FRIDAY FICKS: Willy Wonka strikes again, but exercise is better

Published on Friday, 17 September 2021 00:01
Written by CARL R. FICKS, JR.

A massive highway billboard featuring a large woman with a tape measure wrapped around her waist and a suggestive, quasi-rhetorical question hovering over her shoulder. PANDEMIC POUNDS?

And of course, the answer provided on the billboard in all its sartorial splendor: BARIATRIC SURGERY!

Not a typo. Not fake news. A medical group pedaling surgery as the instant cure to pandemic weight gain. Much like going from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds in a fancy sports car, or pulling the card in Monopoly blaring "Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200."

According to the American Psychology Association's annual stress survey, conducted in late February 2021, a majority of adults (61%) reported experiencing undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic, with a median weight gain of 15 pounds. The headline in a July article in Bloomberg barked out "U.S. Workers Try to Lose Weight Before Returning to the Office." The article noted that "gym memberships are up, personal trainers are booked and digital subscriptions to WW, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers, were 16% higher at the end of the first quarter from a year earlier."

The predatory and illusory bariatric billboard cleverly wants to cut corners. Forget exercise. Forget lifestyle changes, including nutritional tweaks or reducing alcohol intake. Forget meditation or other mindfulness practices, like getting a bit more sleep. Just have surgery and be done with it.

The world-renowned Mayo Clinic says bariatric surgery involves "making changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight [and] is done when diet and exercise haven't worked," also describing it as a "major procedure that can pose serious risks and side effects." Probably too much text for the billboard I spotted a few weeks ago.

In the iconic movie "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory," Wonka invented the "Three Course Dinner Chewing Gum," which replicated eating a full dinner, including tomato soup, roast beef, baked potatoes and blueberry pie. Forget the joy of eating a meal with family or friends, including the pleasure of preparing it, the resultant aroma, taste, and texture of the food, or the accompanying rich conversation. Just pop a piece of gum in your mouth and be done with it.

Surgery as the quick and easy answer to shedding pandemic pounds? Studies abound linking the benefits of exercise to combating weight gain, depression and anxiety.

What about the joy of setting a goal and working towards it? What about catching a mind-blowingly beautiful sunrise on your morning run? What about the intoxicating pleasure of an exercise-induced endorphin rush or the camaraderie of a cross fit class at the local gym?

Perhaps Willy Wonka has struck again, this time overseeing the marketing department of the highway surgeons. I loved the Wonka movie when I was a kid, but that was Hollywood and not real life. Thanks but no thanks.

Exercise tastes sweeter than dinner gum, and just might be less painful than surgery.

Carl Ficks helps athletes and aspiring athletes set and achieve their goals. He once could not run two miles without stopping, but has since run and cycled thousands of miles and competed in dozens of road and bike races of all shapes, sizes and distances, from three to 100 miles. Carl moved to Berlin in the 4th grade but later ran away to practice law in New Britain for many years. He's also a proud member of The Generale Ameglio Society. When you're ready to get back in the game, go to

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Friday, 17 September 2021 00:01. Updated: Friday, 17 September 2021 00:03.