I have lost more than half of my body weight, but I’ll never be on the cover of a magazine for this accomplishment. Of course I realize that they can’t feature everyone, but the reason I won’t be photographed standing in one leg of my old fat pants is because I didn’t lose my weight on Atkins or Weight Watchers or through some Jesus Off The Pounds church group.
I lost my weight through gastric bypass surgery, and thus my weight loss is filed under The Easy Way Out and not worth talking about.
When people do talk about it, it’s either to share a horror story or to shame and judge people who haven’t lost the weight the old fashioned way. Successful weight loss surgery seems to be something that nobody wants to hear about.
Maybe this is because our society thrives on fear and real-life campfire tales, but I think that the more likely reason is that being fat has such a huge stigma attached to it that we feel the need to stigmatize potential solutions as well.
Every fat person has a mortifying fat moment. Most have many. One time I was carrying some pizza home from the pizza shop for my husband to eat and some passersby yelled “Your fat ass doesn’t need that pizza!” I went home, shoved the pizza at my husband and cried.
This sort of thing didn’t happen every day, but things happened frequently enough to remind me that I was somehow inferior simply because I couldn’t manage to lose weight. I tried to believe that people would judge me on the content of my character, not the breadth of my backside, but when that didn’t happen I would blame myself and figure that maybe I was deluded for thinking I was smart or capable.
Now that I am a thin person, it’s easy for me to see that isn’t the case. Nobody stares when I eat (or carry) food in public. More importantly, the default way people treat me has shifted from contempt and condescension to respect. People assume that I’m capable and smart, where before I felt like it was a constant fight to prove it.
The change in the way people treat me is the primary reason that I’m wary to tell people that I’ve had weight loss surgery. It’s illogical, but I don’t want people to go back to treating me like a failure, and weight loss surgery is viewed by many as the ultimate weight loss failure, even when it leads to success.
Plenty of people think I’m inferior for choosing surgical intervention. Many online weight loss forums are particularly venomous when it comes to the topic of weight loss surgery. When I posted my weight loss success story on a weight loss forum that I had been posting on for years, I got about 16 terse responses. Meanwhile, people who lost far less than me (and, according to their weight loss tickers, had subsequently gained back a significant amount of the weight) had hundreds of effusive responses.
The message was clear: My weight loss wasn’t good enough and I have nothing to be proud of. I disagree.
Weight loss surgery is not the easy way out. It’s the hard way out. Before I had weight loss surgery, I didn’t just sit around eating hot dogs dipped in butter on pound cake buns until I finally waddled into a surgeon’s office and walked out magically fixed. That’s not how it works.
Any surgery is a big effing deal and the risks are even greater when you’re obese. Before I had my gastric bypass, I tried basically every diet known to man. If it had a book and a catchy name, I tried it. I knew how to count calories, points, carbs, fats and sugars. I knew how to add new foods to the food directory in my online diet tracker. I knew how to be vigilant. Unfortunately, I was not able to be vigilant every minute of every day.
I’m sure there are people who think this is a function of me being weak willed and typical of a lazy fatty. There are people who think that I should be ashamed of not being able to be perfect all the time. Don’t worry. I was.
I would at some point end up packing on another pound or two instead of losing and then shame-spiral back up to my body’s favorite weight, 245 lbs. I knew how to eat healthfully, and did it for the most part, but when I failed, I failed big time.
I kept yo-yoing and plugging away, though, because I knew that being fat was bad for me. Obviously I didn’t like the way I looked, but more than that, I wanted to be healthy.
The birth of my daughter made my health a bigger priority. I wanted to be around for her life, and I wanted to be able to participate fully in it. My obesity had caused me to have gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and, because I remained obese after her birth, it stuck around and became Type 2 diabetes.
When she was two, it was hard for me to chase after her because I was fat and winded easily. I didn’t want to sit at her graduation because I was a footless diabetic and couldn’t stand. I continued to try and lose weight on my own, but for the first time, I seriously looked into weight loss surgery.
It was a huge and scary step, but it wasn’t like this was my first course of action. It was my last resort.
I had to do a lot to prepare for the surgery. I had to spend hours at appointments to get medically and psychologically cleared. I was immersed in information about how my life was going to change. Despite the vigorous preparation, when I finally had my surgery, I still was not 100 percent prepared for how difficult the changes were going to be. Not because I didn’t understand what I was getting into, but because reality is often more difficult than you think it will be.
The weeks after my surgery were the hardest of my life. The surgery was really difficult to recover from and I was in a lot of pain. For the first two weeks, I was only allowed to consume clear liquids, so I was trying to heal major wounds with basically zero sustenance. It sucked.
I had read on the Internet that after the surgery people were not hungry at all, so I expected the clear liquid phase to be easy. I’m not sure who those people are, but I was still hungry; ravenously so.
I spent two solid weeks obsessively thinking of food, but I didn’t give in. I had moments of major regret and fear, but I had no choice but to follow my doctor’s instructions. I was determined not to be a weight loss surgery failure.
Once I passed the clear liquid stage, the rules were surprisingly easy to follow. I still was hungry like a normal person, but I was actually able to be satisfied by small amounts of food. I hit some bumps as I learned what my new digestive track could and could not handle, but I got the hang of things pretty quickly. I learned to eat appropriately and maximize the nutritional quality of the food I put in my body.
The surgery was a tool that made me feel like my body was working in concert with my mind toward a common goal instead of fighting me every on every pound.
I am days away from my 2-year surgical anniversary and I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life. I have very few food limitations and my while my portions are small, they are no longer freakishly small; for the most part I can eat just like anyone else.
I am no longer diabetic. Thoughts of what I can and can’t eat no longer consume every waking moment of my life. I weigh 115 lbs, which is actually smaller than I planned on being, but still within a healthy weight range. I not only can run after my daughter, but I can even beat her in a race.
I understand that surgery isn’t for everyone and obviously should not be the first intervention, but I think that people need to acknowledge that it is a reasonable way for the morbidly obese to take back control of their health. People shouldn’t avoid a potentially lifesaving intervention simply because they’re told that utilizing it is an admission of failure.
I am thankful to have my healthy life back and glad that I didn’t let fear-mongering and shaming prevent me from making the best decision of my life.