At the bottom of the television screen, during virtually every newscast, there is now a crawling parade of headlines informing us of everything from the latest world disasters to which celebrity is hooking up with whom.
Recently, one story caught my eye: “Weight loss surgery connected to increased risk of suicide.”
One might assume this to be counterintuitive, reasoning that if someone’s lifestyle was so unhealthy that he underwent successful major surgery to change it, he would be so relieved with the outcome, that the resulting emotions would be happiness; possibly even jubilation.
Yet dig deeper.
First, the details; according to a study, troubled individuals were about 50 percent more likely to try to take their own lives after they lost a lot of weight with surgery.
“While we are clear and confident about the medical benefits of weight loss, especially through weight-loss surgery, I think we’re not as attentive to the potential psychological benefits or harms of it,”
said Dr. Amir Ghaferi, director of bariatric surgery at the Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Healthcare System in Michigan.
Some of the correlation might be obvious.
After all, morbidly obese people have a higher likelihood to suffer from mental health problems and have a much-higher-than-normal suicide risk than the average population. (“Morbid obesity,” affecting about six percent of our population, is defined as having a body mass index [BMI] 40 or higher. As illustration, a 5’ 4” woman’s healthy weight is considered somewhere between 120 and 150 pounds. That same woman, morbidly obese, would weigh around 235.)
Theories abound as to what is causing this tragic bump, including changes in how the body metabolizes alcohol metabolism after surgery; other substance misuse instead of food; as well as the increased stress of adjusting to a new body, image, and lifestyle; and more.
Ghaferi pointed out that not only does one’s body change, but also rapid weight loss can shake up important relationships.
That’s what I thought when I first saw the news crawlers. Think about it, an obese couple spends a great deal of time together eating. I don’t say this is a judgmental fashion, merely a reflection of reality. If you’re very heavy, you’re taking in more calories than you’re spending; pure and simple. Therefore, you’re either consuming more or eating more caloric foods (or both). If a couple is obese, it’s one method in which they can spend time together. After all, we tend to hang out with like-minded people.
Now consider the scenario where one partner rapidly loses weight.
He or she is no longer willing (or able) to eat as before and will seek out other, healthier activities to fill that void. Therefore, relationships change, leaving both partners trying to figure out new ways to spend time together — or apart — causing stress and loneliness, not to mention friction between them. If the person who lost the weight already suffered from mental health issues, his ability to cope is diminished from the get-go. Add to that, that he no longer “medicates” with food exposing raw the emotions, and the result indeed could be what is seen in this study.
To me, this reiterates that — with very few exceptions — get thin quick weight loss programs might change us on the outside, but if we don’t address the root causes of the weight problem — thoughts, feelings, and beliefs — the results can actually be worse than tipping the scales at too high of a number. The question we ask must shift from “How fast can I lose weight” to “How do I build a healthier lifestyle that I can live with?”
Answer the latter instead of the former and not only will you be thin, but also your relationships will improve and indeed you’ll find the happiness that you sought.