The two most important words in bariatric surgery- PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

This past weekend was such a wonderful time for me.  I was honored to be a speaker at the event in Long Island NY.  What was the best part of the weekend?  There is truly no way to narrow it down.  Aside from getting some much-needed girl time with my girls, I also got to meet so many people who I know from my radio show and Facebook.  That was incredible.

Then there were the inspiring sessions  from the likes of  Connie Stapleton and Cari de la Cruz, Laura Preston,  Yvonne McCarthy, and also Frank and Maryellen from LIPO.  No one could ever know how honored I am to be a part of this group.  And how special, after ten years of service to this community and of giving of herself, to see Yvonne on the cover of the current issue of OH magazine.  Who hasn’t been touched by her along their journey in some way?

The entire event was amazing to me.  It will never cease to feel special and humbling to me to have someone come up to me and tell me that my talk inspired them or touched them in some way.  This surgery has given me a new life and I feel privileged to be allowed to pay it forward through my involvement in this community.

While I was on the Q&A panel at the event, an attendee asked a question of one of the surgeons that really hit home for me.  She was a beautiful lady who was speaking about how she is a few years out and slowly started eating small quantities of the “bad foods” as she called them during her honeymoon phase.  Now she is regaining weight and stuck and feeling awful and seeking revision info.

The surgeon was quick to tell her all about the different options for revisions.  Now, let me be sure to clarify, I am not one of those people who says NO REVISIONS EVER FOR ANY REASON.  There are medical reasons why a revision may be necessary, and that is on a case by case basis.  However, what good does it do to give a patient a revision who is eating poorly and not following typical bariatric rules and guidelines for post-op care?  What if they gain it back once more?  Do we do a third procedure?  How about a fourth?  Where does it end? I feel that is unfair to the patient.

I think before any surgeon does a revision, when there is not a physical issue or complication making it a medical necessity, and where it is due to poor choices of eating etc., there should be some required head work.  If I were a bariatric surgeon, there is no way that in good conscience I could do a revision on someone who is just making poor choices without requiring some therapy to resolve what is behind the bad choices.

Bariatric surgery will not work unless you change the habits that got you to the undesirable weight.  For some of us, it will take therapy and dealing with our food addictions to be able to maintain those changes.

I have never in my life been to any kind of therapy.  Guess what?  I am about to start.  Why?  Well because I am a food addict and while I am doing pretty well right now, who is to say that ugly addiction will not creep back into my life at some point?  It is likely to I am sure.  Oh and for the record, Dr. Connie informed me that no she cannot be my therapist because we are friends and that all of the hours and hours of talks we have do not count as therapy.  (Well darn!)

I have to take personal responsibility for my disease and its treatment and for my recovery, which is so very important to me.  How many of us truly take proper care of the second chance at life we have been given?  I really ponder that question a lot.  I know there are days when I do not.  I like to have a drink when my husband and I are on vacation or go out on the weekends.  Is that good for me?  NO.  I make a poor choice when I put anything into my body that is not healthy.  YEP, I then have to live with that choice.

I get so sad when I see people talking about how now they can eat sugar all day long and will never give up the cake, candy, chips, crackers, bread, etc.  But aren’t these things what got us to being morbidly obese?  For me it is chips and salty things.  I am the world’s  biggest Dorito addict.  I could eat the whole bag.  So as a rule, Doritos and chips are just not in my life.  For me, having Doritos or chips is the same as an alcoholic having just one drink.

Sure, right now you can stop at one piece of cake, but how long until life throws you a nasty curve ball and it takes five pieces to satisfy you again?  I really believe that a lot of the regain issues people are having in the community are connected to unresolved head issues and poor personal choices.

Trust, me, the idea that I was an addict and needed therapy was not something I just grabbed onto.  Admitting that was one of the hardest things I had ever done.  If you are not sure if you are a food addict, attend a seminar done by Connie and Cari through A Post-Op and a Doc, or the Bariatric Breakthrough Challenge and you will leave there knowing for sure if you are or are not.  I will also go out on a limb and say that it is my belief that ANYONE who has bariatric surgery has some kind of head issues going on.  If we didn’t, we would have been able to put down the fork or put down the donut or the Doritos and maintain a healthy weight.

Since having gastric bypass almost three years ago, I have become passionate about the disease of obesity and what a remarkable tool towards its cure, bariatric surgery can be.  I still, when I am speaking to a group almost get emotional when I tell people my philosophy.  Here it is:

When we agreed to go under the knife and have weight loss surgery of any type, we took on a HUGE responsibility and a personal commitment to a new healthy life. This is not something I can take lightly.  And my passion is to show others what a precious thing their treatment is and how it should never be squandered.

When I was at Atlanta airport last night, tired as could be and starving and looking for something healthy to eat, sure that bag of Doritos looked great, but I opted for a  wrap and some cheese.  Why?  Because I owe it to myself to make good choices towards my health.

I feel like every time we as post-ops make bad eating choices, it is no different from a patient who smoked their whole life, got lung cancer, then had surgery to remove the cancer and was cancer-free, PICKING UP A CIGARETTE AND SMOKING IT AWAY.  If your best friend had lung cancer and then had surgery and chemo and was cancer-free, what would you say to them if they started to light a cigarette?  Why then do we not say this to each other when we are out and one of us chooses horrible foods that have no nutritional value and will do nothing to improve our health?

I hear so many in our community fighting tooth and nail to have obesity regarded as a disease, which it is for sure.  But then, when we now have this amazing treatment for this disease, why do we not all see it and treat it as a miracle and a second chance and a real blessing?  I think our path and our resolve has to be even firmer than that of a drug addict or a smoker.  Why?  We can live without alcohol and drugs and cigarettes, but we cannot live without food.  The temptation will never go away.

I in no way expect every bariatric patient to be perfect.  I surely am not and I will always struggle with bad choices.  I am human as you are. But I would simply challenge you to make fewer and fewer of the bad choices and more and more good ones.  When I looked at the Doritos, my mind went to all of the people I know out there who want and need the treatment I was given and will never be able to have it for themselves.  For me, that is a thought that literally stops me in my tracks.

I have to think of where I would be without gastric bypass and how different my life would be. I think of the amazing things I can do and feel and experience now because of the newer healthy version of me.  Your weight loss surgery was so much more than just a way to get skinny.  You have been given something so precious and valuable.  Nothing makes me sadder than seeing people just treat it as if it were nothing special and squander the chance they have been given at a new life.

And yes I know many are thinking, “but Erin, what about those of us who had terrible complications?”  I know that happens and it is sad, but one of the risks involved with trying to save our lives and get healthy.  I have had a few and am thankful that they have been minor and my heart breaks for those who have had serious ones.

Please, the next time you are tempted to eat that cookie, or donut, or piece of cake, or plate of nachos, or whatever your trigger food was, the food that contributed to your disease, think of where you have come from and where you want to be.  Think of the person sitting in their room, crying their eyes out and miserable because their insurance just denied them the treatment you have been given.

You owe it to yourself and those who love you to be the best and healthiest version of you that you can be.  Never expect perfection as it will only leave you frustrated, but strive for 95% good choices and for optimal health.  You deserve it and you have a responsibility to make good choices.  It is your responsibility to care for that treatment and tool and to never find yourself throwing it away.

If you are someone who has regained, and are exploring a revision, I would encourage you to seek therapy first.  Dr. Connie Stapleton is a great place to start.  Only when we fix the emotional parts can we really be the total package of health we all long to be and deserve to be.

We are all works in progress and the best we can hope for is to keep growing and learning.  That is the best part of my journey!  I really want to thank everyone I interacted with in Long Island for touching my life in so many ways and also thank my “girls” for helping keep me straight!  (I know it was hard to do that in Ben’s absence this weekend!)

I love this community and I love all of the amazing and diverse people who make it what it is.  I also want to see us all be as healthy as we can be together!  That will show the world how wonderful weight loss surgery really is!  Through personal responsibility, we can all better convey that truth to the mainstream media and general public!


About Erin Akey

I am a formerly morbidly obese wife, mother, Christian, author, speaker, water fitness instructor, nutritionist, anti-obesity advocate, and Emerald Ambassador with Plexus Worldwide. I am passionate about helping people fight the disease of obesity and also preventing and addressing obesity in children. I believe we have so many amazing tools available to treat this disease and we all need to take advantage of the ones we feel are right for us. I am also passionate about women taking the time to care for their needs. We live in a world where so many of us spend all of our time taking care of others that we neglect ourselves. I am all about making God the center of everything and letting His will take control of our lives and watching the beautiful blessings come from that release of power! Live, Laugh, and LOVE every day! Be grateful and be humble and watch the world around you change!
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8 Responses to The two most important words in bariatric surgery- PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

  1. Thank you for the kind words mentioning the cover. I was about to explode during that part of the session (along with everyone else at my table) and we were so grateful that you said what you said. It was great speaking at the same event and I’m proud you passed on the Doritos in the airport girlfriend! Great post!!
    Much love, Y

  2. Carla Cooper says:

    so hard with the disease of obesity. Alcoholics get treatment and refrain from alcohol, which is a daily struggle, as I have head from a woman I RESPECT in the WLS community… who states she has no filter… thanks Connie. But us as food addicts, we cannot just quit eating and go to meetings.. we have to eat. It’s a daily struggle and I am here to help any of you, as I know you are there for me when I need it

  3. Nanette says:

    Great insight, Erin! It’s so true, we have to take personal responsibility for our actions.

    I read a fascinating article yesterday about obesity, celiac disease and gluten intolerance. It talked a lot about how the body, being allergic to gluten, causes satiation sensors not to kick in and nutrients not to be absorbed by the body, and the body is constantly being affected by this. It really makes me wonder how many of us have gluten intolerance and that’s why we struggled to identify hunger and satiation.

    I digress though, the importance of realization that food addiction is as serious as alcoholism was an idea that took me a very long time to grasp, even having taken mental health courses as a grad student in addiction. It wasn’t until Dr. Stapleton’s CEU workshop on Treating the Obese Patient that I had my “A-Ha!” moment with this concept. I kept making the excuse that everyone has to eat, so food can not be classified as an addiction. It’s the addiction to those sweet, salty and/or fatty foods, combined with the resistance to making healthy choices that makes it an addiction. We always have a choice, but sometimes, as the great doc put it, “I want what I want when I want it.” We have to teach ourselves that we want to always make the healthiest choices, because that’s the way we will maintain our weight loss!!!

  4. John Simone says:

    I totally agree. Bariatric surgery is a gift that not everyone can have. It was never intended as a quick fix for weight loss. Weight loss surgery is a tool that can be used to live the rest of your life in a healthier way. In my book, “Life After Weight Loss Surgery,” a number of topics are explored with the goal of helping post-bariatric patients understand the new life they were given with WLS, including how to manage diet, exercise, and so forth. The book was written in an attempt to “pay it forward.” I am now four years post-op and still at goal weight – but only because I try my best every single day to make better choices than I did in the past. Do we make mistakes? YES. But surprisingly, for most people, it keeps getting easier – due to practicing those good habits and trying very hard to not continue the behaviors that put the weight on in the first place. I can honestly say my life today is far better than it used to be – and it was never awful to begin with! Just take it a day at a time, and keep doing what you know is best for yourself!

  5. What a great post….I am going to pass it forward on Bariatric Regain. I loved our time together this weekend. When “The Girls” are together there is not enough hours to be had. I really believe therapy is the key, and I am so glad we shared the conversation with Connie…..we have homework to do 🙂 Keep inspiring all of us….and I blessed to call you friend!!

  6. Right back at you Laura! I still feel bad that we stayed up talking til 2am when you had such an early flight! But the time just FLEW by when we started gabbing!!! Cannot WAIT to see you again soon!!!

  7. Erin – You are wise and wonderful! I admire your honesty, courage and gift of encouraging others! Mostly, though – for walking the the Walk!

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