This is a topic I haven't touched here before for fear of being pro- or anti- weight loss surgery. That is totally not the point: I believe people have the right to do whatever they feel they must do to get healthy and live their fulfilled lives. Totally just sharing my personal thoughts right now.
I stared in disbelief. The beautiful, yet 100 pound overweight friend had transformed into a stunning, svelte fraction of herself in the time it has taken me to lose 25 pounds. Automatically, the insane jealousy kicked in. I want that. I want to have my hard work pay off like that. I can't even fathom how looking “normal” would feel. I've never been “normal.” From the husky kids section to Junior Plus and then plus sizes by high school, “normal” has never been in the vocabulary of me talking about my size.
I've seen similar weight loss surgery success stories from acquaintances and have always wondered what it would be like for me to go through the process. A few years ago when I hit rock bottom with my weight, health and happiness, I went to one of the introductory seminars at a local surgery center. I entered the room a sweaty mess from trying to find the place and rushing because I hate being late. There were only a few seats left, and they were right in the front of the room. I dragged hubs with me (he was still “boyfriend” at this point) and we heard stories of people who had some surgery or another – RNY, Lapband, gastric sleeve, etc. They stood next to photos of their former unrecognizable selves.
The doctors spoke about the process from insurance approval to post-surgery life. They showed photos and diagrams and I think were pretty thorough in their review. No smoking, must take supplements, get your protein in, don't drink during meals and don't drink soda. After their presentation, hands went up and questions were asked. I stared at each person and though “Do I look as big as they do?” “Am I the biggest person here?” “These people all look sickly. I'm not sick.”
- “Well what happens if you smoke after the surgery?”
- “What do you mean no soda? Diet soda has nothing in it!”
- “How fast can I lose 200 pounds?”
- “Why do I need to lose weight before the surgery? That's why I'm having the surgery!”
Of course, these are the only questions I remember. I'm sure there were very serious questions asked that didn't make me think: “Are you really serious?” when they were asked. These questions, however, blew my freaking mind. People were already asking questions that led me to believe they would be non-compliant after surgery. I told myself that I wasn't like that. I would do it all to the letter and I would be hugely successful.
I submitted my insurance information, and found that I had a direct exclusion to my policy forbidding any procedure of the sort. Even with medical necessity with co-morbidities. I tried about a year later when I had different insurance. Same thing. I tried again after I got married and had hubs' insurance. Same thing. 3 different insurance policies, and none would cover it. The surgery center talked to me about payment plans and portions of the prep that might be covered. I didn't want it though. I didn't want monetary stress because I (at that time) felt too defeated to do anything proactive about my health besides have surgery. Something didn't feel right about it.
Of course, there are the stories of deaths. Inevitably all my friends of friends knew people who died from internal bleeding, etc. I didn't want to die due to surgery, but I was willing to die from my declining health and growing size.
Then there are those who lost all the weight and then gained it back. A family member of mine did that, as well as some other acquaintances I've had throughout the years. Did I want to surgically alter myself only to not feel strong enough to keep on the plan to keep the weight off? Would I be a fat, unhealthy person with a tiny stomach pouch that was overstretched and bypassed intestines?
In the past 2 years throughout this journey of trying to find my “Skinny Emmie,” I've thought about weight loss surgery. Of course, it's always when things are tough – I never think about it when things are awesome. When I was at the Walk From Obesity, I wore my Skinny Emmie shirt that said I had lost 110 pounds. I was stopped by one of the volunteers who worked for one of the surgery centers that was sponsoring the event. “That's great!” as she pointed to the shirt. “When was your surgery date?”
I explained that I didn't have surgery. I know some people think that surgery is the “easy” way out, but I disagree. What is easy about going through a surgical procedure and then having to adapt their food and lifestyle? We all have to do that anyway, surgery or not.
I couldn't help but think though, when I answered that I didn't have surgery, what would have happened? Would I have become “normal” or be even more active and happy? Would I have died? Would I have the same struggles? I'll never know.
When I got home from Indianapolis and watched the video of me talking, I was slightly horrified. “How in the world am I still that big? How in the world will anyone take me seriously like that? I need to have the surgery.” These toxic thoughts have run on repeat in my head the past 2 weeks.
This weekend, my fog has lifted. The truth is that I felt good about the progress I made without surgery. I could have been told “no” to surgery and then just continued down the road to destruction. Something in me wanted to fight, and all it took was a tiny spark to start this crazy emotional journey I'm on now.
Surgery or not, these truths are the same:
- You have to address the reasons behind the weight. It's ugly and messy and extremely difficult, but how can you change something you don't understand?
- You have to be proud of your path. Offer no apologies for not meeting others expectations. Yours are the only ones that matter.
- The road you take will never be identical to anyone else. Own the path and the uniqueness that will take you to success.
- Recognize and own your accomplishments. If you never check the rear view mirror, you can't see the perspective of the distance traveled.