Every time I drive around to Los Angeles, especially around the holidays, I’m inundated with billboards advertising lap band surgery. I guess the home of the Hollywood culture of thin chic is the perfect market for that sort of thing. But whenever I see the billboards, I think of my friend Sony, who had the band put in nine years ago and has regretted it as long as I’ve known her. Finally, once she started having certain complications, the insurance company agreed to pay for its removal. She’s written about her experience with the lap band here.
The first year was pretty good. I lost about 50 pounds. I had a few issues, but nothing major and overall I felt great. I was losing weight slowly, with minimal frustration, and basking in the compliments and goodwill of people who were trying to be supportive.
The second year was not great. I plateaued for several months, then went in to get my band tightened, but it tightened so much that I couldn’t swallow my own spit and I had to go get it untightened in the ER in the middle of the night. It was downhill from there. I never found the sweet spot between feeling satiated on smaller amounts of food but not throwing up constantly. Some people with the band do, but long term statistics indicate that the number of people who do is closer to 10 percent of all the people who have the surgery.
“Success” is something everyone should be aware when it comes to weight loss, and weight loss surgeries. For the marketing collateral they claim 60-80% “success” – but depending on what you’re reading they will define it as some small percent of body mass lost and/or limit the time to a couple of years. There aren’t a lot of ten year follow ups, and they never do the math to include the people who died from the surgeries in their failures either.
So. No happy middle ground with the band for me. In years two and three the weight started coming back, even though I was following all the rules, getting my band adjusted, and exercising as regularly as I could. For the past six years or so I have weighed exactly what I did when I had the surgery.
The day to day reality of living with this is that I eat in a completely disordered way, I eat much less healthy, fresh food than I would like (or ever did pre-op), I’m tired all the time, I’m cold all the time, I vomit several times a day most days, and I get horrible reflux if I try to sleep on my back or my stomach or my left side. In the last few months there has been blood present a few times when I was vomiting, which finally vaulted the need to have this thing out from elective to emergency as far as the insurance company is concerned.
Obviously, this is only one person’s experience. But as long as there are all those billboards touting the surgery as an easy way to get thin quickly, I think it’s worth sharing the stuff that they’ll never put on a billboard.
Posted by mo pie