Rosie O’Donnell, Weight Loss Surgery, and Sugar Addiction

May 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

So I woke up today and heard on the news that Rosie O’Donnell had lost a lot of weight.   That is not really an unusual thing for me to read, of course.  I’ve been reading about Rosie, Oprah and Kirstie Alley’s recurring weight loss cycles for as long as I’ve been going through my own!!  What caught my attention was the fact that Rosie had weight loss surgery.  And not just ANY surgery!   She had the exact same weight loss surgery (the sleeve)  that I had two years ago.

Gastric bypass surgery seems to be the most publicized of all the weight loss surgeries.  If you didn’t get the lap band, people automatically assume you had gastric bypass.  This is because the vertical sleeve surgery (also known as the gastric sleeve) is a newer surgery and not as well known.  If you ask me, it also sounds a lot more drastic.  After all— the other surgeries leave your stomach in tact.  They staple off a section and create a pouch (gastric bypass) OR they put a “belt” around it (lap band).  The sleeve surgery, though, does not do this at all.  It literally removes 85-90% of your stomach from your body leaving you a stomach in the shape of a banana or “sleeve” (hence the name of the surgery).  As a result, this surgery is really a “no going back” type of procedure because 85-90% of your stomach is gone.

This surgery was actually originally part of an even more drastic surgery called the Duodenal Switch.  That surgery really combines the vertical sleeve and the gastric bypass by not only removing a large part of your stomach but then also performing a rerouting of your intestines.   Since the duodenal switch surgery is typically reserved for the most drastic cases of obesity, they would do it in two parts.  They would first perform the vertical sleeve part of the surgery and then have the patient come back for the second part.  Over the years, though, they discovered that many patients were having success with part one of the surgery without having to come back for part two!!  As a result, part one of the duodenal switch surgery (known as the vertical sleeve) started getting some recognition and being seen as a separate procedure that could stand on its own.

I decided to have the vertical sleeve surgery almost as soon as I heard about its existence.  I knew it was the right choice for me.  As someone who was living in what they called a “super obese” body, I was physically miserable due to the complications it had created for me health-wise.  In addition to this, I had grown tired of the endless attempts to get control over food that left me always feeling powerless.  No matter how hard I tried to satisfy the relentless hunger that I was plagued with day and night, I never could attain success.  I felt that my stomach was the enemy.  I saw it as a monster who bossed me around.  For me, it was like being in a never-ending abusive relationship and like many who “snap” in those situations–I couldn’t wait to see it go!!  I was literally ecstatic at the thought of being able to boot out 85-90% of my stomach.  When the surgeon asked me if I had any concerns, my only response was, “YES—that you won’t remove ENOUGH”  I was DONE being ruled by my stomach.  I couldn’t wait to give it an eviction notice.

But I did not go into this surgery blindly.  I knew from having researched weight loss surgery for over a decade that many were not successful.  I spent literally years and years reading message boards and online diaries of those who had gone before me into weight loss surgery.  I can’t tell you how many gallons of ice cream and boxes of donuts I ate as I read through online forums!  It felt like the last ditch effort for me and that’s why I hesitated.  I knew that my severe food addiction was powerful.  I doubted if even surgery could make a difference.  This is why my first spark of hope came when I heard of the sleeve.  I thought to myself if any surgery out there has a chance at working then maybe it’s this one.

The sleeve has been an amazing tool for me in weight loss.  Unfortunately, though, I would be lying if I said it was enough to cure me of this problem.  I knew going in that I was going to have to work hard and continue to search for answers.  Some things simply cannot be solved with one solution.  For me, weight loss and freedom from food addiction has been very layered.  Surgery alone was not enough for me.  It made a huge difference because it restricts the amount of food that I can eat at one time.  However, this surgery is purely restrictive.  That is all it does.  In other words….it slows you down.  But for someone who is willing to take their time, you can still get that food in you.  It just may take longer.

Many people are surprised to learn that even with a drastic surgery that removes 85-90% of your stomach, you can regain the weight.  Yes it is possible.  Over the course of the past 2 years, I have lost up to 240 pounds and then regained 30 back.  I have spent the majority of the past 6 months losing and regaining the same 20 pounds over and over again.  I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken to who seem genuinely shocked that I could gain even one pound back after having that much of my stomach removed. I assure you that not only am I capable of gaining weight—-I have no doubt that I could regain ALL the weight lost if I entered a scenario where I allowed that to happen.   It would not be able to happen as quickly as it could have in the past but it is possible.

I say this because people need to be aware of the truth.  Weight loss surgery in and of itself will NOT cure you.  Does that mean it is not an excellent tool?? Not at all!!  In fact, I would have this surgery all over again and I highly recommend it to those who feel it is something that would help them.  I am a huge supporter of weight loss surgery (in particular the sleeve).  I truly believe the sleeve was one of the biggest blessings in my life.  Yet I know that it is simply one piece of the puzzle for me.  I can beat the sleeve if I choose to.  I can still regain the weight.

So what is the answer???

This is where I totally connected to the article I read about Rosie O’Donnell.  She did not actually attribute all her success to the surgery.  In fact, she made a point to mention the EXACT SAME THING that I have found to be the KEY to my struggles with food:

Rosie now eats a sugar free diet

Here is a quote from her

“I read in a magazine article that sugar is eight times more addictive than heroin,” Rosie told People. “I walk past one of those kiosks selling newspapers and I’m like, ‘There’s the Swedish Fish.’ Almost like how alcoholics can’t go into a bar. They want to grab the bottle, I want to do that with the Swedish Fish.”

Then the article goes on to quote Dr. Mark Hyman (who I follow on twitter and find very helpful).  He states that “Sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine” and all I can say to that quote is  YES IT IS!!!

After you have weight loss surgery, you are usually advised to eat a low carb diet.  And did you know that low carb diets strictly control sugar?

After I had weight loss surgery, I could not consume the volume of food that I did before.  However, getting off sugar made me NOT CARE.  I discovered that I was heavily addicted to sugar.   When I am on it….all I can do is think about eating.  When I am not on it…I am free

I wrote a lengthy post about that HERE

One of the main reasons I have struggled so much in the past several months is due to allowing certain forms and levels of sugar back into my life.  You see, I view sugar addiction like an allergy.  Some people have more severe allergies than others.  I believe it is the same thing with sugar.  Some of us can come in contact with sugar (even the supposedly harmless natural sugars in fruits) and yet find ourselves going crazy all over again after exposure!!  And that is the situation I am in.  I am so highly sensitive to sugar that I might accidentally ingest some of it and find cravings returning.  I have to be really on my toes treating it like a severe allergy if I want total control.

Understanding the nature of sugar addiction and the importance of controlling it is the key to freedom for me.  While the restrictive nature of my weight loss surgery may slow me down… is still not powerful enough to save me from the clutches of sugar.  That can only be done by staying away from it.  For me it is a drug.  If it is in my system, I am hungry almost all of the time.  In fact just talking about this right now is making me realize once again how vitally important it is for me to avoid it.  The reason I am currently struggling is due to the fact that I play with fire.  Sometimes I get tired of having to be the drill sergeant with my food.  After 2 years of being SO strict, I guess I wanted to “let up”.  But can my daughter “let up” with her peanut allergy? NO!  That would spell disaster.  And the same is true of me with sugar.

I was really pleased after reading several of the articles about Rosie O’Donnell because I believe she came to the exact same conclusion that I did two years ago.  She may have had the surgery but she stumbled onto the key—avoiding sugar.  In acknowledging that her sugar addiction played the major role in her weight loss struggles, she told the whole story.  I think it’s vitally important that people understand the role sugar plays in food addiction.  Many out there who are not able to have surgery could find that this information about sugar addiction is enough to help them tremendously.  Restricting your intake (like with surgery) is certainly helpful but not ingesting addictive substances  (like sugar) in the first place is even more critical.

At the end of the day, we must remember this is a journey.  There is not always one answer or one solution.  It may take multiple tools in our arsenal but one thing remains—as long as we keep going….keep trying….and never give up—we can find freedom!




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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica May 15, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Great post, Holly! And so true for many (most?) of us with weight issues. Sugar has found it’s way into our food supply in over abundance. Which I believe flipped the switch for many of us who are prone to addictive behaviors to wanting more and more and more. I’m on a low carb diet, and for once, I’ve found great success. The moderation thing just doesn’t work for me. And really, why would it, if I’m addicted to sugar? So cutting it out as much as possible has been a wonderful blessing. I feel (mostly) in control of my eating these days. I’m about 20 pounds away from my “never thought I’d weigh that again” weight, and I’m loving the freedom I have found. Not to say the sugar monster doesn’t lurk around the corner. This past week, I gave into the monster, and binged for about a day on crap food. I stopped myself, and I’m back on the wagon, but I was scared and angry that this is obviously something I’ll be dealing with forever. But I can deal with it if the trade-off is feeling as good as I do most of the time, and I can know that I’m hopefully setting up my girls for a lifetime of health. Sorry for the lengthy comment – but such a great topic! And I think many of us could write pages and pages of our thoughts and feelings about sugar! P.S. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time – I so admire you, and I’m proud of you for not giving in during this rough patch….you can do this – we all can! – Jessica


Lisa May 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I’ve missed your blog and your inspiration. Thank you for helping me through my journey as well.


Mariah May 15, 2014 at 7:05 pm

There’s a new documentary in theatres called “Fed Up” that talks about America’s sugar addiction and the health risks that come from it. It’s fascinating, and Dr. Hyman is actually interviewed in it… I highly recommend watching it if you get a chance. 🙂


Faith May 15, 2014 at 8:48 pm

I read every single post you publish but I don’t comment much (due to my hermityness? lol) anyway, even though I’ve read your posts on sugar addiction before, believe that is almost as powerful (if not more so because of it’s availability) as coke or heroin…I’ve never had the click moment where I go THAT’S why I’m so hungry all the time. I work out like a fiend at the gym, I try to eat Primal or Paleo or Clean or Low Carb..but inevitably, I let sugar creep back in. And when I let it in, I feel insatiable, my appetite could rival a male Olympic swimmers, I’ll eat and never feel “full”. But when I go without sugar for a week, the cravings die down, the monster that lives inside me retreats for a little bit. You’re still an inspiration to me, Holly and you always will be. Thank you for keeping this blog up. Many hugs, dear lady.


PaulaMP May 15, 2014 at 11:35 pm

I don’t understand why so many other countries are way ahead of us regarding food. They don’t allow sugar to be put into everything, and they restrict many of the GMO foods and many chemicals that are still used here. I think it’s all about the power the big corporations have over the politicians. They care more about making money than keeping Americans healthy. (of course every foreigner I have ever met who comes here talks about the enormous portion sizes, we have also lost our way with that. People want massive amounts of food when they dine out or they feel cheated somehow).


cursor May 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

The lesson I can learn from this is that everybody should stay away from sugary diet, fatty diet and eat clean. Also workout should be part of our plan. Thanks for posting this


Melissa May 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Great Post! Sugar is a weakness for me I hate it. I will kick it soon I hope!
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Kristen May 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Hi Holly! Love your post and can relate to so much of it. You continue to inspire me and I continue to cheer for you!!!

I’m going through the 6 month pre-op process that my health care provider requires for weight loss surgery, but I’m so ready! I looked into weight loss surgery 10 years ago, but wasn’t ready to give up my love affair with food. I chose life restrictions over food restrictions. Thank God I’m finally ready to reverse that!!! I’m tired of so many of the life restrictions that my weight contributes to. I so look forward to a more healthy life!!!


Shay from Trashy Blog May 17, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I always love the honesty and wisdom in your posts, Holly. I found this one so interesting. I love following your steps to continuing a healthy life!
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Denice@ Gastric Bypass Surgery Prices Abroad May 19, 2014 at 3:00 am

Very inspirational. Glad everything’s turn out good for you after your weight loss surgery. I know some people can do it via diet lifestyle and intense diet, but many cannot. Surgery is not an easy decision, and this method is a tool, not an end in and of itself. You have gone through so much, but yet you were able to overcome everything for your own personal path to better health. I myself fully realize the benefits of weight loss, it has shown the most effective option available for patients suffering from obesity and related diseases.


Tiffany DeOs May 21, 2014 at 1:24 am

Great post! I need to get back on the bandwagon. You are so right about sugar being a drug. Thank you for the reminder that when I am strong and get off of it again the weight will come off and the cravings will not be as strong.


Lauri May 29, 2014 at 9:07 pm

I had vertical sleeve surgery in Sept of 2011. Prior to my surgery, sweets was not my problem at all and I didn’t care if I had sweets or not. I was a crunchy and salty addict and was able to get control of it prior to surgery. After surgery….God help me I cannot get enough sugar! I truly believe I developed a cross addiction with sugar. I was really happy to see your post because I am struggling SO hard with this right now. It helps to put some truth to what I’ve been feeling about being so addicted to it. I do believe it is a harder habit to kick than some drugs and it’s addictive powers can be so overwhelming!


Ruth Davis October 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The pictures are definite proof that what you are telling us is true- nothing but true. I am so inspired by your words. Indeed, the surgery was just a part of the puzzle, that one part which had brought together all the missing pieces. Bariatic Eating


Sally November 12, 2014 at 12:04 am

This is great advice. I have been struggling for months. Struggling with stress. Unable to eat and then turned to sugar!! It is such an addiction for me. I really need to obtain otherwise I will undo
All the good work I have done


Austin Bariatric May 20, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Sugar addiction was also my weakness when I am trying to lose weight. I never thought I can overcome that feeling. Thanks to my surgeon because of his encouragement, I got to bid goodbye to this old habit.
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John Dean October 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

this is really great advice!


Elizabeth March 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Wow!!! a great transformation…This is a true and real inspiration to all of us..I am totally inspired by this post..and I am surely gonna share this with my all friends..great post and inpiration..
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Sylvia March 7, 2016 at 11:32 am

Great!! This is what I will call a True and live Inspiration. This is what we can say nothing is impossible. My cousin suffering with weight loss problem..she attempted suicide too…I love her a lot..don’t wanna lose her..I will definitely show this to her..Thanks for sharing this..:)
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Christian Brier March 17, 2017 at 6:23 am

Nice story. I believe that your fat to fit journey will motivate many people. You have done a great thing I really appreciate your effort.


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