My launch into what will forever be termed the program was through an introductory course for those seeking WLS, taught by a dietitian and a surgeon. After discussing the different types of surgeries, the sales pitch was hard and fast:
- Increased motivation and willpower!
- More energy!
- The ability to lose weight and keep it off!
- Only two weeks recovery time!
- Elimination of every metabolic health condition, and prevent those you don’t have yet!
- Happy, Happy, Happy!
Whew! I think it blew my hair back a bit. It was like being in an infomercial studio! When were they going to tell me if I ordered today the surgery would be half-price and I would get a set of kitchen knives and a Chia Pet for free?! Preventing disease sounds like a great idea, and we wouldn’t even need to eat vegetables?! Never mind the fact that they won’t fit in a post surgery stomach, or be digested properly even if they did. And since when is happiness is for sale?! Well, indeed it could be if this surgery eliminated the daily stigmatization that people in fat bodies in our society face, and did away with the same, tired “if you lose weight ______ will improve/not happen.” After this experience I did not wonder why someone would choose to get WLS, and I did not judge them for making the decision to operate on their healthy organs; I now knew. This was the magical solution to end weight stigma and achieve “health” and thin privilege.
The presenters acknowledged that every diet had failed leading up to this point, but “WLS makes people better dieters.” If diets don’t work, how would getting better at dieting be worth the money, time, effort, physical and emotional stress?
Success* in the program came down to a singular action: avoiding carbohydrates, in the context of perpetual starvation. But here’s the kicker; starvation makes our brain crave carbohydrates like nobody’s business because it’s the most readily available form of fuel. Therefore, maintaining that carbohydrate avoidance comes down to overcoming our human physiology and biochemical drive to fuel the brain and body, not “willpower”. A body performing as it’s hard-wired to do would eat the carbohydrates and avoid starvation.
With that the infomercial studio went dark for me; the Dr. Oz effect wore off and I wondered how in the hell I was going to sell this to my clients. Sure, the promises of a weight stigma-free life were thrilling, but what about the truths of physiology, the possibility of shame after failing*, the risks of malnourishment, and the lack of data to back up dieting as a tool to achieve long-term weight loss? I guess I would find out.
More on the lack of scientific outcomes for WLS later in this series.
*language used by the program and defined by the program; it is not my own. Your idea of success may have been different for you and you decision whether to have WLS, and your program may have different expectations.