Gastric Bypass For Teens Is a Big Mistake

Teen, gastric bypassRiding the bus is an adventure in wrongness. For all of my complaints about kids on the train, kids on the bus are 10 times worse. Maybe because there’s less space, more noise, and a granny crawl pace all conspiring to make the four stops in between the Metro station and my apartment seven minutes of pure torture. Even though my cantankerous side is irritated by all of the cussing and carrying on, I get downright nervous when someone becomes a target for the bus riders’ uncouth craziness.

The other day, they zoomed their sights on a heavy-set girl making her way to an empty seat in the middle of the bus. The driver, trying not to throw off her balance with a sudden acceleration, paused to give her time to squeeze through the aisle. But she wasn’t quick enough for the wolves in the back, who flicked bits of trash in her direction. Man, hurry up and sit your fat a** down,” one boy bellowed. I could’ve cried for her.


Most of us who made it through to the other side of our teenage years, sometimes barely at that, can clearly recall that thing that made the obligatory angst of high school even more sucky. Sometimes it was problems at home. Sometimes it was relationship issues. But for a lot of us — strobe light and underline around “us,” because I’m definitely included — it was being teased by our peers about something or another. “Hippo” was among the many endearing nicknames bestowed upon me by my peers. I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. And a little teary-eyed.

Knowing how bad things were back then and noticing how many home training-less children my generation is pumping into society now (great job, by the way), my heart goes out to kids who are obese because I know this bus incident is alas not an isolated one. But I don’t believe that gastric bypass or other weight loss surgery is the solution for that young lady or other overweight teens’ woes.

Let me be clear: I don’t think surgery should be a primary choice for anybody, man, woman, or child. I come from a long line of folks who’ve struggled with their weight. Growing up, I watched them suffer through Weight Watchers programs and ridiculous cabbage diets and all kinds of weird cleanses and doctor-ordered regimens to shed the pounds that have put their health at risk, especially my aunt and grandmother who both have had heart disease.

I’ve also listened to members of my family bat the idea of surgery back and forth. I was one of the main rabble rousers against my auntie making the decision to go under the knife. She, like so many other folks who are looking at lap bands or gastric bypass as an option, would cut back on her portion size or curb her food cravings here and there. But hers wasn’t a concerted lifestyle change.

She would try it for a little bit, get discouraged, and quit. Try it for a little bit, get discouraged, and quit. Try it for a little bit, get discouraged, and quit. And although a lot of us get caught up in that mind-numbingly frustrating routine, it’s even crazier to talk about having parts of your anatomy cut out or off or permanently rerouted as an alternative. And I told her just that. I wasn’t very popular when I said it, mind you, but family isn’t doing each other any good by sugarcoating honesty.

For teenagers, I think any kind of weight loss surgery is sending the wrong message. I know concerned parents have helped their kids through all kinds of programs to shed the extra pounds. And I know in the meantime, those poor children are getting the business from fellow students at school, their peers on the bus, even adults who should know better, and that can drive them to frustration, even depression. Losing 50 or more pounds for the sake of health has got to be daunting for a kid. Heck, it’s daunting for an adult. But I think, for the most part, it’s a quick fix to a longstanding problem.

You’re still going to have to learn portion control. Still going to have to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine. Still going to have to learn which foods to reach for and which to eat in limited amounts. So why not learn how to do that without going under the knife?

Should gastric bypass and other weight loss surgeries be an option for teens?

Image via puuikibeach/Flickr

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