Saturday, December 8, 2007

Emotional Bypass

I am a walking couch-potato cliche, I know - a fat woman sitting in my living room watching Oprah and eating chocolate. The show? "Suddenly Skinny." How could I not tune in, right?

Gastric bypass - the thing I've been fantasizing about as a magic bullet - apparently bypasses the stomach, but it doesn't bypass the reason you were eating to the point of morbid obesity in the first place. If you can't eat your feelings anymore, what do you do? I've often thought weight loss surgery must act as some sort of catalyst, speeding up the process of dealing with the pain and fear and anxiety the compulsive eating tries to cover. Makes sense, right?

It had occurred to me, too, that perhaps you might find something else to be addicted to, if you couldn't use food to cope. But that's not the fantasy in my head. The fantasy is that being thin makes people happy - that it would make me happy. It's supposed to make everything okay again. Thinness is the "answer." Isn't it?

I didn't know, though, that it's really happening to real people out there. The reality of gastric bypass can mean the transfer of one addiction to another. From compulsive overeating to alcholism. From compulsive overeating to gambling or sex addiction. Just something else to fill the hole.

Carnie Wilson, the poster girl for gastric bypass, became an alcholic. It's seven years since her surgery, and she's been sober for two years, now. Yay her.

She said, "I can find addiction anywhere in my life. I was a born addict."

I listened to her, and I heard myself. I know I'm addict - but food feels like a "safe" addiction. It's legal. No one is going to take my license or put me in jail if I eat and drive. I need food to live, so I can rationalize a food addiction much easier than I can any other. Plus, I have a fat family, and can point to "bad genes" when it comes to my appearance.

But if I lost the weight, if I did something drastic like gastric bypass - what would happen to my addiction? Would I transfer it to something else? I'm totally not a drinker, I hate the taste of alcohol. But if I didn't have food - what would I turn to? Because I know I'd turn to something. I'd have to. What would I end up addicted to? Vicodin? Booze? What?

I said jokingly the other day that I'd rather be addicted to heroin. But... would I really rather be a heroin addict? Would I REALLY?

Carnie said, after her surgery, she started drinking, and when it got really bad, she woke up every day not knowing how she was going to stop.

But that's how I feel about food. I wake up every day not knowing how to end this. I have all the information. I know all the hows. My favorite saying by Maya Angelou, "When you know better, you do better," just doesn't seem to apply in this situation. I know better. But I can't seem to do any better. Why not?

The belief, when you go in for weight loss surgery, is that if you decrease the weight, you'll decrease the emotional pain. The reality is that when you shrink your weight without dealing with all those feelings, your pain increases. That's a paraphrase of the psychologist on Oprah today.

That's the stark reality.

And that's what I'm afraid of. That's the honest truth. I'm afraid of the pain I've buried under the food. I'm terrified of collapsing into an emotional wreck. The food is keeping me emotionally functioning (if rather numb.) Without it? I feel as if I'll end up a quivering, sobbing mass of jelly that they're going to have to pour into a straight-jacket and lock in a padded room for the rest of my life.

And I don't even know what the pain is - its source or its origin. And the truth is, I don't want to know. Losing the weight means not using the food to cover it anymore. Losing the weight means leaving myself exposed and vulnerable. Losing the weight feels like death - even though the opposite is also true as well. If I keep eating this way, I'm going to die. It's quite a difficult place to be.


juliafaye said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog!

I'm still not entirely sure where I stand on gastric bypass surgery. I'm fairly sure I see it as a last-resort, desperate-situation choice ... but I also see it as a CHOICE. I think it's something a doctor should never pressure someone into, and something that should be undertaken only if the person truly wants to do it.

That said - if you are truly a compulsive overeater, there are doctors and therapists who specialize in eating disorders (compulsive overeating is a disorder, just as anorexia is!), who may be equipped to deal with the "addictive personality" thing. But you didn't ask for advice, so that's neither here nor there.

Melting Mama said...

You hit it on the head. I'm hearing so many stories of folks who HAVE transferred addictions or morphed into eating disorders... It's not easy.

Fat Doctor said...

Popped over from my blog to say "hi." So, hi.

Meant to tape that Oprah show. Actually went to a learn-about gastric bypass mtng a few weeks ago with Husband. It seemed so drastic, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to make the lifestyle changes. And I knew, KNEW, that my addiction would find another, possibly more life-altering outlet. Meth anyone? Never tried it, but now I have food so I don't need it.

I think I'll post on this topic! Thanks for the inspiration.

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