Addiction transference: It’s not the food. It’s the issues behind the food.

1-800-GET-THIN Billboard. Image source: http://thecurvynerd.com

Last week, I caught a local (southern California) morning TV news story about a forty-something woman who had gotten the lap-band weight loss surgery. She thought that getting thin would make her happy. She believed their marketing slogan, “Let your new life begin. Call 1-800-GET-THIN!” She lost over 100 pounds, but found herself as unhappy as she was when she was heavy and became addicted to meth. What? That’s crazy!  Maybe not. The commentator said it was an issue of “addiction transference.”

Addiction transference? Interesting. The news piece stuck in my head for several days. Whether a person loses weight because of surgery or via diet and exercise, it’s the same cautionary tale:

  • Being thin isn’t going to magically make you happy and solve all your problems.
  • Discarding the fat suit doesn’t magically transform you into a completely new person.
  • You can’t run away from yourself by changing your appearance.
  • All the crap inside you that made you fat in the first place? It’ll still be there when you’re thin if you don’t deal with it.

I scoured the TV station’s website to find a link to the story to share, to no avail. I did find an extremely interesting article on the lap-band website: Addiction Transference and Lap-Band Surgery:  It’s easy to trade another addiction for your food addiction.

I had two observations after reading the article.

  1. I was glad that the company acknowledged that addiction transference is a possible issue for their patients. Hopefully they make the patient aware of it ahead of time and take proactive steps to prepare for it.
  2. I was annoyed that the article emphasized the physiological reasons for addiction rather than the emotional ones. Here are a couple of examples.

“The first theory that has been initially proposed is the idea that patients develop addiction transference in order to fill the “void” that is no longer there because of their treated obesity. However, as more research begins to take shape scientists and psychologists alike have found support for the theory that the major addictive pathway in the brain that is responsible for alcohol and cocaine dependency is also responsible for obesity problems… In addition, researchers have suggested that obesity essentially acts as a cover or type of prevention for other major addictions such as those to alcohol, gambling, or even cocaine.”

“Treating obesity through a weight loss surgery does not necessarily mean that one would experience a compulsive disorder or other type of addiction. It simply means that obesity surgeries essentially uncover another type of problem that may be going on in the brain, such as an abnormal level of dopamine that has been found in those patients that do develop addiction transference.”

The article made addiction transference sound rare. According to the site, “the American Society for Bariatric Surgery estimates that only about 5% of individuals develop this problem. On the other hand, U.S. Bariatric, a major weight loss surgery center in Florida, puts the number at 20% or above.”

Consider the source: I’m reading an article provided by the providers of lap-band surgery. Of course they’re going to want to blame addiction on something physical in your brain. God forbid they should hold a person accountable for their emotional issues and choices. That’s not what they’re selling.

To be fair, I must add that the article concludes by saying that if someone is at risk, the patient should seek extensive counseling and possible medication to treat addiction transference.

While writing this post, I was playing Words with Friends on Facebook with my husband. This ad popped up. It makes Jennifer Hudson sound so healthy emotionally, like she is comfortable in her body, no matter what size she is. I hope it is true for her!

When I started my weight loss journey, I considered lap-band surgery for about two seconds. I know it’s helped a lot of people, but there’s just something about it that bothers me. I know I need to fundamentally change myself inside and that can’t be achieved by having a superficial surgical procedure. I know I need to change my habits, deeply ingrained in me for over forty years and it feels like cheating to take the short cut. I know it won’t solve the real problems of why I got fat in the first place. There is no quick fix for that. No way.

So I press on… 🙂

P.S. And let’s not forget that one “side effect” of lap-band surgery is Death. There’s that. In looking for a photo for this post, I found Curvy Nerd‘s: In the News: 1-800-Get-Thin woman dies after lap band surgery. Her concluding statement was startling, but true:

“This is what we do to people — they are willing to risk death in order to be ‘skinny.'”

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A happy indication of true change.

Scrabble with my Dad and sisters. Note the absence of junk food on the table. 🙂

Hello blog buddies. It has been about three weeks since my last post. Sounds like I’m making a confession! Rest assured, the absence of blog posts does not indicate a lack in my commitment to keep pressing forward on this journey.

Sick no more
Like most of you, life is just crazy busy. I had a third bout of the cold/flu after writing my last post. I finally went to the doctor when my throat hurt so bad I couldn’t swallow. My eyes turned pink and a bunch of gunky nasty stuff started oozing out. Sorry to be gross, but it seriously freaked me out. Went to the doc the next day and he prescribed eye drops and a five day course of antibiotics. He advised OTC pain meds for my throat such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Who’da thunk you need pain meds for a silly cold (other than for sinus headache, which I didn’t have)? He said the virus was causing the nastiness in my eyes. About a day later, my eyes cleared. About three days later, I was feeling pretty groovy. Now I’m back to 100% health. Oh, it feels good to feel good.

A happy indication of true change in traditional family eating habits
I visited my family in Oregon last weekend. It was a surprise trip – my sister “R” needed some help on an important project: Her mother-in-law passed away in early December, and her husband requested my graphic design skills to help put a memorial slideshow together. She and her husband’s family flew me the thousand miles up north to finalize the project for the memorial gathering that took place yesterday. (R let me know that everyone loved the show. It’s such a great feeling to help a family in this way as they both grieve the loss and celebrate the life of their Mom.)

My thinking, headed up to Oregon, is – don’t worry about the diet this weekend. I’ll be with family. We like to eat when we all get together; all moderation is usually thrown out the window. We like our popcorn, M&M’s, red and black licorice, chocolate, etc.

R and I stayed at our sister T’s house to work on the project; our fourth sister wasn’t able to join us. T and her husband are very conscious about taking care of themselves, so there was no junk food in the house. R started Weight Watchers a couple months ago and she’s making fantastic progress; she’s dropped over 20 lbs. She’s got me seriously considering changing from Lindora to WW. I’m ready for lots more variety and choices so I can stay in this for the long haul.

Perhaps it was because we were so busy all weekend on this project. Perhaps it was the fact that we are all actively working on losing or maintaining our weight. But we did not pig out once. We ate our protein bars when we got hungry between meals. It was funny when we each pulled out our favorite bars and compared labels. T pulled out her nut and dried fruit snacks. She also made us fresh carrot and apple juice using the juice machine that she gave her husband for Christmas. Sweet ambrosia!

SodaStream® Fizz Home Soda Maker. Photo from Brookstone.com

T had also recently purchased a soda maker as she and her husband really like sparkling water. She made us a drink and added just a bit of berry flavoring. It was about 40 calories for 8 oz. So good – it reminded me of those New York Seltzers or Crystal Geysers my Mom used to buy back in the 80s and 90s. T got it at BevMo for about $100. The only maintenance cost is the carbonation canister — it’s about $30 to replace. It comes with four large bottles that maintain carbonation for about four days. She keeps the canisters in the fridge full of water so that when she makes the soda, it’s already cold. I love diet soda. I want one! No cans or bottles to recycle. No lugging sodas from the grocery store to car to house. Less clutter and better for the environment. It’s on my wish list. 🙂

We spent an evening with our Dad and brother playing Scrabble, our traditional family favorite, after eating T’s homemade chili with Ritz crackers. We went to church with Dad the next day, then went out for lunch. T and I split a garden omelet plate at IHOP. That evening for dinner, R and I split a chicken dinner plate. In both cases, splitting provided plenty of food and we were each satisfied but not stuffed.

Bottom line? My sisters and I have acquired much healthier eating habits. I was ready to toss it out the window temporarily for the weekend, but they broke the pattern. Getting together no longer equals a free-for-all when it comes to food. And our time together didn’t suffer; in fact, it was better than ever.

R and I finished the weekend at the airport waiting for my flight by enjoying Coffee People mochas and scones—for lunch. A perfect sweet end to a productive and bonding weekend.

As I flew home, I kept thinking about how good I felt… to have finished a major project, to have no regrets over the food I ate or the words I said, to have just enjoyed my sisters—as well as seeing my Dad and one of my brothers. It’s good to connect with the people you love. Must visit more often. 🙂