I did a Thing.

Before I get to the details about The Thing, please bear with me while I give you some background.

I have been fat all of my life. I’m convinced that constant dieting and negative messaging about eating and food and my body conspired to make me as big as I am. As a young adult I got “radicalized” around it, learning about “fat acceptance” and “fat activists” and basically making peace with my own self-worth in my fat body. I was healthy by many measures: strong, active, even athletic. I made a great life for myself including my wonderful kids, supportive family, great career, and partners who have loved me without regard to my body size.

Then in 2014 I injured my back. I had my first knee replacement shortly thereafter, and my back continued to get worse. After the revision to that knee replacement in 2016 it continued downhill, and since then I have been using a mobility scooter because it’s difficult for me to walk without pain. Fast forward to 2020: I embarked on a journey to help make my body stronger and more able. I underwent a relatively minor back surgery which we hoped would help, but didn’t help much. I had my other knee replaced. I started doing yoga. I increased the frequency of my weight training. I learned chair aerobics. All of this helped, but not enough. My back is still bad enough to the point where I can walk around my house and go places, but I am in pain pretty much whenever I walk or stand, so I still need the scooter. I am not able to do most exercises. I am not a candidate for more extensive back surgeries due to the physics around my body size. Additionally, the gestational diabetes I developed during both of my pregnancies turned to full Type 2, insulin-dependent diabetes over the last 13 years.

So last winter I embarked on a journey that led me to The Thing: this morning, I underwent bariatric surgery (sleeve*) for the purpose of gaining a tool to assist me in losing a lot of weight. This surgery removed a portion of my stomach. This will have the effect of altering my hunger hormones so that temporarily, and hopefully permanently, I will not experience hunger in the same way, allowing me to be comfortable eating less. The smaller size of my stomach will enforce this. But it is possible to do this and still gain, or not lose, weight by not eating right. So for the last 7 months I have been training myself to eat in a way that is not only healthy (which I did before anyway), but will keep me healthy with this new smaller stomach. Part of this has been unlearning my attachments to food. I’ve learned how to find other ways to deal with emotions, boredom, and celebration.

There are many of my fat activist friends who will not understand how I could do this, will think of me as a “sell-out”. I understand this. For me, however, I got to the end of my rope. I’m not even 60 years old, and I refuse to be disabled for the rest of my life. I know that most diets fail, but with this physical tool, and the emotional and psychological work I’ve done over the last year, I’ve got a reasonable chance of success, measured by keeping weight off so that I will either be more mobile, or will be more of a candidate for back surgeries that could help me. I still consider myself a fat activist, and will vigorously defend the need to treat every person with dignity regardless of their size. I know it’s possible to be healthy and fat, as I was for many years.

There are people who will think of this as the “easy way out”. If you do, let’s have a conversation because NOTHING about this process is easy.

I want to make something very clear: I did not do this to be skinny; I did it for my mobility. I will not look “better”, I will look “different”. This is an important distinction for me. All my life I’ve received messages about my weight from well-meaning friends and family which I heard as disapproval and disgust. I know most of those messages were actually well-intentioned, but you know what they say about the road to hell… Hearing those messages has left me with a lot of emotional baggage, so I need to ask for your support to help me avoid hearing those messages again. When my body starts to change and get smaller, it’s likely you’ll want to say “You look great” or something else to compliment my looks. When I hear that, what I really hear is “You looked so awful before”. I’ve spent years leaving behind those negative messages so that I could feel good about myself, including how I look. I’m not doing this surgery for my looks, I’m doing this for my mobility. I also don’t want to hear anything like “Glad you’re finally doing something about your weight” because that implies that I’ve been a failure up until now, or an idiot for not doing this sooner.

I know it will be hard to avoid commenting on the changes you’ll see, and I don’t want you to pretend nothing is different, so here are some suggestions of what to say if you want to say something positive or encouraging:

  • “You seem to be moving so much better these days” (because that’s the goal here)
  •  I’m really proud of what you’ve accomplished” (because this is a big accomplishment)
  • “I can see you’ve been working hard, good for you!” (because this is SUPER hard work)
  • “You look so different” (which will be true: it’s a statement of fact, not about looking “better”)
  • “You look happy”
  • “You seem to have really great energy these days”

You can also feel completely free to ask me anything about the surgery, what or how I’m eating, what changes I notice in my body, how much weight I’ve lost, how I’m feeling (physically or emotionally), or anything else related to my journey. Just don’t make it about my “improving” looks or that I’m “finally successful”.

Thank you for reading this far. I know I can count on you for your support.