Home Health and Health Care From Bypass To Bulimia?

From Bypass To Bulimia?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Sent in by Kimberlee, this was posted on BlissTree:

Last week, a young woman who underwent gastric bypass surgery came about as having now suffering from anorexia nervosa, and we now know she’s not the only one. Chevese Turner, a 43-year-old woman from Maryland, has also come forward with a post-op eating disorder, crediting her gastric bypass surgery for her bulimia. She says the surgery didn’t teach her proper eating habits, and she continued to gorge on food, but the small size of her stomach forced her to purge and vomit. This is getting serious, folks. There is too much hype surrounding the “no diet, no exercise” weight loss methods, and you don’t want to pay for you tiny waist with your life.

Just because the surgery is accessible to you, doesn’t mean you should do it. Dr. Lauren Grunebaum, a psychotherapist specialized in treating individuals and families with eating disorders, agrees. “The surgery merely put a band-aid on the problem,” she says.

“These women used unhealthy eating to deal with emotional problems prior to their surgery,” she explains. “Simply having the surgery to shrink their stomachs did nothing to help them find healthier coping mechanisms.”

Your health should be your number one concern when considering any form of weight loss. Yes, people are motivated to lose weight based on the way they look, that’s probably not going to change. But will you like the way you look when your hair falls out, your liver and kidneys go into failure, and you’re strapped to a hospital bed, being force-fed carrot mush through tubes shoved up your nostrils?

This is serious business, my friends. Women are dying every day from eating disorders, and now it seems the very surgery that is promoted to stop an unhealthy eating lifestyle is causing it instead. Surgery is dangerous and it’s not sustainable.

This is what Turner had to say to ABC News:

“I had always struggled with binge eating, and my relationships with food didn’t change just because of the lap band. Even though binging is really painful when your stomach is restricted like that, I would still binge knowing that I would throw it up. I felt like finally I could be bulimic, like this was what I wanted all along.”

This is scary, and no one should have to suffer through this, especially since this is preventable. If we were more willing to encourage the hard (but sustainable) practices of proper nutrition and exercise, as opposed to quick (but painful) fixes of surgery, maybe we could finally get the obesity epidemic, and the eating disorder epidemic, under control.

Dr. Grunebaum adds, “Unless an individual deals with the underlying issues that led to the unhealthy eating/starving, she will go right back to them in one form or another.”

I’m hoping more women out there will heed this call and seriously reflect on what kind of life they want to live. And paramount to that, how long they want to live that life. Because while nutrition and exercise will add years to your life, surgery could all-too easily take it away.

Now, I don’t particularly care for the preachy end of the post, but I do think it’s an interesting situation. Weight loss surgery resulting in the development of an eating disorder?


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Eliza08 June 16, 2011 - 9:55 AM

I had the lap band surgery 2 years ago and I, too, developed an eating disorder. I spent the first year overeating and “spitting up.” I said/did everything this woman describes. And, just like the doctor acknowledges, I wasn’t addressing my emotional connection with food.

I continued to lose weight but it all caught up with me–as it will for this woman. A year after the surgery, I had two slips (when the band slips over the stomach onto the esophagus). I couldn’t eat or drink and would choke at night on my own spit. I had to have all the fill removed and start over with the band (no fill = no restriction). If I had one more slip, I’d have to have surgery again.

Something clicked then and I realized if I was going to have this band, I was going to use it right. Or, I’d be paying for and going through the surgery again. I have a small amount of fill now (just enough to make me uncomfortable if I eat too much but I can eat “normal-sized” portions), but I’ve changed everything. I wouldn’t have gotten to this “place” had I not had the surgery–it gave me much more confidence to tackle my issues. The band isn’t ideal for everyone, but for some it can be a resource to help establish healthy eating habits. This has been and is ultimately the purpose/goal of the band.

Still, the band isn’t effective in the long run if patients aren’t willing to put in the work and address their issues (which explains why research is showing higher failure rates of gastric surgery in long-term studies).

Felicia January 7, 2013 - 1:52 AM

I had the lapband in 2009. I had a slip and that won’t ever happen again. Even tho you go thru a psych evail as part of the pre surgery process you have to stay active in a support group you physically go to. You have to see your Dr if you have issues.. weight loss is (to me) all about from the neck up..if your mind is not set then you will have issues…we have to eat to live so it isn’t something like smoking or drinking where you can stop and never look back. You have to be committed and know this is a TOOL..NOT a miracle. Gastric bypass to me is very dangerous bc it is irreversible..at least the lapband can be deflated or take out. I will pray for this woman bc she needs some major support for her underlying issues..

Sarah June 16, 2011 - 9:57 AM

Based on Turner’s quote above, she already had these desires and tendencies to binge and purge. Having the surgery just made it much, much easier for her to fully act on them.

For me, the gastric band/bypass surgery is just a tool, and, like any other tool, how it’s used (or abused) depends upon the personality and intentions of the person.

So, I wouldn’t say that the surgery directly caused the disorder, but just made it easier to fully develop.

ADubs June 16, 2011 - 10:07 AM

WLS is neither a band aid nor a cure. It is a TOOL. I had WLS 9 years ago and it helped me to lose 100 pounds. Unfortunately I was also in the midst of a divorce, took to liquid calories in the form of chocolate martinis and abused the surgery rather than using it. Whether you are on Weight Watchers, Atkins, WLS or any other weight loss journey you must ensure that your mind is right.
I regained half of my weight loss but as I near 40 I am healthier (emotionally & physically) in my life, I have learned to EDUCATE myself, be ACTIVE and take RESPONSIBILITY for my life choices. These three goals have allowed me to begin losing the weight and cope when I gain, plateau or don’t reach my targets on time.

Kirsten June 16, 2011 - 10:41 AM

This doesn’t surprise me at all. Since I’ve begun the 12-steps, I can see how surgery doesn’t fix compulsive overeating/binging or any other eating disorder. I see friends and family get the surgery and it’s like their “disease” becomes even more rampant.

My cousin got the surgery in 2009, she dropped 100 pounds but was drinking coffee all day in order to lose weight after the pounds slowed down. It was frightening to think how nutritionally poor her diet was. Her hair started to fall out, Yet, she was 200 pounds–literally starving herself.

The quick fix to weightloss gives people a false sense of reality. Commitment to health and wellbeing, is not an overnight fix, and it takes something that I have to continually work on: loving myself enough to take care of myself.

malpha June 16, 2011 - 11:24 AM

IA about the lady already having those problems. She says that she was eating the same as before because she didn’t know how to eat healthly, only now her body can no longer contain it. So the disordered eating was already there…but we don’t call it an eating disorder unless you’re purging or not eating, not if you’re eating more than you should. Not that I think we should start, but it makes it more sensational when these things happen.

703black June 16, 2011 - 12:15 PM

“For me, the gastric band/bypass surgery is just a tool, and, like any other tool, how it’s used (or abused) depends upon the personality and intentions of the person.

So, I wouldn’t say that the surgery directly caused the disorder, but just made it easier to fully develop.”

I am in agreement, it’s not fair to put everybody in a box and assume that because you have weight loss surgery you’re going to have an eating disorder. I’ve had weight loss surgery (the band), I’m fine. I still breathe, I still eat, I’m on track with my WL, I hate coffee, I don’t smoke, drink occasionally. Still have the same issues with food, still want it but working through it. Don’t binge, haven’t thrown up as of yet!! The band (or your smaller stomach) isn’t Professor X, it doesn’t persuade you do what you’re supposed to do. It’s baby steps and it’ll help if you allow it to.

Is this like bash WLS month!!? You seem to be putting it down. How about if a person chooses a particular method (WLS, cabbage diet, master cleanse, extreme exercising yada yada, etc) and it works for them, you’re happy for them!! And if there having issues, whether with surgery or not, you pray they reach the success that they want however they want. Hmm, that doesn’t seem so hard. I don’t know, just a thought!

I mean, I’m very happy for your success and even view your site for food write what’d you like. take care.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 16, 2011 - 12:18 PM

No disrespect, but please. I’ve written time and time again that I don’t have any quarrels with people who choose weight loss surgery. If you want to make it look or sound like I do, then that says far more about you than it ever could about me.

703black June 16, 2011 - 1:47 PM

I’m sorry, I’m not following. It appears that way with this post and with the other about your family member, who btw I hope achieves what ever weight loss or health goals she has set for herself. As far as me, I’m just kinda side eye, blank stare, blink. Aren’t we all working towards the same goal?

Is my post telling you that I like reading and long walks on the beach? Wow, that’s neato! I haven’t read your blog long so no, I don’t know much about you. But it’s cute and has nice recipes ideas and tips and stuff. I was just taken aback by the post pattern.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 16, 2011 - 2:00 PM

You “haven’t read my blog long,” but you assume that it’s “bash weight loss surgery month” because of two posts you’ve seen?

Your side eye, blank stare and blink are rather appropriate in this situation. Your sarcasm is not.

My advice to you is to do more reading of the 800+ posts on this blog before you determine what I “bash” around here… ESPECIALLY in regards to what I’ve already addressed.

Crissle June 16, 2011 - 3:58 PM

“How about if a person chooses a particular method (WLS, cabbage diet, master cleanse, extreme exercising yada yada, etc) and it works for them, you’re happy for them!!”

This line of thinking goes totally against the purpose of this blog, which is weight loss centered around clean, healthy eating and an active lifestyle. With that in mind, why would Erika (or any other regular reader) encourage dangerous diets and/or surgery?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 16, 2011 - 4:01 PM

I didn’t even get on that ludicrous cabbage diet, master cleanse business she brought up here. I’m not even going to conflate those with surgery. She’s trippin’.

Abenadiva June 16, 2011 - 1:08 PM

I had gastric bypass last year. Its not the easy way like some allude to. I have not developed any disorders and I am a textbook success story so far. I’m enjoying the renewed energy that weight loss brings and I didn’t experience any pain 2 days out of surgery. I struggled with weight all of my life, this has been a tool to help me stack the deck in my favor! I’m very happy with my results so far.

ADubs June 16, 2011 - 1:56 PM

#SayItAgain Sis! I thank God for all the energy I now have to coach my daughter’s lacrosse team, to go to the gym with confidence and just to be able to LIVE! I don’t believe Erika is intentionally bashing WLS but a lot of people do think it’s an easy out (NOT) and a lot of WLS patients get defensive.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 16, 2011 - 2:04 PM

Erika’s not bashing the procedure at all, specifically since I said I didn’t care for the preachy tone of the article I quoted.

ADubs June 16, 2011 - 2:39 PM

You are correct. You actually didn’t contribute anything other than saying the article was preachy and asked for our opinions. But since you posted this I feel you accept at least a small amount of culpability for the reader response; in fact you asked for it. As someone with vested interest in WLS I am very interested in the various views on it and I see healthy debate about it. This is clearly an emotional topic and as a professional blogger I’m sure you understand that not every response will be as articulate or eloquent as yours.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 16, 2011 - 2:45 PM

I accept culpability in what people say?

Do you see the quality and content of the comments listed here?

Where do you see bashing?

You know what? Never mind.

ADubs June 16, 2011 - 3:48 PM

Bash: to attack physically or verbally; Severe criticism; “If we were more willing to encourage the hard (but sustainable) practices of proper nutrition and exercise, as opposed to quick (but painful) fixes of surgery”;
“This is getting serious, folks. There is too much hype surrounding the “no diet, no exercise” weight loss methods…”; “But will you like the way you look when your hair falls out, your liver and kidneys go into failure, and you’re strapped to a hospital bed, being force-fed carrot mush through tubes shoved up your nostrils?”
To someone who has “survived” this surgery and is healthier than before having it, these quotes look like bashing. I do see the quality and content of the posts but it’s not all negative and I think your articles are beneficial to a multitude of personalities. I don’t agree with everything you post but I’m still here and still reading and still enjoying.
I’m glad that you are equally passionate about what you write, post and your readers’ responses and I thank you for taking time to write back and dialogue with us!

Erika Nicole Kendall June 16, 2011 - 4:11 PM

Let’s try this again.

Your comment said this: “You actually didn’t contribute anything other than saying the article was preachy and asked for our opinions. But since you posted this I feel you accept at least a small amount of culpability for the reader response; in fact you asked for it.”

Are you trying to chide me about the “reader response” or the article itself? One, I take responsibility for. The other, I do not.

Are you complaining about the fact that I posted the article? Please. Hell, I posted “the Psychology Today article” IN ITS ENTIRETY. WITHOUT debunking it. Does that mean I agree with it?

If all this boils down to is the fact that you feel some kind of way about the content of the article posted here, then challenge THAT: the content of the article. You have the SAME opportunity to critique the content of that post as EVERYONE ELSE. No one has been censored, here. Don’t tell me that I’m BASHING ANYTHING when I didn’t even offer an opinion. The comments, as always, are full of women sharing their experiences and thoughts. That’s what we do here. Sometimes I offer my own, sometimes I wait. I reserve that right.

By your logic, I also agree with that ridiculous Psych Today article. I also, apparently, believe that it’s “right” to charge “fat girls” extra to receive services from my company. Please… just… stop. This is foolishness.

ninagurl85 June 16, 2011 - 8:26 PM

I have to say as a stan for the blog that Erika usually writes from a point of encouraging positive physical, mental, and emotional health. She’s one of the few weight loss bloggers who doesn’t “bash” others who haven’t met their weight loss goals even though she’s lost a lot of weight. IF you read any other blogs about weight loss you get a lot of blogs/people who used to be heavy and now hate or are disgusted by other heavy people.

That being said… she’s not bashing the surgery, she’s pointing out that the surgery isn’t the end all to loosing weight. And I’m really a person who feels like if you ONLY read people’s blogs to complain about what they say, don’t read it!

Janeen June 17, 2011 - 9:27 AM

For me, overeating compulsively to the point that I qualify for a weight loss surgery is part of an eating disorder. Many people don’t identify obese people who overeat within the category of eating disorders because our society tends to emphasize extremes like the 89lb. anorexics. I have lost 130+ lbs. in the last few years with the help of a twelve step program. I continue to attend meetings for that program because my disorder is still present even though my body doesn’t show it like it once did. This relates to this article because it is very likely that the women had the same disorder before and after the sugery, but it manifested itself in different ways. Initially it was present in overeating, something our society shames us for and makes us believe we should figure out how to control ourselves. Later the disorder manifested in binging and purging, which our society shows pity and compassion for and takes more seriously. I agree that weight problems usually are far more serious than the number on the scale and underlying issues should be addressed in the process of losing weight. I hope that the women find a solution that helps them face life without punishing their bodies through over/undereating or purging.

Tiffany October 4, 2011 - 5:23 PM

Thank you!

I too am in a 12-Step Program for my Compulsive Overeating and I get irritated when I here comments about how only skinny people can have an eating disorder or Anorexia or Bulimia are only eating disorders. An eating disorder presents itself in a multitude of way. It’s about having an poor relationship with food. Period. Whether you avoid food to the detriment of your health, purge, or overeat to the detriment of your health it’s all an eating disorder. And, as you said she had the eating disorder before the surgery and it was there after. We need to address the underlying issues. If going in for surgery helps you to do it, then great, if it’s a 12-Step program, therapy, journaling, or whatever if one is not addressed the problem will continue to exist in one form or another.

Eva June 17, 2011 - 9:45 AM

For some people WLS works, but for others it’s just a quick fix. If you’re using food to cope with stress, you’ll do it after you have the surgery, if you didn’t exercise before the surgery, chances are you won’t exercise after. Some doctors make you lose some of the weight before they do the surgery, some doctors will suggest that you get a psych counsel before.

Eating less and exercise takes longer, but works better. I used to run but I can’t anymore because of an old sports injury in my knee, so now I’m learning to swim and MAN that takes more out of me than running ever did.

My point is that WLS is fine for some, but like any surgery, proceed with caution.

Nikita July 21, 2011 - 2:28 PM

I am going to go through with the lap band surgery and at present I am getting therapy and beginning to make the adjustments that the program will ask of me. What my take away from this article is that it is important to address your issues before you start a diet plan or get the surgery. It is important to consider the changes that you are going to need to make, and what issues you currently have.

Having WLS will not magically make the weight disappear, but it will help you. I look at it as a tool to HELP me. I still feel that sites like this one will help me too and be a part of my support team. Right now I need to exercise and I need to deal with why I am eating and work on gaining better eating habits and coping mechanisms NOW before I get the operation. Some folks do see WLS as a game changer without understanding that THEY are the game changer. In order for weight loss to be successful you MUST do the work, there simply is no way around it and there is usually an emotional issue that will need to be addressed.

Bannef July 24, 2011 - 10:37 PM

This is terrible, and I’m curious what hospital performed these procedures. All I can say is that I was really impressed with how the hospital I worked at dealt with weight loss surgery (it was the University of Chicago Medical Center, for the record). In order to even be considered for the surgery you had to undergo lots of tests including a psych evaluation, and received lots of assistance and advice with regards to both nutrition and mental health. If for some reason you didn’t pass they would try to provide assistance, but at some point would simply (regretfully) say that they can’t help you, because WLS is only valuable if it works – otherwise it’s another strain on an already unhealthy body. I thought this was required at all hospitals (although you can go out of country if you’re trying to get around this, like that poor child Erika pointed to a while ago), so I wonder if I was mistaken, or if these patients were just able to hide their symptoms, or slipped through the cracks.

I actually found the whole thing really interesting, because I think patient’s lives beyond what their blood tests say is really important for pretty much all medical issues (I mean really, if you can’t access good food what use is being told to “eat fruits and vegetables”? If you can’t afford to move out of your apartment with rodents and mold, and you don’t know that you can sue your landlord, then what use is hearing that your asthmatic kid needs to “avoid pathogens”?) but most doctors completely ignore such things, so it was nice to hear that WLS is one area where doctors are actually aware of these things. (Although I might be giving too much credit to doctors – I think this is partially because insurance companies require it.) I’m so sorry to hear that this wasn’t the case for these patients.

reyden February 13, 2012 - 12:11 PM

I know a couple of people in my family who saw WLS as the key to their weight loss without really going through the hard work of changing their relationship with food. They have all gained the weight back.

WLS can definitely spark a new eating disorder when you go in thinking that all you have to do is get the surgery and then everything will fall into place. That can lead to impatience giving way to really dangerous behaviors.

When you have the surgery, you still have to make major changes to your diet etc… It does make me wonder if some people (less extreme cases) who have had the surgery could have avoided it and really made an effort to make those changes first.

Crystal February 13, 2012 - 2:41 PM

I was in the medical field for about 20 years off-and-on as a medical transcriptionist/secretary. I have seen that lots of people want to blame their problems on doctor’s because they want their money back, like if you go to a resteraunt and say there is a hair in your soup. They try suing for things that they are in the wrong about, that is, they are noncompliant with doctor’s instructions.

I think it’s self-explanatory that they did not follow their doctor’s advice and so they had problems with the surgery goals.

On a happier note; I microwaved a small apple this morning and added it to my steel cut oats and it was great. I just wondered if anyone else has tried that method. . .

BJ February 13, 2012 - 5:22 PM

Like everything else about the body, everybody’s different. For some people bariatric surgery’s a vital step in the rehab process, and for others it’s trying to sidestep what’s really wrong. You see a similar phenomenon in cosmetic surgery; people who get facelifts or augmentation because they think the surgery will make them whole. It doesn’t.

Annette April 19, 2012 - 3:15 PM

Well a co-worker Roz was 300lbs when she had her daughter..I think by the time she joined our company she was close to 500lbs. Could hardy breath or walk. She could complain and show us her raw skin that never seem to heal cause it constantly rubbed together.

She was so honest with her emotion everyone loved her, she was so raw and down to earth. She felt so lost cause she didn’t like being so overweight and didn’t know how to do lose weight. I just think she was overwhelming being a single Mom. Wanted a different type of life with a better type of guy.

Any way a group of girls on the job went to weight watchers or they brought weight watchers on the job people started to lose weight. Then some did Nutri system they lost weight. I did Jenny Craig because of health concerns. One day I heard she was considering bypass cause of everyone’s success she lost hope she could do it on her own. I thought it was just talk.

One day I came to work and they said she died. I said how she died on the operating table getting it done. When she talked about her life and how unworthy she felt and how we had issues that caused her to stuff the pain.

Weight loss and keeping it off is challenging, but I wonder if she took it a step at a time she would have been around to see her daughter grow up.

Y'Anna January 7, 2013 - 1:46 AM

WLS is only a tool. I’ve learned over my year of being post gastric bypass that psychological evaluations are important to have. These evaluations allow you to address your issues with self and the relation of you, your emotions, and food. There are many hospitals that leave out the component of therapy. Therapy allows the candidate to look at themselves and get a handle on current and future issues with eating. I am grateful for my decision to have WLS. My decision wasn’t for vanity, it was only for better health. It doesn’t matter the route that one chooses to find their happiness as long as everyone realize that this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Everyday you have to confront yourself. I learned that it does not matter what you choose to do to make your life better, as long as you know you’re making the right decision for you, then all other opinions don’t count. I can say, not every person goes through the same trials, but everyone is looking for their happiness. So we should all be happy and enjoy that their friend or family member made a conscious decision to change their life. I hate to hear articles that bash WLS, to me any diet that one chooses to do has a risk, but that risk has to be worth it for each individual. I don’t take this article as a personal bash, it was just providing information. I know when i was going through counseling we had to address Addiction Transfer Behavior. we had to identify our triggers, coping skills, ability to deal with it, and address two healthy addictions. I’m glad that I did because this is somethings that I am now confronting after surgery. I have an awesome psychologist and she created an emotional toolbox (questions that make you address changes before and after WLS) for each of her clients. Beneficial because she is a post WLS candidate! If more people would get counseling, maybe we wouldn’t have to have these negative behaviors. Thanks for this article, sometimes stepping on some toes can open up some opinions. I’m 146 pounds lighter and daily I have to confronts some issues with myself and it is okay. Thank you for the post!

Erika Nicole Kendall January 7, 2013 - 8:26 AM

A…”healthy” addiction?

I’d be interested in knowing what counts as a “healthy” addiction.

Comments are closed.