cutting your body open and sewing it back together thing?

I understand that some people have a compulsion to eat.  Some people have a compulsion not to eat. Some people have a compulsion to inject heroin into their systems every day. All of these will most likely kill you eventually, but that isn’t part of the picture when you’re in the grips of that kind of obsession.  I really do understand that and I don’t doubt there are people for whom these surgeries are life-saving when there is no other option.

But is being 50 pounds overweight really life-threatening in the first place?  How about 20?  10?  At more than 100 pounds overweight, I never even considered any of these surgeries.  I knew how to lose the weight.  Eat less. Exercise.  Doesn’t everyone know that?  I only had to choose to do it.

And how is the BMI chart a good criteria for whether or not you qualify for these types of things?  The BMI chart is just plain inaccurate for anyone with more muscle mass than Mary Kate Olsen, anyone short, or anyone tall.  Oh, and it over-predicts obesity (as measured by body fat percentage) in African Americans.

Have I mentioned recently that my BMI is currently 26?  But my body fat percentage (as measured by calipers) is 22.  I’m just saying.

Obesity is not a disease and we need to stop approaching it as such if we’re ever going to do anything about it (although honestly you have to wonder if maybe there are interests that would like us to remain obese… the food and diet industries, or companies like Allergan, to name a few)

Diabetes, heart disease… these killers aren’t “Obesity related health problems.”  They are “Lifestyle related health problems.”  They are caused by our over-sugared, over-fried, nutrition-less Western diet.  They are caused by our complete and utter lack of physical activity.

You don’t need surgery for this.  We need education, patience, and determination.  You can get so much more from the journey than you get from the weight loss.  Trust me.  If you allow yourself to change, the weight loss is your lifestyle-related reward.  Along with many other things, like cardiovascular health, better sleep, mood improvement, and a whole host of positive benefits.

Is surgery really more appealing than exercise?  I guess for many, the answer is yes.  And if the FDA approves the change, a lot more people can avoid the gym.

7 thoughts on “Lap-Band for Those with Smaller Laps

  1. Thanks Kate. A while ago I was exercising everyday before going to work and eating healthy (on a strict diet). I lost weight, but then gained it all back. I was so tired of the yo-yo effect that all I wanted to do was just get surgery. My sister used to tell me that is tha lazy way out, and all I needed to do was exercise and eat less. That I can eat everything I want, just less of it, and if I overindulged in something, make it up in the gym. I never really wanted until now, that I actually have hypertension and can be reduced/eliminated with losing weight. Thanks for your inspiration and support.

  2. I had the gastric bypass and it saved my life. It’s difficult to lose weight when you are hungry all the time. My stomach was so distended I would eat enough for four people just so I could get that full feeling and let the hunger go away. I would eat an entire box of Hamburger Helper WITH veggies all by myself. You know the LaChoy stuff that comes in two cans with veggies in one and gravy in the other? I’d eat one of those WITH a bag of the little crunchy noodles all by myself. Without the surgery, I could NEVER have lost the weight. I was always hungry! After the surgery I lost 70 lbs like it was nothing… but I failed to change my lifestyle. I didn’t eat NEARLY as much as I had before, but I wasn’t exercising either. So inevitably I gained most of the weight back. I noticed the weight gain and decided I would never go back to the way things were before so i started to exercise and pay attention to what I was eating. I’m almost back down to 300 lbs now, but I credit the surgery with saving my life. The weight loss would have been all but impossible without it.

    • I am truly happy for you that the surgery saved your life!
      I used to eat like that too. But I was able to change it myself by making slow, deliberate changes to my habits. It was hard. But it was worth it. I also had to accept that I am in control. I couldn’t blame it on the pizza that I ate the whole thing. I chose. But if you see my comment to Bryce, I discuss this a little. It was a mental issue for me, not a physical one. Two years into my new habits, my hunger sensor works again. I never feel hungry except right before it’s time to eat. And the feeling dissipates from a very small quantity of food. I mostly calorie count to ensure I eat enough at this point.

  3. This is an interesting debate. For one that has already had success at weight loss through diet and exercise, the answer is simple: surgery is not necessary. I got to a point where I considered getting a gastric bypass because I didn’t believe I could ever take on the task of losing over 100 lbs through shear will power. Luckily I had family that had had the surgery and I could see first hand the long term effects. I also looked at what the surgery entailed, and I thought it was unnatural and too drastic. I got with a trainer and learned that I could take off the weight myself. Even though I’ve gained a lot of weight back, I know what it takes to take it off and that I can do it when I want to.

    In my opinion, the difficulty with obesity is a mental one and not a physical one.

    • That’s the rub. All these things that treat the symptom (obesity) ignore the disease (which is internal). I’ve read that many people who have gastric bypass become alcoholics. The food is taken away as a way to fill the hole. But the hole is still there. I really think that you are right. Obesity is the result of an eating disorder. It is NOT normal to eat enough to gain over 100 pounds of excess fat. If we were healthy mentally, we wouldn’t ever let it happen.

      I found that my own reasons were quite simple once I really decided to face them. Just your usual messed up family situation involving a parent with a drug addiction and mental illness and little ol me, thinking I could fix everything and beating myself up for not being able to. I ate both as punishment and as a way to hide from the feelings I didn’t want to face of guilt, loss, anger and sadness.

      Funny thing is, now that I’ve faced them, they aren’t anywhere near as bad as what I was running from all those years.

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