Star Jones: Weight loss surgery for compulsive overeaters?

31st July 2007

Star Jones: Weight loss surgery for compulsive overeaters?

Stop the presses! The obvious is finally revealed: Star Jones has at long last confessed that she had gastric bypass surgery.

Yawn. Does anyone else feel as utterly unmoved by this earth-shattering news as I do?

Jones breaks the silence in the September issue of Glamour, on sale Aug. 7 and available online now. Jones, who for the past four years evaded questions of weight loss surgery, saying only that “medical intervention” helped her shed 160 pounds from her then 300-pound frame, speaks candidly about how she gained so much weight and of the pressure to reveal how she lost it.

“I was also terrified someone would have a tragic result after emulating me without making an informed decision with her doctor,” said Jones. “But the complete truth is, I was scared of what people might think of me. I was afraid to be vulnerable, and ashamed at not being able to get myself under control without this procedure.”

Medical concerns about weight loss surgery, or as some call it stomach amputation, aside, Jones confessional raises a deeply disturbing question. According to Jones, what she was unable to get “under control” is known in medical circles as compulsive over-eating, more common even than anorexia and bulimia.

“To compensate for my insecurities, I spoke louder and ate more: Whenever I felt lonely, a Double Whopper with cheese became my friend. If I felt sad, six strips of bacon made me feel better,” admitted Jones.

If one is mentally unable to stop themselves from assuaging their feelings with food, why would they then undergo weight loss surgery in which they risk irreparable physical harm and even death should they not be able to withstand the impulse to binge again?

Star Jones didn’t need weight loss surgery; she needed therapy.

Binge eaters or compulsive overeaters eat in an addictive-like way for emotional reasons much like the way alcohol functions for the alcoholic or drugs for the addict. Binge eating serves a powerful psychological function and weight loss surgery will do nothing to dissipate or curb this compulsion to overeat.

Even if compulsive overeaters regain the weight they have lost, or “blow out” their staples or stretch out their bands, this is the price they will pay in order anesthetize themselves to feelings of anxiety, depression or anger, explains Dr. Sharon Farber, founder of the Westchester Eating Disorders Consultation Services.

For some compulsive eaters, bariatric surgery does feel like magic. It is a tool that helps them to eat less, feel satisfied with less, and lose weight and maintain the loss. When put to the test, they discover that they have more ability to withstand the impulse to binge than they ever thought, and this itself boosts their self-esteem, improves their health, and empowers them. They are the fortunate ones.

The unfortunate ones are the scary statistics we rarely hear about, those who turn instead to alcohol and drug abuse or even suicide.

“I’m not saying that in order to be happy, women need to be a certain size, but I am saying that we should all strive to be healthy,” concludes Jones.

Fixing the outside rarely fixes the inside – a point that was lost on me for years. I only hope Jones’ definition of “health” includes first and foremost, positive mental health.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 at 10:51 am and is filed under Eating Disorders, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 5 responses to “Star Jones: Weight loss surgery for compulsive overeaters?”

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  1. 1 On July 31st, 2007, Celeste said:

    I totally agree with you. I have had a few people bring up bariatric surgery to me out of the blue. I don’t consider it a loving thing to do, BTW. I had one girl tell me she lost 70 lbs via lap band, and how she had to do something to “solve the problem” because she couldn’t find a way to do workouts. I don’t consider 70 lbs to be life-threatening. I ALSO don’t think my overweight (maybe 85 lbs. max) is due to something being wrong with my STOMACH. I think my stomach works great. I also think it’s INCREDIBLY hard to burn off stored fat.

    I also want to tell the weight loss surgery fans that I think it’s really lopsided to tell a starving anorexic that she’s sick and needs therapy, while telling a starving bariatric patient that she’s a hero for her decision and DOESN’T need therapy. Both people are starving to be thinner. How is it good in one person but bad in the other?

  2. 2 On August 1st, 2007, Jamie said:

    I think that people are just looking for a quick fix…which it probably isn’t that quick, but they feel that it will help them lose the weight faster because they feel full quicker. And maybe it helps them not obsess so much about what they put in their bodies, because the surgery makes it so they CAN’T put much in their mouths.

  3. 3 On January 18th, 2008, Laura said:

    This is in reply to Jamie…. Weight loss surgery is NO QUICK FIX! First of all before you can even be considered for it, you need months of a doctor supervised diet and exercise, psychotherapy and a gazillion other tests. Why would anybody voluteer to have surgery like that unless they were desperate and had tried everything they could think of to lose weight. I feel sorry for the people out there who look at people who’ve had weight loss surgery and think they’ve taken the easy way out. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you make comments.

  4. 4 On January 19th, 2008, wriggles said:

    I can’t believe the ignorance of the people in the link, they seem to think there is no difference between binge eating disorder and compulsive eating, although there is an overlap compulsive eating is when the eating impulse remains switched on regardless of what you eat, whereas binge eating is more about endless cylces restricting then rebounding.

    Is it more common in women, or is this cultural? The culture amongst men tends to valorise eating large amounts in a similar way to that of drinking a lot of alcohol, it could be ‘hidden’ in there.

  5. 5 On January 20th, 2008, vesta44 said:

    Laura, they must have changed the requirements for WLS in the last 10 years then. When I had mine in 1997, the only test I had to take was the MMPI, I didn’t have to follow a dr supervised diet at all, I didn’t have to follow an exercise regimen, nor did I have to take a gazillion other tests. My nurse practitioner recommended it, referred me to a surgeon, I took the psych test and passed it, and they were ready to do the surgery within a month of my referral (and this was at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, mind you). The only question they asked me was what diets had I been on in the past, but they didn’t ask for proof of any of them. I had used diet pills (speed given me by a doctor), I done Atkins, and I had done phen-fen (prescribed by the nurse practitioner that recommended the WLS). Medicaid paid for it, so it wasn’t even as big a money-maker for them as it would have been if private insurance had paid for it (I was on SSI at the time). I wasn’t “desperate” to lose weight, all I wanted was some relief from the pain of arthritis in my knee and was told that no orthopedic surgeon would even consider a knee replacement at my then-weight of 350 lbs. And the NP was just positive it was my weight causing the pain and that my arthritis would go away if I lost weight (in spite of the fact that I’d had the arthritis for 10 years at the time, and arthritis runs on both sides of my family).
    WLS is not an easy way out, but I can guarantee you that I would have been MUCH better off not having had it (I lost 70 lbs and gained 110 when it failed, as they usually do, which people are just now learning happens more often than not unless you are willing to starve for the rest of your life and deal with malnutrition and all the other horrid side effects). I’m not willing to do that, so I’ll stay fat and healthy and not go in for a revision of my WLS, I don’t care how many doctors think it’s a good idea. They can all kiss my fat ass.

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