I just saw the latest episode of the TLC series dealing with what they call "super-morbidly obese patients" at Renaissance Hospital in Texas, which the program stated was the only place willing to perform surgery on patients of this size. I have seen three other episodes in this series; in two of those the patient died; the third now works at the hospital. I am having such mixed and intense feelings of reaction to this (as I did to the others) that I actually had to take medication.
I am very heavy myself, I carry "a whole extra person" around, assuming we both would be on the slender side. I mention it because I keep hearing this "whole other person" measuring system — most recently on 'What Not To Wear' last week. It has never been lost on me that this analogy is not completely wrong — the other person came into being because of my loneliness, or so I often feel; and even now food is more of a companion than it should be. So many of us are afraid of being overweight, and of course the subjects in these programs feared it as well, and that is one reason they avoided really looking at it for such a long time. So in my fearful reaction to this, I'm sharing what they must also be feeling, in that they are confronting the realities of their lives as they try to do things like sit up or turn over in bed for the first time in years, for some of them. At the same time, what is TLC's incentive here, and what is the appeal of this programming for the large audiences that it draws — it can't just be the super-morbidly obese community tuning in. It is the strangest combination of Calvinistic self-congratulation over *not* being that size — which theoretically I could share since even I am not this size — combined what what I can only describe as sideshow porn. They obviously know it will draw viewership.
Some of these patients need to stay in the hospital for over a year. I believe that the surgeon waives any fee but that is still an enormous bill, which it seems to me that TLC must pay. On the one hand, the channel is offering a hope that these patients wouldn't otherwise have, but it comes at the price of being willing to be put on display on television, for the harsh judgment of Americans who body snark even incredibly beautiful and fit people. I can't even imagine what the comments must be on the TLC twitter feed tonight (and I don't want to imagine it either). Is this not the very definition of exploitation?
I'm not sure what my takeaway from this is. I'm tempted to get this surgery myself, or at least lap band surgery like Chris Christie had. What always stops me is the idea of having a port on my side, which they use to inflate the band once it is in you. On the one hand, I feel like this is so unnatural and that I should be able to just bear down and do it myself; on the other hand, if this technology has been created and it might help me, shouldn't I get this help before my lower joints are destroyed or until I develop heart problems or diabetes?
I'm ashamed at myself for the revulsion I felt toward these poor individuals and the revulsion I feel toward my own body, which unlike theirs can walk and climb stairs and schlep all over town and do yoga and swim and breathe and sing. But — it would not be honest of me to state that I found them just fine and that I thought it was the world that needed to change to include them, and not vice-versa. I think I just skidded to a stop right in front of my own personal tolerance line. I wish I didn't have one, and I wish I didn't locate myself on the wrong side of it.
I'm just very confused tonight, and this isn't the first time I've been here. But whenever I mention this idea to friends, they say I don't need this surgery and could just diet. I don't look as heavy as I in fact am; I think they'd be shocked by my actual weight (269 when last measured), and might be more likely to agree with me. I know that people can still gain weight even after this surgery, and I've lost up to 75 pounds on Weight Watchers, only to have it creep slowly back, bringing 75 new friends to the party. But my life situation is different now, and I think if I could get rid of it, then I could stay within average parameters. I'm interested in constructive ideas that other GT-ers might have.