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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- More than 100,000 people underwent bariatric surgery last year, eight times the number who had their stomachs reduced for weight loss in 1992, and the popularity of this surgery is still growing.
When people see before and after photos of happy post-op patients such as singer Carnie Wilson -- who dropped from 300 pounds to 148 after an Internet-broadcast surgery in 1999 -- they can be turned on to this operation, which even has been debated for overweight children.
(Actually there are at least three stomach-reducing procedures available, but the most popular is gastric bypass.) The surgery reduces the stomach to the size of a small egg, making eating regular meals difficult to nearly impossible.
The concern with post-operative palates appears to be spawning a new diet industry.
I recently received a copy of "Before & After, Living & Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery " ($24.95, William Morrow), by Susan Maria Leach, who dropped 143 pounds after undergoing the surgery.
It morphed into print from a diary she kept and includes recipes that are supposed to keep gastric-bypass patients happily content with their meal plans.
Gastric surgery, by the way, is recommended only for people who are morbidly obese. That's at least 100 pounds overweight in men and 80 pounds or more in women.
And few people may realize how drastically this surgery affects the lifestyle of people who had been packing on pounds for whatever reason, emotional or otherwise, and were unable to control their food intake.
In her question-and-answer chapter, Leach unabashedly deals with the compulsion pre-op patients, including herself, felt for a "last meal." She confesses to putting on 10-15 pounds before the surgery, afraid she'd never be able to eat again. But she happily advises her compatriots that once they've reached their ideal weights, "there really isn't anything you can't have at least a bite or two of." The newly surgically svelte, you see, are "confined" to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, increasingly being recommended for the average non-obese person, as well.
Because lifestyle changes are difficult to adjust to for the healthiest person, this -- help, I can't eat anymore -- appears to be encouraging a mushrooming business of diet books and services for the surgically reborn.
While bariatric surgery may be saving the lives of the morbidly obese, even the doctors who deal with this surgery think prevention of obesity should be the real goal.
After all, people who are 100 pounds overweight and binge relentlessly before their surgeries may need more than a stomach stapling to deal with their eating.
Carolyn Susman writes for The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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