Why is it that people -like me- who have undergone gastric bypass surgery have to put up with people’s bullshit snap judgments?
It has happened to me countless of times. I’ll run into someone who I haven’t seen in a long time, maybe someone who didn’t keep in touch with me or we just weren’t very close and then the following exchange will happen (almost verbatim):
Person: Oh my God! You look so different! How much weight have you lost?
Me: Over 130lbs, give or take
Person: Wow! That’s great, how did you do it?
Me: I had gastric bypass.
Person: Oh. (Blank look.)
And from there it could go in one of three ways. Either a) They’ll vehemently warn me about all these horrible things that can happen to me because of my surgery (“Oh my God, did you know you can get bone cancer from that?”); or b) let me know about some cautionary tale about their cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s friend who either died from surgery or gained all their weight back; or c) (my personal favorite) they will completely devalue everything that I’ve achieved.
I’ve observed that a lot of people just assume that Gastric Bypass (or really, any weightloss surgery) is an “easy-fix” or “the easy way out.” Really? Easy? Are you kidding me?
They’ll ask “Well, why didn’t you just do diet and exercise? You could have lost the weight.” No! Really? Diet and exercise? Oh, wow! Why don’t I just hop on my time machine and do that, then? And seriously, don’t you think I TRIED dieting (and diet pills, diet teas, crazy shakes, etc.) before I decided I wanted someone to CUT OFF part of my stomach and BYPASS most of my small intestine?! Seriously, I wish I could show people what it’s really like, the first few weeks; how just a drink or water feels like someone kicked you in the stomach; how just the wrong-sized bite of a piece of chicken could make you feel like you’re being strangled from the inside. Nothing about this surgery: the fight to get your insurance to approve it, the starving yourself with crazy shakes 2 weeks prior, the recovery; could ever be called “easy.”
Even with all the crazy things I’ve gone through, guess what? I’d do it again. Gastric bypass is by no means the easy way out, or even the best way to lose weight (after all, ideally it would be better to do it naturally) but it was the best decision for me. And this crazy roller coaster ride is what propels me now to find new ways to get to know myself (the inside, not just the chubby parts) and start to make real changes. So, yeah, if you asked me seriously if I’d recommend weight loss surgery my answer would be “Hell yeah, but make sure you know what you’re getting into.” It’s not for everyone. What I wish someone would have told me before, is how many people would treat me differently afterward. I wish someone would have told me that it is grueling and sometimes awful and even now, over a year post-op I still have to deal with the fact that even though this surgery changed my body and my life, it didn’t change my brain.
Which is another thing people don’t seem to get. Yeah, I may have lost a ton of weight but in my head, sometimes I see the same girl at over 300 lbs. And now is when I’m starting to even try and deal with all the psychological fall outs and all my weird food-issues. I still want to overeat, and sometimes I succeed (which results in horrible pain and wanting to die). So, comments like “I don’t know why you aren’t skinny already, isn’t that surgery supposed to make you skinny?” still hurt. And some of these people are my friends (some are even family!), and I know they mean well. They’re just uninformed and maybe a little ignorant, but that’s ok. That’s the point of me writing posts like this one.
Do I want people all up in my business, knowing every little detail? No. But maybe if I talk about it, then people will think twice about making a stupid comment, suggesting some stupid method or showing me how OTHER people were able to do what I couldn’t without surgery. And maybe, someone may be considering surgery and my thoughts on the issue can offer some clarity or someone who has gone through it, can feel that they’re not alone. That’s what helps the most.