Is This As Good As It Gets?

by Guest Author on · 1 comment

Weight Loss Surgery Cover

I’m a trial lawyer turned young adult fan­tasy fic­tion writer who’s never really had a weight prob­lem, mostly because I’m an obses­sive run­ner who runs at least two marathons a year. When my friend, sur­geon Nick Nichol­son, asked me to co-author Weight Loss Surgery: The Real Skinny, a book on the emo­tional con­se­quences of weight loss surgery, my ini­tial thought was that maybe he should find some­one else. If he’d wanted to write about run­ning, I’d have been all over it, but how was I going to find the com­mon ground nec­es­sary for open com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the patients I’d need to interview?

I needn’t have wor­ried. It turns out that weight loss surgery at its core isn’t really about weight at all. It’s about answer­ing the ques­tion Melvin Udall asked in the movie As Good As it Gets.

Remem­ber Melvin? He’s bril­liant, wealthy, and obses­sive com­pul­sive to the point that he has no friends and no real life. He’s mis­er­able, he makes every­one around him mis­er­able, and it’s clear in the first few min­utes of the movie that despite the fact that he’s in his fifties, has the money to hire the best psy­chi­a­trists and the time to put into recov­ery, he’s had zero suc­cess in man­ag­ing his men­tal ill­ness. When he sees the weary faces of patients like him sit­ting in his psychiatrist’s wait­ing room, he blurts out, “What if this is as good as it gets?”

Weight loss surgery is about dar­ing to hope that the answer to Melvin Udall’s ques­tion is “not if you don’t want it to be” and hav­ing the guts to act on that hope.

Unhealthy eat­ing has lit­tle to do with phys­i­cal need and every­thing to do with emo­tional need. Peo­ple overeat to numb, to avoid, to soothe, to escape. Weight loss surgery can’t cure that. It’s a tool that jump starts some­one into a new life, like giv­ing some­one a pow­er­ful push on a swing to pro­pel them for­ward, but after that it’s up to them to keep it going.

Any­one can eat their way out of the surgery, no mat­ter how dras­tic the pro­ce­dure. To stay healthy, the patient ulti­mately has to fig­ure out what’s really eat­ing them — whether it’s a bad mar­riage, a job they hate, an inabil­ity to han­dle con­flict, a lack of self-worth, dis­sat­is­fac­tion with where they’ve ended up in life, or a myr­iad of other issues — and face it head on. Keep­ing the weight off means doing the unpleas­ant work of iden­ti­fy­ing and con­fronting uncom­fort­able emo­tions and find­ing healthy ways to deal with them.

At some point, every adult faces Melvin Udall’s fun­da­men­tal ques­tion. Many hun­ker down in their dys­func­tional fox­holes, unwill­ing to feel the pain and put in the work to change the course of their lives.

Suc­cess­ful weight lost surgery patients have dared to do what many won’t — believed that their lives could be bet­ter and then backed that belief by putting their heart, soul and mind into the effort of mak­ing it so.

Inter­view­ing them and hear­ing about their chal­lenges and suc­cesses was as relat­able and inspi­ra­tional to me as watch­ing some­one who’d never run a marathon cross the fin­ish line with tears stream­ing down her face. Their efforts made me want to tackle the issues in my own life that keep it from being as good as it can be.

Like them, I want to be able to answer Melvin’s ques­tion with an in-your-face “just watch — I can make it better”.

~ by B. A. Blackwood

Dr. Nick Nichol­son a renowned bariatric sur­geon, and B. A. Black­wood, an author, retired trial lawyer, and marathon run­ner, teamed up to write Weight Loss Surgery: The Real Skinny, a guide for peo­ple who are con­sid­er­ing or have already under­gone bariatric surgery. Nichol­son was voted one of D Mag­a­zine’s top bariatric doc­tors seven years in a row, and Black­wood has com­pleted more than 20 marathons. Together they share a pas­sion for encour­ag­ing peo­ple to achieve and main­tain healthy lifestyles. Find out more about them at and

The Jun­gle of Life is hon­ored to have a guest author shar­ing con­tent here. Peri­od­i­cally we accept addi­tional guest authors. If you’re inter­ested in this, please fill out our Con­tact Form.
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