All we want are the facts ma-am

My fellow Lapband weight loss surgery pal Jean produces a nice email newsletter, Bandwagon on the Road. Jean’s recent issue focused on the topic of weight loss surgery wars. Over the past three years, I have found this an interesting topic. It comes up quite often in forums when someone asks for advice on the type of surgery they should pursue.  Opinions… do people have opinions about this?  You bet!

The threads on these posts are pretty predictable. Half of the responses extol surgery type A while vilifying surgery type B. These are countered by people with opposing opinions. Then there are the personal stories of both failure and victory. Now you need to throw in some horror stories of the dangers and long term adverse affects on one’s health with surgery type C. There will be a few neutral responses speaking about the importance of personal choice. Today I thought I would dig into what I see as the primary emotions attached to weight loss surgery choice that boils up and comes out in posts.

In the 60s, Joe Friday of the popular Dragnet television series often uttered the words, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” There are weight loss surgery patients who strongly base their opinions on the facts and only the facts. The number of pounds lost, BMI, and percent of excess body weight lost shapes their opinions. To these patients, I urge them to look past the pounds lost and look at weight loss surgery in terms of quality of life after weight loss.

Facts can be troublesome for many. It may be slow to little weight loss. It could be slow but constant weight regain over time. When faced with either, some people turn to the discussion forums looking for help. Unfortunately their quest for support can easily be caught up in blaming their personal failure on their surgery and surgeon. Sure, surgeries and surgeons can fail.  Statistics show that this is rare. I encourage these patients to look inward first before posting on a forum.

Facts cannot always be taken at face value. Some weight loss surgery patients quote authoritative research studies, many of them out of context and out of date. Weight loss surgery gossipers tell stories of their cousin’s sister-in-law’s beautician who failed miserably in weight loss after surgery type B. I think all of these folks have good intentions in mind. There is no doubt that they quote studies and stories that depict the success of their individual surgery choice. I take quoted research and stories with a grain of salt.

Sometimes facts are not numbers. It’s hard to measure non-scale victories. The numbers on the scale, on body measurements, and on physician charts are easy to track and measure. These are the most common things quoted when discussing surgery choice. If you look beyond these and look at non-scale victories, you get a better picture of weight loss surgery. What this picture shows is that it is not so much about the choice of surgery but is more about the patients choices after surgery.

Surgery alone does not make a thinner and healthier person. It is an enabler of change and transformation. We often hear that weight loss surgery is a tool. That is very much a true statement. As with any tool, your choice is all about choosing the right tool for the right job. The most successful weight loss surgery patient researches all options and how they might impact their life choices after surgery.

Next time you are tempted to go to battle in an on-line weight loss surgery war, consider some of the above points. Remove the negative emotions of your personal experiences. Stick to the known, applicable and current facts. Most importantly, encourage the individual to research options, engage in dialogue with their surgeon, attend weight loss surgery support group meetings, and look at their personal skills and strengths to help them guide their choice.

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