Q: My mother is well over 300lbs.  She’s a diabetic with hypertension and high cholesterol.  She’s considering lap band surgery, but I really think she should try to change her diet first.  Unfortunately, my dad is VERY stubborn and won’t try new foods or anything outside his comfort zone.  He offers no support to my mom and insists that if she makes a separate, healthy meal for herself that she still make him what he wants for dinner.  Now that my mom has lost her job and can’t contribute to household funds like before, she is limited in her purchasing capacity because “it’s not her money.”  I really worry about my mom’s health, but I don’t want to cause her more stress.  Should I just help her find a good surgeon to perform the lap-band?

I feel like…. I shouldn’t be answering this question. Obviously, people are going to do what works best for them and oooooobviously people only ask me questions just to get my opinion on things, but wow, here.

Although I’m rolling my eyes – hard – at your Dad… I sort of understand. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t see the immediate need to change their life to accept changes that “don’t benefit them.” Not saying that that’s the right (or selfless) way to look at it, but I do believe that’s how he looks at it. It’s a really rough situation, but there are a few hard truths that have to be realized, here.

For starters, I don’t understand why weight loss procedures are considered some great, grand solution to every obesity-related illness, especially when the only thing the surgery immediately solves is the “obese” issue – you lose the weight. You’ll still have the hypertension, you’ll still have the high cholesterol and you’ll still have the diabetes to contend with. It is not a cure all.

In fact, I can recall a conversation I had with an MD a while back regarding surgeries… because I feel some kinda way about how they are peddled as being The End All Be All To Curing The Real Health Woes In America. Her words to me were, “Surgeries aren’t intended to be a cure-all, they’re meant to aid the people who are genuinely unable to function because of the weight they’ve put on, or the people who actually need to quickly lose weight so that we can go in and perform other procedures. If there’s too much fat for us to go in and do what we need to do, then a procedure will be recommended for weight loss first… then the other procedures come afterwards.”

So, let’s be realistic – even if she does have the lap-band (and only y’all can decide whether or not that’s for you), she will still have to adjust her eating lifestyle. Why? Because that eating lifestyle not only allowed her to develop that weight gain and those health problems… but it also allowed her to maintain those problems. Her losing the weight and continuing on the lifestyle only ensures that her health problems will be furthered… and she might even gain the weight back.

Having said all of that, I can’t tell whether or not 300lbs is killing your mother (because 300lbs at six feet tall looks and feels wayyy different from 300lbs at five feet tall) and I certainly wouldn’t weigh in on whether or not she should have the surgery. What I will say, is this…

The reality of all of this is the following: Dad thinks that healthy food consists of rice cakes and dry chicken breasts, and outright refuses to go that route, right? I’m almost positive that’s what this is. Like, without a doubt that’s what this is.

The biggest problem with the idea of “healthy living” is that all us healthy eaters eat all day is nuts and berries.

Sorry – while I get in my fair share of cashews and cranberries, I can assure you: I’m not the one. I love my fruits, my leafy greens and my rices the same way I love my dark chocolate truffles. I also understand how to balance the two so that I can preserve my health.

I find it hard to believe that both Mom and Dad are eating the same foods, but only one is experiencing the problems… that being said, if the food that’s served for the meals each day is cleaned up, both will definitely enjoy the benefits.I don’t think it’s ideal – at all – for her to cook one meal for herself and another meal (one consisting of food she loves) for everyone else. The goal, really, has to be cleaning up all the food within the house. Having it in the house pretty much ensures she’s going to eat it regardless of what healthy meals she cooks for herself.

She’s going to have to do some digging. She’s going to have to find some absolutely delicious recipes that don’t use processed ingredients, don’t use much sugar per meal and keep the animal by-products to a minimum. This is not hard. It means that she’s going to have to sneak and collect some good herbs (the basics – oregano, terragon, basil, rosemary and thyme are great common starters), start sneaking and switching for more quality ingredients (getting better-grown meats will help cut the unnecessary fat and more proper portion sizes will help with cholesterol), and cooking more often… much more often.

She’ll have to sneak and add more veggies to recipes and scale back on the meat. She’ll have to get more creative with the recipes (or be very resourceful and find a website that shares lots of healthy recipes) and be sure to cook every day so that he never has the chance to complain. If the food’s already done, all he’s going to want to do is sit down and enjoy it. Keep it simple, but keep it delicious.

I find that once people realize that there is such a thing as delicious healthy food, they’re willing to convert. You just have to get them over that “healthy food is dry, bland, miserly and disgusting” hump, first. I think that’s the best way to get Dad to invest in the healthy conversion of the household.

In the end… the reality is that no matter whether or not she has the procedure, she’s still going to have to address how she deals with food and how she nourishes herself… and once she does that, her weight will begin to fall off. If she really believes in and resolves to support her own life changes, then she might realize that she can lose the weight without the procedure, and deem it too invasive especially when she’ll still have to do the heavy lifting after the procedure. It’s all up to personal preference, but the lap-band won’t deal with the big issues. She’ll still have to deal with those on her own. Talk to her, let her know your thoughts, and then be her support system and help her make the proper plans to get where she needs to go… just let her know that it’s a long and hard road ahead, and you’ll be there to help her with your map. 🙂