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Gastric Surgery != Love*

There is a gastric surgery ad running locally that irks me. It’s a 30-second spot available for your downloading pleasure here (wmv file) because, damn it, I have a video capture device and I’m not afraid to use it! The woman in the ad talks about how things have changed since she lost weight. She’s started a new life, she’s happy now, unicorns follow her to work, blah, blah, blah the first 20 seconds are fine. Then at the end she throws in this line:

“I have met someone now, so I am in a really great relationship.”

Essentially, the ad is implying that if you get gastric surgery you can find true love. Wow, is that all it takes?

I’m not naive. I have no doubt that losing 200 pounds will seriously improve your dating prospects. But that’s all. It does not guarantee you love or happiness. There are plenty of beautiful, thin people who are miserable and never find lasting love. (See, celebrity marriages) I also resent the implication that fat people are unloveable. The fact that this ad is playing on a person’s innate need to be loved to convince them to consider having surgery is manipulative and questionably ethical.

I’m also not comfortable with how often I see gastric surgery advertised these days. The ads make it seem as routine as going in for a dental cleaning, but any procedure that involves knocking you unconscious and rerouting your intestines qualifies as “pretty serious” in my book.

The crux of my irritation is that they aren’t so much selling the surgery as they are selling you the wonderful new life you will supposedly have after the surgery. Losing weight has many positive benefits and can open up opportunities for you to be happier in life, but it’s no guarantee. Happiness does not come via scapel. It comes from inside, not from altering your insides.

There are two hospitals in my city who do gastric surgery and I have to wonder how actively they compete against each other. The more surgeries a surgeon and hospital do, the more respected they become and the more likely they are to get patients. I hope they do not let their desire to excel in this field overshadow their ability to decide what is really best for a patient.

When I had my gall bladder removed (two years ago on the 20th), my surgeon told me I needed to lose weight or I was looking at a significantly reduced life span. He mentioned gastric surgery, but he also mentioned the hospital’s weight loss center which counsels people on nutrition, exercise and dieting. While I’m sure he would have liked to have gotten another surgery under his belt, he didn’t push that option more than any of the others. I hope this well-balanced approach is the norm at both hospitals in my city, but the more I see of these ads the more I have to wonder.

(* In computer programming != means ‘not equal to.” Sorry to geek out on you there.)

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hopefulloser • November 14, 2005 at 1:57 pm

I loved the geek out! I knew exactly what it meant ’cause I’m a geek too.

I know of two people who had complications with GB surgery. One of them passed away and the other requires constant care by an at home nurse. The one who passed, both him and his wife had the surgery and she’s fine. It’s crazy. I also know another person where it turned out well too.

It can be great or terrible, but never taken lightly.


Kirsten • November 15, 2005 at 3:43 am

I don’t know anyone who’s had GB – it’s not that common in the UK, I don’t think. (We don’t have TV adverts for surgery, either – I think it’s probably illegal – although you do see small ads for plastic surgery in women’s magazines. Yuck.)

But well I remember the feeling of “fat equals unloveable”. During my teenage years I thought I’d never be able to attract anyone – and I wasn’t all that fat! (I thought I was, though).

Needless to say, this was a load of rubbish, but I think it’s revolting to use that tactic on people whose self-esteem may not be at its highest anyway. What’s the message? “You need to change the way you look… but not only that, everything else in your life obviously needs changing as well”.

Obviously nobody would sign up for the surgery if they did not want to make a major lifestyle change for the benefit of their health. But just as you say, what’s best for the patient should be the only criterion.


kathryn • November 15, 2005 at 7:28 am

It’s weird to think of any kind of WLS or plastic surgery being advertised on television and that ad does sound like it has some questionable ethics.

I thought it was bad enough when a magazine here (in Australia) that normally encourages sensible weight loss ran a story on WLS making it seem like a quick fix. I think it’s dangerous to give people the idea that any kind of weight loss is going to fix their whole life – when in most cases it’s the opposite. Fix up the rest of your life and the weight loss will follow. Guess that’s not so sellable though.


PastaQueen • November 15, 2005 at 10:56 am

I find it really interesting that gastric surgery ads don’t air outside of the states. I wonder if it’s just because of TV regulations or if Americans are just fatter than other countries citizens and are being targeted. (I don’t have any figures on that.)

We also have lots of ads for prescription medicines, especially for high cholesterol and erectile dysfuntion. I hate it when an erectile dysfuntion ad comes on when I’m watching a show with my mom! Aaaaah! It must be the same way men feel about tampon ads.


JudyZ • April 1, 2006 at 5:43 pm

I know in Canada that ads for things like Gastric surgery are illegal. Same goes for ads for prescription drugs. They have them but they are not allowed to tell you that they are for a drug or what it treats so they are very oblique and sometimes funny. For example a friend’s daughter thiought that an ad for Cialis which pictured a man trying to throw a football though a swinging tire was an ad for an arthritis medicine.


Karen • April 6, 2006 at 1:08 pm

I have been in nursing for over 25 years so I remember the last time about 15 or so years ago that weight loss surgery was real popular. Everybody was having the balloon or stomach stapling and all these “special” doctors were setting up clinics. Then of course people started to win their lawsuits for the many complications they suffered and WLS went away for awhile. Now its back and there are actually giant billboards down here in Texas telling us to have perfectly healthy bits and pieces of our bodies stapled, rerouted, bypassed or whatever. Let me tell you a little secret, the medical malpractice insurance premiums for surgeons who do WLS are sky high and there are good reasons for that. The complications can be horrendous. I actually overheard a surgeon talking to another doctor and bitchin cause the hospital wouldn’t chip in towards his medical mal premiums and so he had to stop doing WLS. He stated that the hospital told him the patients kept ending up in ICU and the national rate of complications was too high. And then he kinda laughed and said, what the hell do they expect when you operate on people who are massively obese.

Which is one reason THIS morbidly obese nurse is trying yet again to lose weight via diet and exercise instead of WLS.


Zentient • August 7, 2006 at 9:08 am

Illusions are created in advertising to sell us what MAKES MONEY, not what is good for us. GB surgery is a MONEY MAKER. It isn’t logical to intentionally render any system in your body dysfunctional when any other option is available. Messing up your ability to properly metabolize vitamins and other nutrients doesn’t seem like a good plan. As you age, this becomes more crucial for optimum health. Frankly the threat of getting lured into GB surgery prompted my changes in lifestyle, and I’ve lost 40 pounds so far. GB surgery will fade in popularity when it ceases to make money. Bet on it.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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