Friday, May 22, 2009

Thoughts about Brookhaven Obesity Clinic

There are a lot of problems, as I see it, with Brookhaven's program. They claim to have a high sucess rate, but compared to what? Only 3% of all dieters ever get to their weight loss goals on their own. And out of that 3%, most of them will re-gain all of their weight plus more within the next five years. I know; I've lived it.

But if Brookhaven calls itself a facility that treats food addiction, then they better start doing something more than snatching the addicts' food away, and telling them that in exchange for eating 15,000 calories, they get to(woohoo, what fun when you are defying gravity with every step) exercise and talk to a shrink. Terrific. How motivating. That makes ME want to sign up! Luckily, I don't qualify for their program anymore! (Actually it's all due to my Higher Power, and yes, I'm referring to the 12-steps. It works for me. Nothing else, INCLUDING gastric bypass surgery, has.)

Look, anytime you take away a substance or behavior away from an addict, they become angry, depressed, pathetic, irrational, and totally unable to conceptualize the long term benefits of changing their lives. Losing 200-700 pounds seems like a fantasy, an unattainable goal filled with pain and frustration. (You should have seen me when I was de-toxing from flour and sugar. I would have scared the Incredible Hulk!) No wonder they sneak food into the hospital. The short term satisfaction of eating their binge food becomes much more desirable than that distant future of "someday I will be thin and normal."

And Brookhaven's food looks pretty disgusting. So what do these patients have to look forward to each day? Not much. There you have it. Relapse city. Not only that, they allow them to eat flour products as part of their daily food plan. Sorry folks, for food addicts, bread is NOT the staff of life--it is EVERYTHING in life, their love, their comfort, their joy! And it is addictive. One piece of bread is never enough. Why do you think they keep ordering delivery pizza? The addiction to flour has been triggered by the bread they eat in the hospital, and they want more!

The down side of taking away an addict's favorite binge food is dealing with the addict. Without their fix of flour and sugar, you have some pretty surly patients on your hands. Unless they are given, like me, spiritual and emotional support and a way to feel good about themselves. A diet feels like punishment. Exercise feels like punishment. In fact, LIVING feels like punishment to a food addict, even though the thought of dying is terrifying. But even the threat of death won't keep a hardcore food addict out of the pizza. My suggestion? Start some 12 step meetings that focus on recovering from food addiction in the hospital, and require the patients to attend at least one a day. Make sure that the speakers for the meetings are people who have lost at LEAST 100 pounds, preferably more, and have kept it off for more than a year (preferably five years or more). The patients won't like it, but they don't like what they are doing now. But they need to hear stories of hope and recovery from people who know exactly what they going through on a daily basis, and develop a network of support that will help them when they return to their homes.

Most people underestimate the fact that flour products are highly addictive (and toxic, but I won't get into that). Normal eaters (and food addicts in denial) can't understand it, but it's true. How many times have we seen in the series Brookhaven patients ordering in pizza? It's ALL about the bread: buttery, flaky croissants, an extra-large deep dish Chicago-style pizza smothered in extra cheese and pepperoni, mountains of fried chicken served with buttered biscuits and/or cornbread, mashed potatoes and rich, creamy gravy. Flour and fat--a food addict's dream. Without daily spiritual and emotional support from understanding people who have been down that addiction path, that "dream" will kill them. And more often than not, it does.

Top off the flour/fat combo with the sugary stuff for dessert, and the cravings and compulsion to eat and eat and eat even more becomes unbearably overwhelming. Next stop--face down in the food, around the clock. Trust me. I've been there. I didn't get to 400 pounds by eating fresh fruit and salad. That's what I eat now,now that I'm more than 200 pounds down from my highest weight. And I resisted eating the vegetables most all. I tolerate them now, but in exchange for eating food I'm not too crazy about, I have a much clearer connection to my Higher Power and other people on a daily basis. And life is better. It just takes a very long time for a food addict like me to see that. And I couldn't do this on my own. I have NO willpower. The best way for me to keep eating healthy is to never put any flour or sugar products in my mouth, ever. That may seem harsh to some, but it's the truth.

I had nearly die three times, have Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (July 11, 2002), lose 150 pounds and re-gain 85 back, and once I got into recovery, complain bitterly about the nasty tasting food until I finally surrendered to this program. I was severely hard core addict sinking deeper and deeper into the food. I didn't know about Brookhaven when I was deep into the addiction, but I doubt if my outcome would have been much different than the patients in the series. At 400 pounds, in excruciating pain and confined to a wheelchair, I was a quarter step away from the life those super morbidly obese patients have been doomed to live. And that's a tortuously horrific living death.


  1. Hi:
    I admire your courage and tenacity.

  2. I think that these people have the right to try and fail and find out what works for them. like you did

  3. Angry, rmanuel99? Perhaps it seems that way to you, but unless you've been in that particular life and death situation, you have no idea how serious it is. And this blog is NOT directed at the patients of Brookhaven at all. It's directed at the administrators, who are still approaching the problem through the typical diet and exercise treatment. It doesn't work in the long run, and it will never work. The patients at Brookhaven probably don't realize this, or even want to admit this, but they are food addicts, just like me. Unless their treatment plan reflects that fact, it is bound to fail. And that's not the patients' fault at all.

  4. I watched a few episodes of that show today and was disgusted that they claim to want to help these people acheive their goal of weight loss but yet are feeding them crap! Isn't this what got them to the place they are at now? The guy who runs it said something about people leaving if he banned outside food....umm, HELLO! What good are you doing by allowing it? Outside food SHOULD be banned! These folks needs to be shown how to eat properly to achieve their weight loss goals. I was so mad at this guy and couldn't figure out why people would want to stay there for 4 years and either get no results or actually gain hundreds of pounds more! He's a quack for sure!

  5. I totally agree with you, tina. In fact, that is the reason why I wrote this blog in the first place! Those who run this place do not have an effective way of treating these patients so that they will have a healthy lifestyle and support for their food addiction once they are released from the hospital. They have to get OUT of the food and INTO living life on life's terms. Brookhaven isn't doing that by feeding crappy food (what's wrong with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains?)and allowing the patients to have fattening stuff delivered. They're just keeping the addiction to garbage food going.

  6. I have been watching this program all day today. My highest weight was 346 pounds. I've been overweight since I was a child, and I'm now 57 years old! I admit that I am a food addict.

    I belong to TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). TOPS doesn't offer a particular diet or exercise routine. It is up to the member to find what works for them. Well, it's not helping anyone.

    The members have been there for years, and it's just a social club. I am so disheartened, but I love all the ladies there. However, I have to do what's good for me.

    I had gastric bypass in 2007, and I'm down to about 240 lbs...not that great! I was down to 198, but that's as low as I got. I'm still trying to take it off, and I'm determined to get to my goal. Even if I can stay under 200, that's not bad for someone who has been obese her whole life!

    I've looked into Overeaters Anonymous, and I have thought about starting a chapter locally. They follow the 12-step program which is what I have felt I need.

    My opinion of Brookhaven is that outside food should be banned. Why spend $8,000 for an obese person's wheelchair and allow him to sneak food in??? That makes no sense!

    I suppose it would be taking their rights away, but it should be in the agreement when they are admitted. If they don't like it, then they aren't there with the right attitude and will fail anyway.

    As far as the doctor there, I can tell that he is terribly frustrated. They are adults, but they are sick adults who need someone to step up and say "no" to having food brought in.

    Of course, they won't like it! Who would, but sometimes we can't do things on our own even when it's a matter of life and death.

    Most of them have enablers which is where the problem seems to lie. Why keep bringing them more and more food? You might as well get ready to sign their death certificate.

    It is a very serious problem in this country, and it's getting worse. Sometimes tough love is what we need whether we admit to it or not.

    As far as the emotional help, it seems like they do have counselors there. All I know is how it's portrayed on TV which I realize is done for the ratings so we see what they want us to see.

    I don't think they are claiming to be successful because the doctor told them that only 3 of the original 12 patients are living, and that 6 of them would die in the next 2 years, I think he said.

    To me, he is trying, but frustrated and probably can't relate to them. If Richard Simmons can't motivate them, who can?

    The truth is we love to eat, and it's just a slow suicide--same as an alcoholic or drug addict...maybe we need an intervention!!!

    Best of luck to all who are addicted to whatever it might be. We all seem to need a crutch to survive. Isn't that sad??? :(

  7. Wonky48, I agree with you that you have to do what you need to do to recover. I went through a horrible depression when I realized that I was back into the food again after gastric bypass. I thought it would be the final solution to a life-long problem, and it wasn't.

    Food is an extremely powerful drug for us food addicts, and it is so easily obtained! Yet, it can and will kill us if we abuse it. The point is that we have to have a complete "psychic" (as in mind, body and soul) personality change so that food isn't our lover, protector, comforter, our everything. It's just food, a source of fuel so we can do what we came into this world to do. That's all! Food was never meant to be anything more than that, and food addicts are last people to understand that fact.

    I would encourage you to look into a 12 step program for food addiction.

    You can also email me if you have any questions.


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