Tag Archives: weight loss surgery

FDA Approves New (Torture?) Device for Fatties

I guess I should have seen it coming.  We’ve seen forks that talk to you and bracelets that shock you for eating too much.  We’ve seen painful patches you sew on your tongue, balloons you blow up in your guts and dramatic rerouting of your internal plumbing and drugs that cause high blood pressure, irreversible heart damage and death all in the name of weight loss.

Today, the FDA approved a new implanted electronic device for helping fatties lose weight.  Now, we don’t know that this product will fail as so many have before it.  It’s possible that this will be the miracle all the fat-hating world has been seeking.  But I have to say, I has a concerned.

Concerned kitteh is concerned.

First of all, let’s talk about the device.  According to the FDA News Release:

The Maestro Rechargeable System consists of a rechargeable electrical pulse generator, wire leads and electrodes implanted surgically into the abdomen. It works by sending intermittent electrical pulses to the trunks in the abdominal vagus nerve, which is involved in regulating stomach emptying and signaling to the brain that the stomach feels empty or full. Although it is known that the electric stimulation blocks nerve activity between the brain and the stomach, the specific mechanisms for weight loss due to use of the device are unknown.

Okay, first off, this abdominal lobotomy machine somehow uses electricity to block nerve activity between the brain and the stomach.  Is anybody else even a tiny bit uncomfortable about this?  I mean isn’t that connection between your mind and the fuel tank of your body kind of important?  What about cravings for things our bodies need?  We just do away with all of those?  Personally, I think that the link between my stomach is kind of important.

And then we get to the part that says, “the specific mechanisms for weight loss due to use of the device are unknown.”  Um, okay.  So somehow disrupting a key process of your body makes you lose weight, but we aren’t sure why.  It could be that you get the feeling of being full sooner.  It  could be that the tiny device is receiving signals from aliens from another star system that, frustrated with efforts to starve the human race by planting celebrity “fat shots” into the National Enquirer, have turned to more direct methods.  (It does stimulate the “Vagus Nerve” after all.)

It’s how the MIB know what’s what…

Now let’s talk about efficacy.  You know, whether or not it works.  The FDA approved this device despite it’s failure to meet the primary endpoint.  What does this mean?  It means that the device using group would lose at  least 10 percent more excess weight than the control group.  But despite missing this important marker, the device was approved because AAARGH, DEATHFAT, PANIC!  Now let’s look at the statistics.

The release states that a clinical trial was conducted with a whopping 233 patients.  The group with the functional version of the device lost 8.5 percent more weight than those with the non-functional version of the device and kept it off for 18 months.   So far that’s as far out as they have studied.  Despite the fact that most weight loss products, programs and potions work for 18 months.  Despite the fact that virtually every other weight loss product, program, plan or potion starts to fail shortly after that, leading to mass failure and frequently even higher weights within 5 years.

But that’s okay, because the FDA has rules, right.  The press release states:

As part of the approval, the manufacturer must conduct a five year post approval study that will follow at least 100 patients and collect additional safety and effectiveness data including weight loss, adverse events, surgical revisions and explants and changes in obesity-related conditions.

So the manufacturer (which has NO conflict of interest, right?) will conduct an ongoing study on less than half of the original patients to see if this thing works long term and/or causes more problems than it solves.  Uh huh.  In the mean time, the company that has created this thing faces unmitigated joy as their capital and stock prices rise.  By time we figure out that this thing is causing really big problems, or doesn’t work long term or is receiving signals from the Vega system, the guys that created this will be on their second yacht and summer home in Vail.  But that’s okay too, because AAARGH, DEATHFAT, OBESIPANIC!!!!!

I’m sighing deeply right now as I contemplate just how many more folks will sell their cows for this handful of magic beans, and how big and angry the giant will be, and who will be around to slay it.

Don’t mind me.  I’m going to do something I know will improve my health long term.  I’m just gonna shut off the computer and go for a walk.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear Jeanette speak at your organization about sensible, sustainable, and research-driven ways to improve your health?  Click here.

P.S.S. Wanna buy stuff that will help you start and stay exercising?  Click here.

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When the Fat Chick Sings…

Sad, but oh so true.

One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have a master’s degree in Opera Performance.  Yup, at one time, I was a budding opera singer.  But after I failed to land one of the 5 paid positions in America for opera performers but did land venture capital for a software company, I decided to put aside my operatic aspirations.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to jump in on the current kerfluffle regarding reviewers commenting on women who dare to sing while fat.

This all came to a head recently as a pile of reviews from a gang of privileged old white guys surfaced in London.  The reviewers skewered Irish mezzo Tara Erraught’s performance as Octavian in the Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier at the Glyndebourne Festival not because of her performing or even her singing, but rather how she looked in a dress–and pants (Octavian is a pants role after all).  Any of us who have had any kind of presence online ever might recognize some of this “troll tripe”:

“It’s hard to imagine this Octavian as this willowy woman’s plausible lover.”  The Guardian, Andrew Clements

“Unbelievable, and unappealing.” The Times of London, Richard Morrison

“a chubby bundle of puppy fat…” Financial Times,  Andrew Clark

These are not troll fodder screen captured in the comments section.  These are quotes taken from “professional music reviewers” in arguably respectable publications.  While one of the reviews mentions in passing that the role is “gloriously sung” most of them focus exclusively on this performer’s looks.  There is a lot of outrage over these reviews, which I share.  There is also a fair amount of surprise that this sort of language is being used to describe singers in one of the most glorious art forms on the planet.  Unfortunately surprise is something I cannot feel about that.

Irish mezzo soprano, Tara Erraught

As a chubby, budding coloratura soprano, I was told at both the undergraduate and graduate level that I would never have an opera career unless I lost weight.  Professors shared their tips for which Weight Watchers meetings I should attend along with my vocal and theater training.  Because even twenty years ago, when I was in college, we in the biz knew that fat female opera singers were enduring caricatures but not successful performers.  Some of us back then called it Kathleen Battle syndrome.  She wasn’t much of a singer.  She wasn’t bad, but she certainly was far from the best.  Working with her was an absolute nightmare.  But she made huge bank back then for two reasons–she knew how to build her fame by building scandal and keeping her name in the press and she looked great in a dress.

No matter how great your singing voice, fail to look great in a dress and you might get the axe.  I certainly remember singing sensation Deborah Voight’s triumphant review in the New York Times for her role in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss.  I also remember her getting fired by London’s Covent Garden because she “was not appropriate because of the costume that Ariadne was meant to wear in this production.”  In other words, Deborah did not look good in the dress that was selected for the role, therefore Covent Garden would need to select another singer.  Voight has since had weight loss surgery and is often heard “singing the praises” of this procedure.  Naturally since her weight loss, many believe she looks better in a dress. And actually the whole issue of her weight loss has helped to stay in the press–helping her meet both requirements of “Kathleen Battle syndrome”.  Naturally, her bookings have skyrocketed.

And the desire for our divas to be thin is hardly new.  Histrionic diva Maria Callas is well known for being stick thin.  And rumor has it that she resorted to many drastic measures–including swallowing tapeworms to maintain her tiny waist.  Gone are the days when a truly great soprano might hope to have a great dessert (Dame Nellie Melba) or a pasta dish (Luisa Tetrazzini) named after her.

Luisa Tetrazzini was the only soprano that Caruso felt could match him in tone and volume. Too bad she’d be fired today for failing to look desirable in a dress.

I think one of the things I find most appalling about the whole thing is the argument by some of these critics that fat, female opera singers just aren’t believable.  They imply that somehow we can get audiences to suspend their disbelief to the point that they accept:

A husband won’t recognize his wife at a party if she’s wearing a tiny mask over her eyes.  He can hold her hand, flirt with her for hours but not recognize her at all.

Men return from war, disguise themselves with hats and very fake mustaches, call themselves “Albanians” and their girlfriends have no clue it’s them.  In fact the girls fall for each other’s boyfriends and nobody is the wiser until the finale.

An angry dwarf steals a ring and the world ends.  Ends!

A man turns into a swan.

A man falls in love (for reals) with a mechanical doll.

We can accept all of this?  And we can accept that while these folks are doing these things they burst into song SOMETIMES FOR HOURS.  But somehow we can’t accept that a plus-sized gal can love or be loved or be sexy?  Or…

Are we dealing with an increasingly elitist art form that enforces male privilege and classism?  Are we creating spectacle purely to allow rich people to wear designer gowns and reenforce their position as arbiters of culture?  Are we proving yet again that even a woman who can sing for four hours in French and belt out high F’s night after night while wearing a corset and dancing in stiletto heels has no value unless she is also considered appropriately F#%$-able by aging frat boys?

I am deeply grateful that I had an opportunity to study and perform opera.  I still love singing very much.  And I still do, publicly, every week.  But thankfully, I no longer have to diet, wear a corset or worry about not being able to pay my heating bill because of how I look in a dress.  I am The Fat Chick.  And I have sung.  Therefore this blog post has come to an end.  See  you at the curtain call.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

Weight Loss Surgery, Colon Cancer and Some Other Considerations

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Recently I read about a new study that links increased risk for colon cancer with weight loss surgery.  I thought it was important to share this information with you, because it seems to me that information about the possible negative side effects of weight loss surgery is so often buried in the general media.  And I think the positive effects of weight loss surgery are often blown out of proportion in the media as well.

That’s not to say that I have any interest in telling you what to do with your body.  It’s YOURS.  You should do whatever you think is best.  However, with over 100,000 weight loss surgeries performed in the US annually, I know that weight loss surgery is big business, and therefore, there are large financial incentives for certain companies to suppress information about the potential unfortunate side effects from these surgeries.  So I’d like to provide a few links to some of information about weight loss surgery that is not supported by those who profit from it.  And hopefully I can help “balance the scales” a little bit.

To be clear, one of the potential side effects of this surgery is death.  To be sure, there is a risk of death from any surgery.  But there is growing concern that the risks of weight loss surgery are often underplayed and that the evidence often cited concerning the potential upside to weight loss surgery (including savings in medical costs and lives) is deeply flawed.  It is also really important to understand that weight loss surgery is not a miracle cure, and it isn’t always the patient’s fault when things go wrong.  It seems that weight loss surgery is often treated like other weight loss techniques in that success is usually attributed to the surgery and failure is usually blamed on the patient.  Thus many who have negative experiences with weight loss surgery are often shamed and ridiculed and even asked to leave public forums where they might share their stories.  That’s why I think it’s important to share this link to a site dedicated to those who wish to share their stories about complications arising from weight loss surgery.  I think people who are considering weight loss surgery are provided with plenty of links to people often still experiencing the “honeymoon glow” of the initial weight loss.  But I think if you are considering this important life-changing step, you should also have access to a few of the heartbreaking stories of those who have not had such a wonderful experience.

To reiterate.  I am not telling you that you should or should not have weight loss surgery.  It is your body and your decision.  Clearly some people feel that the surgery has had a positive effect in their life and there are plenty of places where you can read about that.  I know people who have had the surgery and are glad they did.  But I have also known and cared for people who have died from these procedures.  I know people who have had these procedures and didn’t feel they were told the truth about what to expect.  I know people who felt that the potential downside was significantly underplayed and wish that they were given more balanced information before they had the surgery.  I simply wish to provide a few links that will hopefully help provide that balance.

Love,

The Fat Chick

After Happily Ever After…

Watching this video really got me thinking.  It’s hilarious and awesome because it ties into something we all so desperately want to believe.  We want to believe in happily ever after.  We want to believe that once we achieve that one thing, after we reach perfection, then everything will always be okay from that point on forever, amen.  Right?  It starts with the whole princesses thing, and then for many of us, it becomes the whole weight thing.

I spent many years indulging in “happily thin ever after” thinking.  I believed that once I was thin, insanely rich and handsome men would swoop by in super yachts and pick me up and take me off to James Bond-style vacations (without the sorta violent parts) in exotic places.  I dreamed that academy award-winning directors, stunned by my new svelte beauty, would discover me in a local Starbucks and offer me a three picture deal. But mostly I dreamed that I wouldn’t feel self-conscious any more, I would always feel fabulous about how I looked and that I would then have the courage to do anything I needed to achieve my dreams.

And then for a while, I got thin.  And you know what?  Absolutely none of the stuff that I believed in my happily ever after fantasy came true.  None of it.  No yachts. Not even a canoe.  No vacations to exotic places–violent or otherwise.  No three-picture deal.  (Although I did get a latte…)  And I still felt self-conscious, and unhappy about my looks and fearful and all of that stuff.  I still wasn’t equipped to do everything I needed to achieve my dreams.  I still felt miserable a lot of the time.  And I thought, “What a rip off!” I was pretty annoyed that the whole getting thin thing was not as advertised.  I mean I was averaging 700-800 calories per day.  My hair was falling out.  My digestive system was no longer working properly.  I was no longer menstruating.  I was exercising 2+ hours per day.  And you know what, I was THIN.  But the awesomeness I expected, just didn’t happen.  I did have more places to shop for clothes but not more money to use for that purpose.  I did have less trouble dealing with doctors, relatives and complete strangers who no longer felt it necessary to have “concerned conversations” with me about my weight.  And for a while, I got a ton of positive attention from friends and family.  And then it became like no big deal.  I didn’t get positive attention any more.  I got tired of feeling sick and tired all the time.  And I just wanted to EAT!  After over 12 months of this crazy regimen, my metabolism tanked to the point that I was gaining weight at 1,000 calories per day.  So not surprisingly, I gained it all back and then some.

Society promises us that when we are thin, our lives will be perfect and exciting beyond our wildest imagination.  Many of us who experience becoming thin (temporarily or otherwise) find ourselves totally unprepared for finding out the truth about being thin.  The truth being that most of our problems are still with us, and our wildest imaginations go a long, long way beyond the lives that we experience as thin people.  I was so moved when I read this account of a woman who had lost a lot of weight after weight loss surgery.  Not surprisingly, she experienced an intense letdown when she realized the wonderful, perfect life she was promised in the doctor’s office never really materialized.  And she was also completely unprepared for the loss of her sense of identity and her sense of self that can come with such a dramatic change in the shape of your body.

I am sure there are those out there who are eager to tell me that it is our fault we don’t experience the perfection that comes with weight loss.  We weren’t thin long enough.  We didn’t get thin the right way.  We didn’t use the right products or achieve the correct level of enlightenment.  But you know what?  I don’t think there is any magic bullet that makes life perfect.  I don’t believe that there is a moment after which you live happily ever after.  I like to believe I’ve reached a moment after which I have a reasonably good chance of being happy a lot of the time.  I like to believe that I’ve reached a stage where I feel reasonably content in my body and am equipped to make the best of what life has to throw at me.  But happily ever after is a fantasy I’ve happily learned to outgrow.

Love,

The Fat Chick