Thu, Aug

Encased in Fat Nearly All My Life I Say No to Lap Bands for Teens … Here’s Why

HEALTH POLITICS - Rotund, unhappy, and driving my parents to deep vexation due to my weight,  my mom and dad dragged me to the doctor at age 11 begging him to save me from the fat curse and to lure me into dropping the pounds.

Appetite suppressant pills and months later, the doctor grew frustrated when I hadn’t lost an inch. He grilled me: “Do you want your parents to be sad? Do you want them to keep wasting their money when you visit me? Take this seriously.”

After that, I did.

I reduced my food intake dramatically to something like 1,000 calories a day. I  cleaned house for exercise and within probably six months, dropped fifty pounds. My parents were thrilled. My doctor ecstatic. I felt great – and boys noticed me for the first time in my life.

Thrilling. But within the year, the weight, plus some extra, jumped back on me like a rolling blanket of fleas. Now, instead of being 50 pounds overweight I was 60.

Haunted by what I call “the fat curse” – which became the story of my life -- I yo-yoed back and forth, losing, gaining. Losing. Gaining. Trying every diet conceivable and every alleged “weight loss cure” known to man – and more likely – women, nothing worked for much more than a year.

Getting it off always was the easy part of the equation; keeping it off was the trouble. Like the common cold, there still is no cure – even with all our new-found technology.

In my case, misery prevailed when I refused to wear shorts, bathing suits, go to reunions, discovered I might be too fat to ride horses -- and continued living with the stress of being a size 7 one day, and a size 18 a year later.

This is exactly where I fear the Lap-Band  will take -- and leave our youth.  

The Lap-Band is not the answer for our teens despite children’s obesity rising radically across America, so much so that it seems it’s in the news every week.  I know we are all seeking a solution for the thousands of us --- teenagers and adults alike -- who live with this agony.

But truly, I don’t see the Lap-band, which Allergen Inc. has taken to the FDA as a possibility for teens as young as 14, as much different than those appetite suppressant pills and 1,000 calories a day, because that’s in fact what it will do to a kid.

It provides them with a way to eat less without using much brainpower – and in fact is likely to steam up that ever-ready roller-coaster slipping insidiously toward the fat curse. If the teen has the desire to ever take the band out or it comes with too many complications for their system, I’m betting that teen will break out in rolls of fat once they quit using it.

Simply put, the Lap-Band surgery inserts a silicone ring that fits around the stomach basically reducing the appetite. The good news is it can be adjusted if that fat starts creeping back to decrease the food intake. The bad news is it can slip, become infected and a myriad of other troubles.

More importantly, we have to remember that teen’s bodies are growing by leaps and bounds and are changing daily. This is a terrible time to give them surgery when exercise and not diet – but eating right – can get the same results.

Exercise for kids remains a huge key to the kingdom for dropping fat, so I don’t care if a kid does Zumba Fitness, swims, surfs,  bowls, leaps up and catches eggs flying in the air, plays tennis, skateboards, roller blades or makes up their own peculiar form of exercise.

This will make major changes in their lives, combat depression which often accompanies those who are overweight, and remains a much better solution than restrictive diets, which is basically what the Lap-Band does.

The reason I believe we see thousands of people like me walking around – losing, gaining, and losing and gaining again – bloating up like big distended balloons -- stems from recent theories that fat cells multiple. I believe this, because once a person reduces food intake, there’s not much chance for many to return to eating normally again.

That signals, for many us, an automatic weight gain.

This alone makes me uncomfortable about the use of Lap-Bands  for teenagers who may jut upward a couple more feet, drop weight naturally as they take on more exercise or have possible medical conditions.  For instance, my son had excess weight despite his frazzled activities and his drive to play sports, all sports, all the time.

One thorough allergist encouraged me to have his thyroid checked since thyroid issues ran in the family. When we did, it turned out Ryan, at age 11, had no thyroid, a huge regulator of weight and growth. Once on thyroid medication, he immediately began  shedding the pounds.

My friend, Kim Kromas, a chiropractor/nutritionist in San Pedro, calls the Lap-Band for teens alarming.

“The thought of the FDA approving lap surgery for children is frightening,” Kromas said. “Without addressing the psychological components of obesity, Lap-band surgery is just another band aid. Our children do not need band aids. They need education and guidance in food and exercise choices.

This will increase their knowledge and self-confidence and teach them that the goals are worth working for.

“Teenager’s bodies are still working towards equilibrium,” she added. “Any surgery to disrupt the function of the body is adding a weakness to their body—and mind – for the future. Teach children how to eat properly. Educate them on the importance of daily exercise. This will breed self-confidence. That is the way to raise healthy children.”

Meanwhile, it is true, thousands of adults have had success with Lap-Band.

While my friend did it, loved the weight loss and feels much better about herself, she warned, there are issues. Sometimes, she gags on food and feels like vomiting. She’s suffers hair loss. Other times, she barely wants to eat so she just drinks water or juices. And of course, not everyone can stand to live with such a device in their stomachs.

But let’s be realistic with children. Caution should – and must – prevail when it comes to kids.

Before we go jumping into Lap-band for teens, we must explore the fact that the FDA approved this in 2001 for adults with severe weight problems and by 2007, we are into the third generation of “adult” Lap-Band users, according to a Lap-Band site.

But we also now know there are troubles, as there are with all surgeries, infections, slippage of the device and possibly the band shifting through the stomach’s wall – and in some extremely rare cases, death.

This is not what we want for teens. I’d much rather see what former Los Angeles School Board member Mike Lansing did for students who maybe don’t like running, or traditional (often boring) forms of exercise in schools that in reality some students just can’t do.

He installed three brand new state-of-the-art gyms at three different middle schools so students could discover other ways to fight obesity and get in shape, from pumping spin bikes, to using resistance bands and medicine balls – a form of exercise most students will never see until they become adults and join private gyms.

As far as the Lap-Band, let teenagers wait until they are adults to make that choice and have had the chance to physically change their bodies – while they are young and still have the chance to do so.

(Diana Chapman is a CityWatch contributor and has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can reach her at:    [email protected] or her website: theunderdogforkids.blogspot.com) –cw

Tags: obese, grossly obese, lap bands, lap bands for teens, teens, obese teens, diet, surgery, Zumba Fitness, LAUSD, School Board

Vol 9 Issue 61
Pub: Aug 2, 2011