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I was fat. Not full-figured, not curvy, not husky, not pleasantly plump. Fat.
I had been fat since grade school and heard about it from family, schoolmates, and strangers passing on the street. By the time I reached 30, I was just about sick as hell of being fat. I wanted a change — a drastic change — and I was willing to do whatever it took to not be fat anymore.
At my heaviest, I weighed 350 pounds. I couldn’t sit in booths in restaurants. My knees and back were constantly aching. I worked as a nurse, but I was so exhausted by it that I could barely keep up. Defying all the odds, I was married, too. My husband loved me at that weight, but all I could see were the rolls of fat cascading and flapping and jiggling.
It would be a gross understatement to say I hated my body. I hated every aspect about it, including my supposedly thin legs, charming smile, and ubiquitous “pretty face.” Nothing could convince me I was beautiful, sexy, or worthy of love — not even my husband who was constantly reassuring.
That’s when I decided to have gastric bypass.
Lap band wasn’t good enough, wasn’t drastic enough. I needed something that was going to restrict me, possibly make me sick when I ate all the treats I loved so much. Tough love was the only answer for me, and that meant the most extreme surgery available to me. The thought of dying from the surgery occurred to me, but I didn’t think it would happen to me. I saw tons of patients in my work as a nurse go through the surgery and come out fine.
In 2008, I had gastric bypass surgery. My goal was to weigh less than 200 pounds to feel like I was worthy. I didn’t have expectations of being a size two. I just wanted to not be so damned fat anymore.
My first mistake was about two months after my surgery. I tried pizza. It tasted awful, but I wasn’t deterred. I had rules to follow, and I did for a little while. But did you really expect me to stop eating what I had always wanted? Did you expect that somehow reducing my stomach would mean that I was any better at resisting the temptation of the foods I had turned to for comfort from childhood?
The more I rebelled, the more my stomach pushed against me. I constantly overate, which meant I was constantly throwing up. My stomach didn’t prevent me from eating sweets, and I soon started drinking my beloved Pepsi once more. I wasn’t supposed to be doing this.
My lowest weight was 210 pounds. That’s near the goal, but not quite there. After that apex, I began to gain weight back due to my poor habits and stubborn refusal to follow the rules. I bounced back up to 240 pounds, and there I stay.
It’s funny, though. I’ve learned so much from this experience, and I don’t regret a thing. My gastric bypass surgeon is disappointed in me. I haven’t lost nearly enough to make him happy. I don’t exercise. I eat what I want. I’m irresponsible. I’m a nurse, and I should really know better.
I found that food was a crutch for me. Some foods, I simply could not eat without vomiting, such as steak. Some foods I could only eat a tiny amount of or I would become violently ill. How I missed food! While my family ate chicken wings and pizza, I would have to be content with one wing and half of a half of a hoagie.
This depressed me. How could I not have known how important food was to me? How could I have underestimated the effect of the restriction to my diet? I hate eating now. I only take comfort in drinking my soda. This is a good thing; I’ve had to find other ways to cope with my emotions because food is unfulfilling now in the spiritual sense.
I also learned that I didn’t need to be a number to be worthy. My surgeon laid out a completely sensible plan for me to lose weight and get below 200 pounds, but, you know, I wasn’t interested. After going through all of that, I didn’t care if I would ever get below that mark.
My surgery allowed me to fit into booths. I can wear jeans now and relatively nice shirts. For the most part, I look like any other woman approaching middle age. I’ve realized that bodies are not smooth and creamy waves of tight flesh. As a nurse, I saw all different types of female bodies, and when I look at my own, I realize that I’m just like them.
Put simply, I am normal, and I am okay with that.
It also helped that my husband still loved me. He still thought my body was beautiful, but he said once again that he thought I was beautiful before. If I was striving for this goal, who the hell was I striving for? Me? Is that it?
I realized that I just didn’t care about my weight anymore. I can look at my naked body in the mirror now without crying. Sure, there are things that I don’t like — my tummy for instance. I know, though, that if I really wanted it, I could start following the rules of my surgery.
The fact is that I don’t want it. I am content with who I am now, comfortable in my own skin. Gastric bypass taught me that weight is just a number and food is just fuel. Even though I failed in the eyes of my surgeon, I feel that I have triumphed. I am at a place now that I can make love with the lights on and appreciate my charming smile and toned legs.
I’m loved by my family, and I have grown to love myself more. I haven’t quite made it all the way, but I’m working on reversing a lifetime of an ingrained sense of unworthiness. So, even though my gastric bypass “failed,” it made me a better, more confident person. I don’t regret the risk I took or the times I got sick. In the end, not losing all the weight convinced me that I didn’t have to in order to be worthy of love.