Gastric-bypass surgery sounds like a sure path to a new life. But for the obese who undergo such radical weight-loss surgery, the ups and downs post-operation can take a precious toll, the New York Times finds after a year of tracking two of the 200,000 Americans who undergo bariatric surgery annually. The low-risk surgery not only prevents patients from overeating, but it rewires their physiology so that food no longer tastes the same. Of three techniques used, the Times followed two who underwent the most common, a gastric bypass, which removed most of their stomachs and rerouted their small intestines. Both saw their health improve and their weight initially plummet. For Keith Oleszkowicz, 40, joint pain disappeared along with his sleep apnea as pounds melted off of his 377-pound frame.
Jessica Shapiro, at 22, had never had a date and told the Times that "every day of my life, I’m just aware of how overweight I am." She was thrilled when she lost 65 of her 295 pounds in three months. "I have a waist!" she crowed. Her acid reflux vanished. But both were disappointed when their weight loss slowed. Doctors say bariatric patients rarely attain their desired weight. (Dieting after surgery is actually harder than it was before.) One year later, Shapiro was down 112 pounds and Oleszkowicz down to 284, but their enthusiasm had cooled. Both still saw themselves as fat. "I have a fat brain," says Oleszkowicz. Their experiences mirror those reported by 100 patients. Many were unhappy with excess flaps of skin. There were lots of ruptured relationships. Oleszkowicz even missed his old appetite. "I just liked eating before," he says. Shapiro tried college classes but dropped out. She still has anxiety issues but says, "I don't have an excuse anymore." (Read the full story here.)