Even as things stand now, there are a lot of people left out in the cold. A 2016 study, for instance, found that only 41,000 people with diabetes annually get bariatric surgery in the US—fewer than 5 percent of the total new cases diagnosed every year. And the longer someone has diabetes, studies have suggested, the less likely they are to go into remission if they eventually get surgery. Getting those numbers up will not only require changing the minds of insurers, but public opinion, too.
The emphatic takeaway is that the opposite of addiction is connection. Beating the disease is fundamentally about preempting the point where you lose the freedom to choose: Don’t hold the drink in your hand; don’t go to the party where you know exactly what will go down. In the moment before the bad decision, Brand urged, “you have to make the commitment to call someone who can be your North Star. Someone who is not spellbound in that moment. Someone who can tell you the problem you’re trying to escape is still going to be there, and it’s not going to work, and you’re gonna feel like shit afterward. This is why we need people further down the path, so they can hold our shit as we grow.”
Benari doesn’t want to remain an outlier, though. And perhaps surprisingly, many doctors and surgeons are starting to agree that surgery should be considered more than a last-resort remedy for weight loss. Instead, it should be seen as a crucial aspect of diabetes care, and quite possibly the best tool we have against the chronic, often worsening condition.
“A significant cost is the association of wellness with money—thinking you need something external, tinctures and potions and balms. Its, you know, it’s the stuff that’s here,” said the Zen priest Angel Kyodo Williams, the second of only four black women recognized as teachers in the Japanese Zen lineage, during a talk in the latter wing as she gestured in the direction of the expo. “And there’s nothing wrong with those things, but we have a psychic connection that wellness equals something I can purchase, something I’m in competition for, something that I have to acquire because it’s not intrinsic to me.”