I keep waiting for the analogy of diet and finance to break down, and it just won’t. Well, I thought, there’s no analog to bankruptcy; how do you wipe away a huge calorie debt by taking one extreme step that will have serious long-term consequences? And then it hit me– gastric bypass is diet bankruptcy.
Too Far Down the Hole to See Daylight
When you find yourself so overextended that you just can’t see a way out financially, you declare bankruptcy. Your first step should be to see a credit counselor, because sometimes there are much less extreme remedies. Creditors would rather have something than nothing, so you can often play “let’s make a deal” (especially with credit card companies) to skip payments, reduce interest rates, or simply negotiate a lower balance to pay. It will take longer to get out from under your debt, but you won’t have a bankruptcy on your credit history affecting the next decade of your life. Sometimes, though, the debt monster is so huge that bankruptcy is your only option.
So let’s equate this to your weight. If your everyday diet and exercise efforts (or lack thereof) have left you more than 100 pounds over your healthy weight, that’s a huge calorie debt monster. That much weight is likely to do significant health damage before you can get it off via even a medically-supervised diet plan unless you can afford to do nothing for several months except devote yourself to diet and exercise (the “Biggest Loser” method). That’s when diet bankruptcy becomes an attractive option. Just as with your finances, your doctor should counsel some less extreme plans. You should both agree that you’ve tried enough other methods to know that you’re not going to be successful without big-time intervention.
I have two friends who went through gastric bypass, and they are tiny, happy, and positive that it’s the best thing they ever did. I have two more friends who lost a lot of weight initially and then saw their weight creep back up. They are now again fighting a daily weight battle, but they’re fighting it at a lower weight than they were pre-surgery. (Check the fine print– most gastric bypass “centers” count a success in their statistics if you lose 50% of your excess weight. I wonder how they’d feel if you paid 50% of your bill?) I have one friend who is heavier now than before surgery. With financial bankruptcy, you can file again in the future if you need to, but there are darned few doctors who will perform a second gastric surgery if you went back to double-meat pizzas and Krispy Kremes (and even fewer insurance companies that will pay for it).
Will It Work?
Success with both diet and financial bankruptcy depends mostly on two factors. First, find a professional who will be with you for the long haul. You’ll have questions at many points in the process, and you’ve got to have someone to answer those questions, and act as both cheerleader and taskmaster. If you had been able to fix the problem on your own, you wouldn’t have gone for bankruptcy. Accept that you need help and find someone you will be able to work with. It also wouldn’t hurt to find a forum and talk to some people who have been where you are.
Second, and more importantly, recognize that you need to make some changes. Financial bankruptcy sometimes results from catastrophic medical bills that were unforeseen and unlikely to repeat, but those 100 pounds didn’t just creep up behind you and tap you on the shoulder one day. You need the diet equivalent of cutting up your credit cards and buying a shredder for all those pre-approved credit applications that will still come in the mail every week. You’re still going to pass temptation on every corner, so you need a calorie budget. Work with your doctor or a nutritionist to develop a reasonable plan, and dial in the occasional splurge. Be realistic about how much you will work out. Above all, recognize that this is forever, so be sure your budget is one you can live with. Forever.
Bankruptcy, diet and financial, comes with some serious negatives. But it also offers a fresh start that may be the incentive you need to get your life back on track. Get lots of advice, and do a lot of thinking, then make a plan that has the best chance at success for you.