Publication date: March 2008
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Stories of Altered Lives
Obesity is a major national health problem, and science has been developing a number of ways to address it. The most revolutionary is surgical intervention to alter the gastrointestinal system so that less food/nutrients can be consumed and/or absorbed. People who undergo this surgery usually experience drastic weight loss and dramatic health improvements. They also discover a new sense of self and face challenges often unimaginable when they were obese.
Obesity Surgery is based on interviews with thirty-three gastric-bypass patients reflecting on life before and after surgery. Their accounts vividly describe the frustrations of limited mobility and energy, as well as the sometimes heartbreaking isolation the seriously overweight endure in a society that views excess poundage as a character flaw. The changes these patients encountered as their weight dropped were sometimes exhilarating, sometimes bewildering. They had to deal with varied reactions of family members and associates, complications of romance and dating, and a new self-image, and they had to confront the factors that made them obese in the first place, all the while following a severely restricted diet. And they often had to learn that some of the problems they had attributed to their obesity were still there after they lost weight.
Using these interviews as a foundation, the authors summarize the typical path that most post-surgery patients follow. They also present a step-by-step program that will help individuals considering surgery or who have already had it anticipate and manage the many changes that lie ahead for them.
Obesity Surgery is for people deliberating about whether or not to have weight-loss surgery and will prepare patients--along with their health-care professionals, families, and friends--for the plethora of psychological changes and social challenges that follow the surgery. It also offers the general public an insiders perspective on the emotional, physical, and social problems that often accompany severe obesity.
"The narratives of these individuals make vivid the human effects of the surgery in a way that a well-designed empirical study never could." - PsycCRITIQUES
From Obesity Surgery
Quincy: When I was heavy, if I was to say something to you that hurt your feelings, it wouldnt bother me--it really wouldnt. Now it would bother me because I want you to like me. Before it didnt really matter because I figured 99 percent of the time you wouldnt like me anyway because I was a big person.
Maggie: You go into the surgery thinking that once you lose the weight things will get better. The bad will disappear. Youll be able to handle life differently, and everyone will accept you, and things will be glorious. And what you dont realize at the time is that it changes some of the people around you, but it changes you more greatly than anyone else.
Helena: My boyfriend started going through an identity crisis of his own when I lost the weight. He had real difficulty with my gaining self-esteem and becoming more outgoing. So he started seeing someone else, and when I found out I broke off with him. He said, To be honest with you, I liked you better when you had no self-esteem and were heavy because I could control you. Now I cant.
Candace: When youre morbidly obese, it doesnt matter if you have a masters or a doctorate or whatever. I had a degree, and it didnt matter at work. They looked at what was on the outside. Now that Im losing weight I think my coworkers are getting threatened. They are used to seeing me at 500 pounds and lifeless. Now I have to catch myself at work and keep my cool because Im much more confrontational. I think they feel threatened because I have goals now; before I didnt have goals. I didnt compete with any of them. They have been really nasty.