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.