Weight Loss Surgery? Sometimes You Just Need Help


I am going to jump on the black woman weight loss/healthy eating bandwagon riding through Beyond Black and White for the past few days.  But I am going to come from a slightly different perspective.  I look at so many black women and want to cry out to them to get help with the morbid obesity robbing them of their lives.  Most of us appreciate good, Southern food that tastes delicious and seems to be found in almost every household.  At least it is that way at my relatives’ throughout Montgomery, Alabama.  I had to have a heart to heart with my mother that this food is killing us.  In moderation one can look forward to special occasions and hurt oneself with hammock seasoned greens, pork made in a variety of ways that no longer appeal to me (just bacon).  One can find a variety of cakes and pies and just good food.  My complaint is that these foods are a daily consumption in many of these households.  You don’t have to be in Alabama or the South to find these dangerously-delicious foods.  They are alive and well in almost any home that has southern roots or relatives.  This food is killing us.

There is a lot to be said for self-control and discipline.  And I see so many obese women taking back their lives, getting up and moving.  They are cutting out the grease and excess sugar.  They are loading up on the greens, vegetables and water.  I champion the sister who can on her own decide that she is going to live and take her life back from the brink of death.  She is a hometown hero to her children and family.  She is an inspiration to others who feel hopeless and, in the end, she is proud of her success and eventual weight loss.

But there are several more sisters out there who for whatever reason have allowed themselves to tip the scales so much as they need to be weighed on electronic devices.  The old-time or even digital bathroom scales simply will not work for them.  I recently saw the video about 29-year-old Mikel Ruffinelli.  She is proud of her curves but looking at her I see someone who can hardly get up without assistance.   Ruffinelli says she has a genetic condition that has caused her to balloon to her present size.  Who are we to say she does not?  Many things can contribute to weight gain.

I also recall the recent story about the 32-years-young Ulanda Williams.  A woman who weighs 400 pounds and fell through a concrete sidewalk. I am sure she will laugh all the way to the bank when she is done with New York City, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that she is a walking heart attack waiting to happen.  Women (and men) like Ruffinelli and Williams who think they are just fine must be in such low depths of denial, that even common sense starts to sound crazy.  If you are morbidly obese (70 to 100 pounds overweight), just do what you need to do get that weight off and live.  I am not without compassion; as a matter of fact, I was one of you.  Some can do it without help, some can’t.  And for those who need help, there are surgical solutions.  There should be no shame nor judgment for those who chose to get assistance with weight loss in this manner.  I say do it how you do it.  Just lose the weight and get healthy.  And don’t think that just because you are not as big as the women here that you are still not obese, if you have a body mass index or BMI of 30 to 40 or greater.

Being a recent transplant to the Los Angeles area, I was thrilled to find The Khalili Center .  They are a bunch of young ultra modern doctors who specialize in bariatric care.  I was referred for a hernia that had been giving me fits for over a year and they were able to help find and clear a staph infection that would have threatened my life.  My doctor, Dr. Eraj Basseri, suggested that I needed to lose weight in order to make my hernia repair more successful.  So I did what I had to do.  I am a previous gastric bypass patient and because of past health issues, I did not qualify for this traditional weight loss surgery.  There are more high tech procedures now than when I first had this procedure done in 1993.  Back then you got a big long abdominal cut (and scar) and recovery was 2 to 3 weeks.  It was extremely painful and made me regret my decision to have it.  I was not prepared for that intense level of pain and  I tell you what, if you went in an atheist, you came out a believer.  I don’t know when was the last time I called on Jesus’ name so much.  But I survived losing 70 pounds.  The good doctors at the Khalili Center do all of their procedures laparoscopically.  A few nicks in the tummy and some go home the next day.  I am very thankful that I can refer this group of doctors for morbidly obese women in the southern California area.  And as I mentioned, they are general surgeons too who were also able to help me and others with non-weight loss surgery issues as well.

The Khalili Center has patients from all over California and provides a wealth of information with various supports systems including a monthly walk with the doctors in a nearby Beverly Hills Park.  I have seen some patients with wonderful results including beautiful black women.  You have to do your part and it is not easy.  After evaluations and consultations, and surgery if you qualify, there is a constant commitment to improving your life and losing the weight, as the surgery is just a tool.  There are vitamins to take for life and there is learning how to eat and stay ahead of plateaus.  If you follow directions and take responsibility for your health, you can lose weight that should NOT return.

The Beverly Hills office is chic and posh and reminded me of that “Nip/Tuck” show because even the building is white; but don’t be intimidated as the staff and doctors are super friendly and caring.  Regardless of the aesthetics, the dedicated doctors are saving lives, helping the morbidly obese relieve their weight and co-morbidity problems thereby prolonging life.  If you want help or need help to lose weight and take back control of your life, make a phone call and set up a consultation.   If you live outside of southern California, bariatric surgical centers are all over the place.  There is a myriad of information out there on procedures with online support groups too.  And if the surgeon you found doesn’t have information on the latest advancements in gastric bypass procedures then you may want to find a practice that has the most current information available on weight loss surgery.

Finally, just know that your eating habits will change and your body will eventually adjust.  Be committed and you will be beyond successful. The surgery is not without risks, but I would rather take my chances in a thinner healtier body than just existing in a body that will eventually fail due to morbid obesity.   You will eventually be able to go up those stairs or hills effortlessly.  You may become a workoutaholic, or just keep on walking, as long as you exercise.  You will also be able to eventually indulge in the good food that contributed to the obesity, but you will eating a whole lot less of it.

Star Jones before and after gastric bypass surgery.

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