March 26, 2012

Wilson Fill-Ups

I admit it. I’ve begun to wonder if singer Carnie Wilson’s aim is to become the poster child for people (like myself) who don’t think that invasive weight loss surgeries are the answer for most people battling excess weight.

According to People Magazine, Ms. Wilson had lap bad surgery on January 18th of this year – after having gastric bypass surgery 12 years ago. “[This new surgery] was the right decision for me,” Ms. Wilson tells People, “And I’m doing really well so far. It’s all about taking good care of myself.”

Taking care of yourself? Well, if that were true, you might have tried eating less, exercising more and getting plenty of rest rather than risking your life and health with another invasive weight loss surgery (especially since the first one clearly provided only a temporary fix).

As someone who lost over 250 pounds of excess weight without surgery (or pills or fad diets), I have been somewhat outspoken in regard to what I believe it really takes to permanently lose excess weight. And invasive weight loss surgery isn’t necessarily one of the methods. For starters, there have been numerous examples of people undergoing invasive weight reduction surgeries only to lose the weight quickly and then regain it again. My personal theory on this is that it’s because the real issue of excess weight needs to be addressed by paying less attention to what’s going on in our stomachs and more attention to what’s going on in our heads.

In regard to Ms. Wilson’s most recent surgery, Dr. Robin Blackstone recently told MSNBC, “We have to begin acknowledging that obesity is a chronic disease.”

Chronic? Maybe. Treatable through surgery? Not necessarily.

People who undergo these surgeries often report that they spend the first several weeks or months after surgery throwing up (because their now reduced stomach sizes cannot hold the same amount of food they are still trying to consume). Just because you can’t force down food anymore doesn’t mean that you are “Cured.” This alone proves that the real issue might not have been addressed. And it certainly seems that with enough determination, the stomach can be re-stretched even after one of these types of surgeries. And this is shown to potentially be true by examples like the one Ms. Wilson is setting. Too often we look for the “Quick fixes” instead of committing to the hard and challenging work that real and lasting change often requires.

Was it tough and sometimes miserable for me to stick to a common sense diet and exercise program after a lifetime of bingeing to excess (all of which led me to weigh over 450 pounds)? Yes. There were days and even weeks that were pure hell. But I stuck to it – much like a racehorse with blinders on, never losing sight of my goal. It’s this goal – or reward – that makes monumental life changes worth working for (and even struggling for). Checking ourselves into surgery doesn’t necessarily solve the issues – nor does it truly test our resolve. What’s more, as extremely overweight people, any kind of surgery can be a risk, medically.

Ms. Wilson, a mother of 2, previously reported that pregnancy derailed her weight-loss efforts. In early January, Ms. Wilson told People Magazine, “I’ve had so much stress in the last year, so it’s really a struggle. I’m definitely up in weight.”

Finding excuses to overeat is easy. We’re all stressed. We’re all facing monumental challenges that we can potentially use as excuses to turn to substances (food, alcohol or otherwise) that can harm our health if not consumed in moderation. The trick is to take the focus off of the excuses and, instead, bring the reasons to get healthier to the forefront. These reasons to lose weight (health, happiness, looking damned fine in our skinny jeans) can then excite us and act as true motivators for accomplishing any goal. Sure, it will take time. It will take work. But it will be worth it. And once the goal is met and success achieved, we will know we accomplished it without shortcuts that might require taking more shortcuts in the future.

I wish Ms. Wilson success and health on her journey toward permanent weight loss. But I also wish strong consideration of ways to lose weight other than gastric bypass or lap band surgeries (either separately or 12 years apart) to those facing the battle of the bulge.

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16 Responses to “Wilson Fill-Ups”

  1. Eve says:

    Poor Carnie. I feel very sorry for anyone who gains weight after being sliced open in surgery. There’s nothing I can add that you didn’t put brilliantly by saying, “the real issue of excess weight needs to be addressed by paying less attention to what’s going on in our stomachs and more attention to what’s going on in our heads.”

  2. Gregg says:

    Glad you were able to read the spirit of my post, Eve. (Thank you for your comment!) I’m not attacking Carnie at all. I feel badly that no one close to her has been able to sit her down and get real with her. Give me a call, Carnie. We’ll talk!

  3. Chris Friedly says:

    Hi Gregg,

    Your post hits home very hard for me. This weekend, I found out that my ex-husband and father of my 13-year-old daughter has decided to undergo a gastric bypass. He is in overall poor health and diabetic at the young age of 35. He is however, not nearly as heavy as I was (415 pounds) when I started my journey toward fitness. I fear for him as he is an excellent father and I want him to be here for our daughter. The subject hit harder when my beautiful young daughter (who is a heavy 155 pounds at 5’1″, but certainly not obese) turned to me and said “I think I’m going to need that too because I just can’t stop eating”. I was horrified. I explained to her that it’s not something that people should have to go through unless they’ve exhasted all other options. I’ve been completely honest with her that I am worried about her father, don’t necessary agree with his method, but understand that he has to do what he feels is necessary. I have also told her that it will be good to see just how painful and difficult his recovery will be. It’s really not the easy way out; it’s just another way out (and one that’s not always successful at that). I never want my daughter to endure the sorts of torture I’ve gone through both mentally and physically due to obesity. I will do everything in my power to be honest and upfront with her about staying fit (not thin). My ex-husband has not tried working out and eating right on a consistent basis. If he’d have done so, or even gone so far as to take the “extreme” route of a plant-based diet and tracking his input/output of energy without success, I’d stand behind him 100% regarding the surgery. And honestly, he may have taken more steps than I know of, but I don’t think so. I just hope that his surgery is successful in the long run and that he is upfront with my daughter about all of the complications and difficulties that come with it. Thank you for posting this, and for reading my lengthy response.

  4. Chris Friedly says:

    … additionally (and I apologize for monopolizing so much space in the reply section, LOL) my ex’s surgery will give me more motivation to prove how much I can accomplish with eating right and keeping active. If I can become fit (currently at 125 pounds lost) using the right methods, it will show my daughter that reversing obesity (or avoiding it altogether) can be accomplished without the cost and pain of surgery.

    Thank you again for all of your words of wisdom and for being here for us.

  5. Teresa Fischer says:

    Carnie makes me sad because she’s not really solving the problem – she’s just going to drop the weight in a very unhealthy way. I get it because doing it the old-fashioned way is hard work and is not at all quick. When I hit my weight-loss plateau in January I had a few moments of “oh, forget it – it’s too hard – it’s not working – I’ll just be fat and unhealthy.” I jokingly (sort of) said to my therapist: “You took away my crutch. I can’t eat crap to ease my stress anymore! I’m on a plateau and I am frustrated and cranky!” She said that I should focus on the good food that I was feeding myself instead of waiting for the number on the scale to change. Well, okay, then. FINE! I’ll try that. Dr. Smarty Pants was right. It really did help to shift the focus. Obesity encompasses so many facets of our lives and just getting your stomach stapled or “lapped” or whatever will not solve the problem. You have to fight it on all fronts with exercise, a proper healthy diet, and mental and emotional support. There really are no short cuts and you have to enjoy the small victories along the way. I also remind myself every day that I am worth the struggle and frustration. My health is worth it. The journey is difficult at times but I have to say that I feel so much better both physically and emotionally than I did 10 months ago. I’ve had to shift some of my goals because it is not as easy to lose weight at 50 as it was at 30 but I will get there. There may be a few ups and downs yet to come but I can handle it. As always, my friend – thanks for your support and for being a voice of reason in this “we need results – drop 40 pounds in a month” world. It always helps me to check in with you. Oh, and here’s a wonderful small victory for me – I’m down another pant size AND I bought a size 10 jacket yesterday. WhooHoo! and Yeah!

  6. Gregg says:

    Never apologize for a lengthy response to a post, Chris. I love when something I write sparks a conversation — that’s how we all learn and grow (figuratively, not literally — LOL!). I really appreciate everything you’re going through — and I’m so grateful you’re providing a healthy example for your daughter. Of course, I wish your ex-husband wellness and success on his journey. But like you, I wish he’d really put some effort into the more sane way to take off the excess weight. We’ve become a fast food society in so many ways — including medically. Don’t even get me started on people who think taking medication for high blood pressure or other ailments “cures” them (as opposed to making a change in diet and exercise routines that would really make a positive difference in their lives). Again, it’s all about conversation, sharing and being there for one another. I’m grateful you took the time to post. Please never stop. And know all of us who read and partake in this blog are so proud of all of your success (on ALL levels — not just weight loss)!

  7. Gregg says:

    Congrats on being down a pant size and buying a Size 10 jacket, Teresa. That’s amazing — and such a reward (especially since you know you fought for the success the old fashioned way). I should have filmed my face as I read your comment. I was feeling everything you wrote — wincing, laughing and then nodding enthusiastically. I love that you kept using the word “Shift” as well. That has always been one of my favorite words — both where weight loss is concerned as well as other challenges in life. Isn’t it always the case that if we take a moment, breathe and then shift our focus and everything changes in an instant? Love your therapist for supporting you — and adore your for posting. it means so much. Thank you!

  8. Julia says:

    I have to respectfully disagree on a few fronts. Someone close to me has had lap band surgery. He did not throw up for a month. He thoughtfully took a nutrition class for 6 months, lost some weight before surgery, and went for it with commitment.

    He had lost weight before, working out and dieting. Then he moved away from his trainer and gym, moved across the country, actually, and his thyroid malfunctioned. It took 2 years to regulate, and by that time, he had gained the weight back. It was just too hard to fight the thyroid problem while under stress and without his previous tools. He makes no excuses, though. He takes responsibility.

    His doctor told him that the average life expectancy of someone morbidly obese was only two years from his age. It really scared him, and he wanted to do something very serious, very soon.

    He doesn’t tell many people because, like you, they feel it is a cop out., an easy fix, or whatever. I can assure you it is not. It is a tool. Drastic? Yes, although it truly was minimally invasive with the tiny tool they use to do the arthroscopic work. He was not sliced stem to stern, nor was his stomach cut, stapled or sleeved. A band was inserted to slow the travel of food to the larger portion of the stomach, therefore curbing the appetite and the ability to over eat some things. You can still slurp down a carton of Ben & Jerry’s if you really try, but what’s the point?

    There are no quick fixes for weight loss. Like every mess we make of our lives, it takes time to get where you are and time to get out. Do I believe most overweight people have brought it upon themselves? Yes. But if they thoughtfully enter into a journey to health, no matter what tools they use, I applaud them.

  9. Gregg says:

    I appreciate your commentary, Julia — and your sharing the story of your friend. I hope that his journey leads him to lasting change even though I don’t necessarily agree with the methods. This is my own personal opinion and it relates to many areas of taking care of one’s self (not just weight loss or weight loss surgery in particular). The more we take responsibility for ourselves and our actions, the more success we achieve. I know it’s not a black and white issue and there are many sides to the story, which, again, is why I really appreciate you taking the time to share and post! Give your friend my best. And thanks again.

  10. Julia2 says:

    I agree with the previous poster and my namesake. I am about to have WLS in a few days and there is no easy fix nor is it a short cut. It is a medical treatment (not a cure!) for a disease that I have had for close to 20 years. Did you research success in weight loss maintenance for people who lose considerable amounts of weight “the hard way” or “naturally”? I am sure if you did you would have included in your article that 95% of these very determined folks gain back ALL their weight loss and then some. Stats are considerably better for the cohort that undergoes WLS. It will still be a rough road of choices in food and healthful living and yes, all surgeries can be eaten around if one relaxes and thinks erroneously that it is the easy fix and that the powerful tool will do the job and maintain all by itself. Indeed, it is our stomachs that are being operated on, not our heads and we must do the work as well on our heads. It is a long and complex topic and certainly cannot be exhausted here in the space of a few lines. Just don’t judge us fatties who admit long term failure in the diet and exercise route! Many have tried for years and for me 20 years is a damn long time to be failing at something. In addition there are medical issues that the surgery will fix – diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, hyperlipidimia and other little things… It is not plastic surgery. It is metabolic surgery and like natural childbirth versus c-section or epidurals, or heart by-pass sometimes there is no choice. The only road is to save one’s life. I appreciate your opinion and I wish I didn’t have to face surgery in less than 10 days. But in my case it is no longer a choice. It is a medical necessity. It is the same for many who undergo WLS. And for those who go to this last resort flippantly, well….they quickly find out that it is most certainly not the easy way out.

  11. Gregg says:

    I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to add your comments, thoughts and insights. You are correct that the surgery has benefits in regard to diabetes and other ailments. Of course, those same benefits can be had by eating less and exercising more. It really comes down to individual choice. I respect yours 100% and wish you luck (and health) on your journey. I hope you’ll report in and let us know how you’re doing on this new path you’re taking. I really would love to stay informed. And you can be sure that I support your quest for health and happiness! Be well!

  12. TheBear says:

    First, congrats on your weight loss. Also, congrats on doing it without surgery, it’s a tough thing to do.

    I also wish Carnie Wilson much success in which ever way she chooses to get healthy, wether or not it’s the way I think is right in doing so. I can’t judge her situation without knowing her, but I wish her health and happiness.

  13. Gregg says:

    I join you in wishing her — and everyone — success on their journeys to good and lasting health. (Thank you for your post!)

  14. Jennifer says:

    First, congratulations on your amazing weight loss! You are to be commended for it.

    However, I wonder if you are maybe missing the point of weight loss surgery. There are two stages to every weight loss surgery. The first is to lose the weight and the second is to maintain that loss. Statistics show that the vast majority of people can lose weight without medical intervention (although it because more and more difficult as you become heavier and are diagnosed with metabolic disorders and suffer impairments due to weight related orthopedic stress). For most people, some weight loss is possible by reducing caloric intake and increasing activity in small amounts; but for more obese people, many experience better success with reducing carbohydrate intake. Exercise is a controversial component in the weight loss process, although it is undoubtedly necessary for overall health.

    The real problem with weight loss is that the caloric deficit results in the production of hormones that make people starved. The increased hormone levels last for years after the end of a diet. That means that unlike you, approximately 95% of the people who lose weight will gain it back. Most will actually gain additional weight.

    Carnie Wilson did not regain all her weight. She gained enough weight that she and her doctor felt that an additional surgery would help her in the future. That was a responsible decision for her.

    Surgery is not entirely the answer. They operate on the stomach, not the head. However, used properly, with any necessary therapy to address any food issues that might be present, it is a tool that can help a lot of people. My own story is that I wasn’t able to lose more than 60 pounds at a time without acute discomfort, and my health was steadily deteriorating. I didn’t want to wait until I developed diabetes, sleep apnea, and any more arthritis in my knees than I already had. I was not one of those people who overate. I always did my best to exercise regularly. So, what do you do when you’ve tried everything?

  15. Gregg says:

    Very insightful commentary, Jennifer. I love having a forum where we can exchange different ideas and, hopefully, learn from one another. Perhaps one of the reasons I question Ms. Wilson’s sincerity is that she has become a spokesperson for the company that performed her surgery. I think sometimes the best decisions are the quiet ones that aren’t necessarily used as a public relations tool or a way to launch a new reality series. I realize that those thoughts might seem ironic coming from someone with a very big mouth (me, myself and I — LOL!). But hey, that’s what this blog is all about. And as I’m always willing to share my thoughts and opinions, I want everyone else to feel free to do the same. Again, I thank you for sharing your story. I hope you’ll keep in touch and let us all know how you’re doing with your progress toward total health. 🙂

  16. Jason says:


    Sorry but excercise is not ” controversial” in relation to weight loss. There is pretty much a scientific consensus that excercise is an important addition to any weightloss program. Though technically you could lose weight laying on the sofa, as long as your caloric intake is in deficit, there is no doubt that heavy weight lifting and to a lesser extent cardio, are great boosts to metabolism, fat burning efficiency and overall health.

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