Tag Archives: bariatric

It’s not Brain Surgery

During my first weeks of the program I attended one of the monthly WLS support groups provided by the clinic to get a better picture of the services provided. It was sparsely attended, with folks who were pre and post surgery.  The topic was dealing with food and feelings. They shared their own stories and this is the story of the post-op group.

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You were told this surgery would make your life better. Disease would disappear and willpower would replace it. That didn’t happen.

You were told WLS was just a tool; you would still have to work hard to diet. You heard this but didn’t believe. This surgery was going to do the work for you; if you were willing to go under the knife you must be able to stick to the program. But you didn’t.

This was stomach surgery. It wasn’t brain surgery. Your patterns and your history remained the same. You regained the weight, and were here to get back on track. To diet, that is, but now with a host of digestive issues.

You were sold a better life, you got a different life. And the scars to prove it.

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All through my training the clinicians made it clear that the surgery wasn’t the solution; that restriction was the only way to achieve and maintain weight loss.

Sitting in that support group that evening I wondered what could have been different.  I wondered if patients would be able to trust and respect the body that society is constantly policing, pathologizing and demonizing if they were given the support needed to make behavior changes.

And I realized that I was now in the position to find out.

Tales of a HAES RD in weight loss surgery

All of November and December I will be posting about my experiences working with a weight loss surgery team.

This series will chronicle the rollercoaster of experiences and emotions that present with this work. It will hopefully create an opportunity for HAES dietitians who work with bariatric clients to seek support and share ideas because right now that’s lacking. Emails to HAES-related listservs about bariatric surgery outcomes often result in comments shaming the original poster and those who choose the surgery, stifling discussion about this topic.  I’d like this to change.

I will address the gaps I see in the surgery “science” and also in the support and respect weight loss surgery (WLS) clinicians receive from some people in the HAES community.  I had fashioned a plan to post these blogs anonymously, to protect myself from those who cannot fathom a HAES RD working with WLS patients, but that would only reinforce the shame and stigma associated with this work, so instead I am “coming out.”

How did this happen?

This work came with appointment to an eating disorder-specific position.  During my second interview that I was told that I may work with WLS clients. Had I worked with them before? Sure! after they’d gained all the weight back. I kept on and got the job, and was then appointed to the WLS team.  I was one of the dietitians last to clear a patient for surgery.   Great colleagues, benefits, salary, and opportunities to connect to eating disorder community; I couldn’t turn that down, and that’s how it happened. Maybe you would have quit, and bravo for you, quitting takes guts; it also takes privilege to decide that no job is better than a job you dislike. I decided to see what would happen if a HAES RD became the one to clear patients for WLS.

I have since left this job, but in this short stint my mind has been blown multiple times. I chronicled this journey to share with others what I have learned; invaluable insight into an insidious industry, capitalizing on our collective fatphobia, and the ways that professionals justify their work in the name of “health.”*

Hang tight, this will definitely be a bumpy ride.

If you’re interested in contributing to this project, I’d love to hear from you.

 

*Names, terms, and identifying details will be changed to protect patients, employees, and myself, from my former employer.