The Stomach as a Storage Space
& Other Tales of Medical Wonders
The popularity of the gastric bypass procedure, combined with the economic crunch, has produced a curious by-product: restaurant discount cards. For those of lighter body complexion (not our fault, not our fault) and exercise-as-diet proponents (not our type, not our type), the trend does provide a moment of reflection.
But we won’t touch that, are you kidding? Whatever rocks your boat (without sinking it), we’re all for it. Besides, much more impressive is at least two other things doctors have done lately with the abdominal cavity: they’ve used it as a storage space, or forgot things in there.
Before we get to that, though, let’s just say something about the obesity crisis that’s been going on in this country, its possible deep psychological causes, and why it’s so hard for some to lose weight, while absolutely unnecessary for others to go through it: blah blah blah, and this and that, and so on and so forth, plus taxes.
With that out of the way, the number of bariatric surgeries in the U.S.
*** First of a two-part series that concludes tomorrow. ***
has recently plateaued, after an initial surge in the middle 2000s. Seven years ago, the procedure was performed 170,000 times, according to a medical trade group, but now it’s done at an annual average of 113,000, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Both the gastric bypass and the laparoscopic modalities of the surgery can be complex, but complications have fallen since the horror stories of the early 1990s. The costs to the health care industry remain relatively high, at $1.5 billion annually. It’s way less expensive to simply exercise and regulate one’s diet, but apparently not everyone thinks that these can be done by everybody.
Although we disagree with the view that obesity can be equated to race and sexual orientation, for example, as a target for public discrimination, there is indeed a small percentage of purely health-related causes for it, which remain difficult to address with only those common solutions.
PREJUDICE & VICTIMIZATION
Since weight is so intrinsically connected with self-image and social acceptance, its psychological toll to those struggling with it often limit the issue to the realm of personal choice, as smoking and risk sexual behaviors are, away from public scrutiny. Ultimately, though, they affect society at large; it’s hard to determine when privacy ends, and public health concerns take hold.
The recent example of Jennifer Livingston, a Wisconsin TV anchor, who was openly criticized by a member of her audience for being overweight, has unwittingly shed some light on such distinction in unexpected ways. A trained professional, Ms. Livingston immediately gained the upper hand on the discussion, by framing her criticism as being bullied by the emailer (no need to mention his name here).
As such, she’s received praise and showered with invitations for talk show appearances, to discuss the incident. It’s very likely that she’ll successfully navigate the media circuit, by accessing the very much real and worthy subject of bullying, while skillfully avoiding the main question posed by the sender: why she’s not setting a healthier example about personal care to her audience?
As no medical issue has been raised to explain her weight gain (we couldn’t determine exactly how much, but she did use in her defense the sound-bite ready, ‘I’m much more than a number on a scale.’), the critic may have a point: after all, she does have a high-profile job, and her appearance is an integral part of it. Imagine if instead of weight, we’d be talking about personal hygiene here.
It’d also be her right to decline any comment, of course, and accept that people can say or think whatever they will, as long as personal boundaries are respected. It just bothered a few people that she, instead, chose to frame the criticism within a seemingly non-related issue, one that’s real and hurtful mostly to those who do not have the public (bully?) pulpit that she does.
HAD SURGERY? PAY LESS
It’s common knowledge in the hospitality industry that coupons, discount cards, special offers, and all-you-can-eat deals are nothing but misery to servers. For not so hard to figure reasons, that kind of incentive tends to attract a type of ‘entitled’ customer, who truly believes that staff humiliation and a reduced tip are all included in the cut-down price.
We don’t know how it works with those who just had part of their guts either cut off, or sawed on, so to diminish the size of their stomachs, and supposedly prevent them from overeating. Even the notion that you need an expensive operation so to avoid ordering an extra serving of food is one of the things the estimated 800 million hungry people in the world can’t begin to understand.
But never mind that. You had the procedure, for one reason or another, and now it’s time to treat yourself for a sumptuous meal, since ‘you’ve been good,’ right? Well, don’t leave the clinic without your discount card. It’s all the rage in LA, where it all started, and other cities, with a steady ‘reduced-stomach’ community.
The Weight Loss Surgery cards, earlier versions of which have been in effect in places such as Campinas, Brazil, ask restaurants to allow patients to order a smaller portion of food for a discounted price. Naturally, the cheapest U.S. food chains have jumped at the opportunity to increase their bottom line.
UNAVOIDABLE FOOD PICKS
Cracker Barrel, Salt, Golden Corral, Olive Garden and Red Lobster, all eateries known for their rowdy customer base demographics, and the latter two, for being recently involved in labor disputes with their wait staff, accept the cards, offering in many cases their ‘Children’s Menu,’ as an alternative to the special rate.
There are two upsides to this quest for reduced stomachs, prices and portions. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, despite its risks, the bariatric surgery may ‘treat, or even reverse, the effects of type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese patients with high blood sugar levels,’ as reported by NPR’s Rob Stein, who conducted a recent panel discussion on the issue.
* Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of this thriller, and find out what Don Corleone’s enemies have to do with it all.