by Jessica Lee Grzelak
“Queen of Mean” did not lose an ounce of sass along with her weight
BRISTOL – “I don’t normally speak in public, but I guess I’ll do it for charity,” said comedian Lisa Lampanelli at Tuesday morning’s announcement of Bristol Hospital’s partnership with the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America (WLSFA). The WLSFA aims to end obesity by education, support, and providing grants to people who are severely obese and otherwise would not be able to afford a bariatric surgery that could save their life. According to bariatric surgeon at Bristol Hospital,
Dr. Makram Gedeon, one third of people who could live longer and healthier lives from a surgical procedure are under or uninsured. There are other chapters of the WLSFA throughout the country that raise funds for people in their local area to receive surgery, but Bristol Hospital is the first hospital in the country to be exclusively connected to the foundation.
Excited about the idea of creating a chapter in Central Connecticut, President Patricia Miller said, “There’s got to be a way to bring this fantastic hospital and this fantastic foundation together.” With the support of doctors from Bristol Hospital who are aware of the dangers of obesity, the partnership was formed. According to Antonia Namnath, founder and CEO of the WLSFA, the great thing about the foundation is that all the money raised by each chapter stays in that area to go toward the cost of surgery for local residents.
How does it work? Doctors refer patients who are severely obese and “falling through the cracks” with no insurance, who then apply for a grant from the WLSFA. Then, a “secret” committee is formed who does not know the names or genders of the applicants. The committee only knows the financial situations of the applicants and what they have done to try to help themselves. When a recipient is chosen, they agree to raise a portion of the funds to give back to the chapter. All recipients of the grant become ambassadors of the foundation to talk to others about the help they received.
Although not a recipient of the WLSFA’s grant, Lampanelli became an instant ambassador and spokesperson for the foundation after having her own weight loss surgery: the gastric sleeve, which Lampanelli described as the “removal of majority of [her] stomach, not invasive, and really cool”. Fortunately for Lampanelli’s fans, the reputed “Queen of Mean” did not lose an ounce of sass along with her weight. While acknowledging how honored she is to be a part of the WLSFA, she still managed to poke fun at Dr. Gedeon’s Lebanese ethnicity, letting everyone in attendance know that the doctor who performed her surgery was Indian – “not the casino kind”.
In high school, Lampanelli was athletic and played tennis, but in college, succumbed to emotional eating as a way to cope with homesickness and heartbreak. After trying various diet and exercise methods that didn’t work, Lampanelli and husband Jimmy Cannizzaro (who she endearlingly refers to as “Jimmy Big Balls” decided, “We can either live longer, or we can eat like we have nine rectums.” As a result of her 2012 surgery, Lampanelli is down 107 pounds.
Namnath saw Lampanelli post-surgery on Dr. Oz and tweeted her about the WLSFA. According to Lampanelli, her interest was immediate. Weight gain, Lampanelli explained, is emotional, which means that the real hard part is keeping the weight off and being able to process emotions instead of using food to cope with them. Similar to learning to overcome substance abuse, Lampanelli described her battle with food as a “lifelong learning experience”, and through therapy and attending seminars on emotional eating, she is learning to only eat when she’s hungry, instead of when she’s angry or lonely.
The choice to go through with bariatric surgery is a lifelong commitment. Since surgery, Lampanelli and Cannizzaro have no choice but to eat smaller portions – literally, as it is painful to eat too much. “When we go out to eat, we only eat a few bites of our food and the waiters think we hated it.
We end up with leftovers for five days,” Lampanelli said. As for exercise, while Lampanelli no longer plays tennis (it’s too competitive), she enjoys walking and hitting up the gym. Of the eleven surgeries the WLSFA has funded so far, all of the recipients are, like Lampanelli, enjoying healthier more active lifestyles. Namnath reported that some recipients of the grant were housebound and on oxygen pre-surgery. Now, one patient who thought he would die because of obesity walks ten miles a day.
Far from being “lazy” or “taking the easy way out”, Lampanelli asserted that life will be a struggle for anyone considering bariatric surgery. But, she said, it’s still “better than being in the ground”. Obesity kills 300,000 Americans each year, and according to Miller, if we don’t fight obesity now, today’s children are going to be the first generation ever to live shorter lifespans than their parents. “If I cheated anything,” Lampanelli said, “I cheated death.”