I APPLAUD New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision to do something about his weight. Tackling this issue is never easy, particularly when you live in a political fishbowl. However, I am less than enthusiastic that the governor chose to have gastric-band surgery last February.
Not that the governor gives a rat's behind about what I think. But I find it curious that a Republican politician who loudly espouses rugged individualism - BloombergBusinessWeek.com has called him "a tireless advocate of individual responsibility and self-reliance" - would choose such a path.
It also seems duplicitous that the surgery was done in secret, finally revealed in May in the New York Post. (At the time, the 50-year-old politician said he'd already lost 40 pounds.)
Like it or not, Governor, you are a role model, and others will be influenced to follow in your footsteps.
At the same time, my heart goes out to Christie. I know how challenging it is to lose weight and maintain the loss.
I got no response to my request for an interview with Christie, but I've decided to share my unsolicited advice with the good governor anyway.
First, some history
Gastric bypass, first performed in the mid-'60s, and, more recently, laparoscopic gastric banding (Christie's choice) have become popular weight-loss strategies.
The latter surgery, considered less invasive than a bypass, uses a band to create a smaller stomach through which food moves more slowly, so that the person feels more full sooner. About 160,000 people had banding surgeries in 2010, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
I used to think that if the procedure truly helped people get on the path to eating properly and motivate them to exercise, then go for it.
But based on what I know about human behavior and what I have seen over the past 20-plus years, I simply cannot endorse it.
I have worked with and interviewed many people who've had weight-loss surgery. Generally speaking, the honeymoon period lasts about two years; after that, the long-term outcomes are less than desirable.
Most of the people I know who had one of these procedures gained back all or a significant amount of their weight.
Then there are the not-so-pretty side effects, which get very little attention. For example, a significant number of weight-loss surgery patients end up suffering from malnutrition, anemia, osteoporosis, fecal and urinary incontinence and even hair loss.
Now do you see why I don't recommend these procedures?
Sure, you may lose weight rapidly, improving mobility and decreasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. But the procedure is not a "quick fix." Appetite and emotional cravings don't disappear after weight-loss surgery.
Just ask Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential nominee who lost 100 pounds but seems to have relapsed dramatically, despite running marathons, writing weight-loss books, and making obesity part of his political platform.
Gov. Christie, the real battle is not so much in the losing but in successfully maintaining.
Why is maintenance so hard? Good question. Our food supply is so adulterated and addictive that it takes round-the-clock planning and vigilance not to fall back into old habits.
So, good luck, Governor. I may not agree with your methods, but I'm hoping you'll have success.