By now, you've probably heard about Al Roker's unfortunate bathroom-related incident at -- of all places -- the White House. Perhaps almost as surprising as the headlines themselves was the admission that the embarrassing episode was an often-ignored side effect of weight loss surgery.
"I probably went off and ate something I wasn't supposed to," he said on NBC's "Dateline."
"Which is a common side effect of the surgery," NBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman responded.
The weatherman wasn't always so open about discussing his 2002 procedure. "In this country, if you have an alcohol problem or a drug problem, you can get treatment," Roker told USA Today after months of keeping mum about his dramatic weight loss. "If you have a weight problem, it's lack of willpower: 'Just push away from the table, tubby, and you'd lose that weight.' But you can stop drinking, you can stop sticking a needle in your arm. You cannot not eat."
Other celebs, like Carnie Wilson and Lisa Lampanelli, have also come forward about going under the knife to get slim, but there's an atmosphere of secrecy around such procedures similar to the "did she or didn't she?" whispers about cosmetic surgery. Weight-loss surgery, however, may come with additional stigma, as if diet and exercise changes weren't enough. In the same USA Today interview, Roker called owning up to his surgery "the ultimate admission of failure."
Still, the famous faces who do go public with bariatric surgery are showered with praise for their smaller size. And instead of talking about the risks of elective surgery or the myriad side effects, stars often explain that they're feeling better than ever and loving their new look. "I have been struggling with weight from age 18 to now -- that's 32 years of diets," Lampanelli said on a recent visit to HuffPost Live. "I'd had enough… but it's great, we needed to do it. I've done everything from really unhealthy stuff to healthy diets, but it just wasn't for me."
Bariatric surgery aims to "reduce the amount people can consume at a given time and the amount of digested food they can absorb," the New York Times reported. There are a number of procedures that fall under this umbrella that can achieve the same end result. Gastric bypass surgery entails creating a small pocket toward the top of the stomach and sealing off the rest, according to WebMD, thereby bypassing some of the small intestin so that fewer calories are absorbed from the food traveling through.
Lampanelli underwent gastric sleeve surgery, she said, which actually involves removal of part of the stomach. And Rex Ryan opted for lap band surgery, in which an inflatable silicon ring seals off part of the stomach.
Roker's incident was certainly embarrassing, but not uncommon. In fact, both fecal and urinary incontinence are common side effects, possibly because surgery may expose "prior weaknesses in the continence mechanism," according to a 2010 study. In the study, 55 percent of women and 31 percent of men with fecal incontinence felt their condition worsened after surgery.
But other side effects of weight-loss surgery can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Eating too quickly, taking big bites, not chewing enough or eating foods that are too dry can bring on nausea or vomiting in many people after weight-loss surgery, and too much sugary or greasy food can lead to diarrhea. More than a third of patients develop gallstones, masses of cholesterol that form in the gallbladder, after surgery, according to WebMD.
About 20 percent of people who opt for weight-loss surgery require further procedures for complications, WebMD reported, and as many as 30 percent deal with complications relating to malnutrition, like anemia or osteoporosis, since the intestines are absorbing fewer nutrients.
Some weight-loss surgery patients may develop ulcers at the site where the small intestine is connected to the pocket created from the stomach, especially those who take aspirin or NSAIDs, according to the Mayo Clinic. A stoma, or a narrowing of the opening at this same site, may also occur, and require surgery to repair. Patients are also at risk for dehydration, since the stomach can no longer hold large quantities of water. And rapid weight loss can bring on feelings of fatigue, cold, mood changes and body aches, as well as cause hair thinning.
In rare instances, some patients may experience a serious complication called Noninsulinoma Pancreatogenous Hypoglycemia Syndrome (NIPHS), or very low blood sugar levels. In these cases, patients may experience neurologic symptoms like confusion or even seizures, according to the Mayo Clinic, and could require pancreatic surgery to cure.
Tragically, bariatric surgery patients seem to also be at greater risk of suicide, according to a review of nearly 17,000 operations performed from 1995 to 2004 in Pennsylvania. The researchers calculated suicide rates among the patients to be more than five times higher than the rate in the general population, the New York Times reported.
This could at least in part be due to the tremendous work required to maintain the results of weight-loss surgery. The procedure itself is not a quick fix; a number of habits have to change as well, if the weight loss is to be permanent, and as many as 20 percent of people will gain a significant amount of weight back, People magazine reported.
Appetite and emotional cravings don't shrink just because stomach size does, and emotional issues need to be addressed. When they aren't, some patients, fall into a "rebound relationship with something else" reported ABC News, namely, alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. "Many people who undergo bariatric surgery struggle with eating in response to different emotional cues," Alexis Conason of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, told ABC News. "I [wondered] what happened afterward. If they are no longer able to cope with their emotions through eating... do they turn to something like drugs or alcohol to serve the purpose that food did originally." Conason's survey found that surgery patients had a 50 percent increase in frequency of substance abuse two years after their operations.
While recent research suggests that weight loss surgery may be effective in preventing Type 2 diabetes (assuming the necessary lifestyle changes are made), it's important that even the most highly-qualified surgery patients weigh the risks before opting for a surgical solution.
Roker's weight loss isn't the only high-profile, dramatic transformation of late. Check out some of our favorite celebrity weight loss stories of 2012 in the slideshow below.
Although the blogger has been on a mission to get healthy since 2008, this year, he took his regimen to a whole new level, revealing some killer abs at LOGO's 2012 NewNowNext Awards, HuffPost Gay Voices reported. "It wasn't quick," he told HuffPost about the weight-loss process. "And I worked for it! I'm still working for it! In fact, I'm working much harder on my fitness now than when I first started this journey." It's paid off emotionally and mentally, too. "Looking good isn't as good as feeling good," he said. "And I feel better than ever! I hope I'm able to inspire others."
It seems like no matter what she's doing, people can't stop talking about Jessica Simpson's weight, and her pregnancy was no different. The singer gained 70 pounds while pregnant with her daughter -- and admitted it's not all fun and games taking it off. "I'm not a supermodel. My body is not bouncing back like a supermodel," she told USA Today. "I'm just your everyday woman who is trying to feel good and be healthy for her daughter, her fiancé and herself." Thanks to a deal to be a Weight Watchers spokesperson and workouts with celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, Simpson shed 60 of the 70 pounds by October of this year, just five months after giving birth, Us Weekly reported. Pasternak expressed his support for his client, telling the magazine, "In over 20 years, I've never seen as consistent a weight loss. Jessica's right where she needs to be . . . She's gotten so much stronger." Word circulated late in November that the singer is pregnant again -- only time will tell if she confirms the reports, and how her body changes this time around.
The actor has called his yoga-instructor wife a "good influence" -- and it showed, when he revealed a trimmer figure in January 2012. "I lost 30 pounds in four months,” he told Access Hollywood, by cutting out sugar, and adding Pilates, Spinning and yoga to his regular routine, after being diagnosed as pre-diabetic in 2011, Entertainment Tonight reported.
The singer first showed off her weight loss in 2011, tweeting a picture of herself in a bikini, about 30 pounds down. But by the summer of 2012, she'd bumped that up to an even 50, appearing on the cover of Shape. "I just wanted to be healthy," she told the magazine. "I remember thinking, 'I'm in my prime. I should be happy and fit.' That was the moment I decided that changes needed to be made." She started taking walks around her neighborhood, and eventually added hiking and Zumba to her fitness routine. "There is no secret," she told Us Weekly, of how she did it. "It's just better eating and working out! It's definitely a daily thing."
After retiring from the NBA, the Hall of Famer gained about 100 pounds, he told Parade. "And that wasn't good." In an unforgettable line of Weight Watchers ads -- including one in a dress and heels -- Barkley revealed a nearly 60-pound drop in 2012. Eating a variety of foods (in moderation) helped immensely, he told Men's Health, as did the support of friends. "Losing weight is better if you've got people around you who can keep you motivated," he said.
The former Disney star has spoken out about taking her time to lose the weight she gained while pregnant with her son. "There are some women who look the same right after -- I think they are freaks of nature! I don't know how that happens,” she told Parents magazine in October. "I'm not one of those people. It takes your body nine months to get there -- really 10 months. So I'm trying to be patient but I'm working hard. And I think now more than ever, I appreciate my body and what it's done for me." But in December, eight months after giving birth, Duff tweeted a picture of her progress: She's back in her skinny jeans, flaunting a size 26 and giving a nod to trainer Gabe Johns. "Hilary and Gabe have been doing everything from boxing to two-a-day workouts incorporating wind sprints and jump roping in an effort to finally shed the baby weight," a rep for the trainer told Us Weekly. "Hilary's been steadily dropping pounds each week."
Rap legend Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons told HuffPost Black Voices that he's lost 22 pounds, in an effort to get healthy and combat his higher-than-average risk for Type 2 diabetes. "I found out that [my father] had diabetes in his older age and as I was moving along in my life ... I realized that I had to start losing weight," he said. "[It was] for many reasons, but the number one reason was for health."
The singer dropped 55 pounds after the birth of her daughter. While pregnant, she told Shape, "I ate a lot of cheesecake ... Also anything sour -- Sour Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, key lime pie..." Workouts with celebrity trainers Jillian Michaels and Jeannette Jenkins helped her get back to her pre-pregnancy weight and into the best shape of her life, she told the magazine.
After pinpointing fast food as a source of stomach discomfort in the summer of 2011, the "Glee" star overhauled her eating habits and jumped on a new exercise plan. By February 2012, she had dropped two dress sizes. "I've always been comfortable with my size," she told People. "I just decided it was time to get healthy." After collapsing on a red carpet in May, Riley took to Twitter to clear up her attitude on weight, writing, as CNN reported, "I don't starve myself to fit clothes; I buy clothes to fit ME not vice versa, I DO NOT DIET; I eat right and exercise! I love myself waaaay more than I like my career. I would never ever put myself in harm's way to mirror any 'image.'"
The Australian actress joined Jenny Craig as a spokesperson in 2011 and lost 22 pounds in her first 10 weeks on the program, according to an Australian Yahoo affiliate. "I was like a marshmallow blob when I started, but now I’m starting to get back into the shape I remember," she said. By August 2012, on an appearance of "Jimmy Kimmel Live", she had shed a total of 33 pounds, HuffPost Celebrity reported, by incorporating water aerobics, walking and working out with a trainer into her regular routine, she wrote on her Jenny Craig blog.
The actress lost 60 pounds in six months, she revealed to TheInsider.com, after her doctor warned her about her high cholesterol levels in April. After losing her father late in 2010, she gained around 40 pounds, but hearing the news that she would need to go on medication or lose weight brought her focus back to her health. "That was my wake-up call most of all," she said. "I'm definitely not the person that's like, 'I'm going to lose weight to fit in a dress' or 'I need to lose weight for a boyfriend or a job.' I've had a great career. I'm happily married. I have a beautiful son. I've never felt like my weight defines me."
After the much-publicized disclosure of her Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, the comfort-food connoisseur made some small changes that paid off in a big way. The Food Network star debuted a 30-pound weight loss in People magazine in June. Instead of her favorite Southern delicacies, Deen's said to opt for Greek salads and baked fish now. "I do think differently now," she told the magazine, when it comes to food. "I'm more aware."
Upon her "Dancing WIth The Stars" return, Palin showed off a slimmer figure, telling Us Weekly, "I'm definitely in better shape than I was last time, definitely. I'm just more active and I cut all the crap out of my diet! It's that simple."