How Young Is Too Young For Weight Loss Surgery?

I’ve mentioned this topic before (Weight Loss Surgery For Teens?). But a new article came out yesterday (The Battle Over Childhood Obesity: Weighing The Risks), and it really made me mad. I was a little undecided before, when you’re talking about 16 or 17 year-old kids. But this article talks about children as young as 13 having weight loss surgery.

First off, I can totally relate to the pain of being “the fat kid.” I remember being picked on, humiliated and ignored by boys. I know what it does to your self esteem, and how hard it can be to lose the weight.

I’m also a parent who’s struggled to help a child battle extra weight. It’s hard, and it can be expensive to buy healthier foods in place of the junk that kids would much rather eat. It takes constant vigilance, and a willingness to be “the bad guy” when your kid really wants that extra helping.

But even though I understand the difficulties, I just cannot imagine allowing my 13 year old son to undergo weight loss surgery. Too many things can go wrong, and besides – being 13 is tough enough without the extra mental roller coaster that weight loss surgery brings on.

Yet there are apparently a growing number of parents perfectly willing to shove their children under the knife rather than act like parents and help them lose weight on their own. Yeah, I know – I couldn’t lose weight without the surgery, so what makes me think these kids can? Is that hypocritical of me?

Well, to be honest, at 13 it’s a heck of a lot easier than it will be at 30. In fact, it will never be as easy again. They’re still growing. They’re still forming the habits that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Grow a pair of cojones and act like a parent (instead of a “buddy”) and teach them some discipline – and maybe, just maybe, they won’t arrive at 30 needing this or any other surgery.

Because right now, the metabolic changes that will make it well nigh impossible to lose weight as an adult haven’t happened yet. It’s still possible to do it the “old-fashioned way.” Just un-plug the stupid PlayStation and stay out of the stinking Drive-thru. Kick their butts outside and lock the door behind them if you have to. (I’ve done that – of course I had an eye on them through the window so I could let them in if they really needed it.)

Get off your own butt and go walking with them instead of parking yourself in front of the TV all evening. Teach them the habits of a healty lifestyle before you endager their lives and their mental health with a surgery they’re way too young for!

This section from the article really ticked me off more than anything:

“It’s real easy for people to pass judgment when they haven’t walked in our shoes, when they haven’t seen their child so upset and trying so hard not to eat,” Gorman said. “If I would have thought there was any danger to (Shelby), I wouldn’t have done it.”

After Shelby learned during her first consultation with a doctor that she was 5 pounds under the minimum weight required for stomach banding, she gained 12 pounds within a week.

Since undergoing the procedure last October, Shelby said she has replaced her binges on chocolate and Mexican food with daily gym workouts and aerobics classes.

The mom thought there was no danger? People die from this surgery. Hello!?! McFly – is there anyone in there? The fact that this kid gained weight to qualify for it is just maddening as well. But the bottom line is that she could have “replaced her binges on chocolate and Mexican food with daily gym workouts and aerobics classes” without putting her life in danger and re-arranging her insides. Insides, which by the way, at this age aren’t finished developing yet.

There is no way this child could have understood the magnitude of what she was about to do. There is no way she could comprehend what it would mean for the rest of her life.

And the 13 year-old boy – who is the same age as my son – my heart just breaks for him.

My son, too, has struggled with weight. He loves food and would eat all the time if he didn’t have parents who know how to set boundaries. He wants to be a chef when he grows up – food is really his passion. But as a parent I know that just because you love something doesn’t mean you can have all you want.

I teach him when to say “no.” I let him cook sometimes, but what he learns to cook is healthy. He plays soccer for his school, and comes home sweaty every day. So he’s active. It takes discipline and effort. He’s still not thin, but I have no doubt he would easily be as big as this little boy if we didn’t do these things.

But that takes effort. And it seems to me that too many parents today just aren’t willing to put forth that kind of effort. And why should they? They can take the “easy way out” (for them, anyway) and just have their kid operated on.

Argue with me if you want, but I just think that’s wrong.

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