When Every Diet Fails, the Radical Solution

I am a man in his thirties, a happily partnered, fairly successful writer living in Washington, D.C. A few weeks ago, as I was blissfully and safely under general anesthesia, a surgeon knifed through the fat and muscles of my abdominal cavity, choked off a tiny part of my stomach as if it were a balloon animal, and attached it directly to my small intestine. This small new passageway is my new "Y" shaped-stomach and digestive path, called a Roux-limb, giving the procedure its name: Roux-en-y gastric bypass. It took my surgeon, Joe Afram, about an hour and fifteen minutes. It takes surgeons an average of 100 procedures to reduce error and mortality rates to acceptable levels; Afram is the Mozart of this procedure, having performed 4,000 gastric bypasses throughout 25 years of practice. I was in good hands.

The journey to this day, and the days of pain, adjustment, and reward that came afterward, will be the subject of this diary. I'm a fairly discreet person, and it took the editors of this site some coaxing to convince me to share my thoughts. For one thing, I wasn't initially convinced that the readers of a site devoted to the pleasure of cuisine would care about the experience of someone who had come to use food like a drug. For another, even though the incidence of gastric bypass surgery has increased by several orders of magnitude over the past several years, a social stigma remains -- think of all the jokes Al Roker and Star Jones had to endure. Without underestimating my readers, I'll bet that most of you believe that gastric bypass surgery is a cosmetic procedure, is for people who lack willpower, or who want to find an easy way to lose weight.

The first thing I learned is how much of a crock that notion is: preparing for, undergoing, and recovering from the surgery was much harder than any diet I've ever been on. And the bio-psycho-social model of obesity is something people who aren't obese don't spend much time thinking about. Many of the patients I met at Dr. Afram's office are anything but lazy or of weak character: they are mothers and fathers, work in intense-high-profile, high-powered jobs, have battled significant co-morbid medical conditions for years, and have spent years struggling to understand why the thousands of dollars they've spent on exercise programs, fasting diets, nutritionists, psychologists, Jenny Craig, and Healthy Choice haven't worked.

Don't worry; I'm going to save my proselytizing for the first and last post of the diary. Over the next few weeks and months, I intend to write a fairly straightforward account of what happened to me and is happening to me, in near-real time -- emotional, psychological, and way gastronomic. I think this will help me organize my thoughts, and I hope that they can help the reader who is curious about weight loss surgery -- its effects, benefits, drawbacks, and sociological implications.

Presented by

Samuel T. Stanley is a pseudonymous reporter living in Washington, DC. More

Samuel T. Stanley is a pseudonymous reporter living in Washington, DC. Earlier this winter, he received gastric bypass surgery at George Washington University hospital. He is re-learning how to enjoy food.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.


Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.


The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.


Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.


Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses


Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In