the unexpected side-effects of weight-loss surgery

You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to be naked in front of someone. Someone who is not my doctor, or my cat, or my beloved. I’d like to stand up, naked, in front of a completely objective person, and ask them exactly what I look like. I don’t want them to describe me in sexual terms, or any kind of value-laden language: in terms of attractiveness or not, shapeliness or lumpiness, without using heavily weighted words like “scrawny” or “lumpy.”

Is that possible? It might not be. It might be that the language of bodies, the language applied to bodies, is too emotionally weighted, has got too much baggage surrounding it, to ever be stripped free of its associations and applied objectively and dispassionately. But that’s what I want. I want someone to look at me, and tell me exactly what they see, because I have no idea, at all, what I look like. I’ve wanted that all along, all the way down the points on the scale. But now, I feel like I need to know.



I’ve got all this extra skin, see. It’s far, far less skin than I
expected–sometimes, I feel like it’s way less skin than I deserve,
after all those years of being overweight, and then obese. Shouldn’t my
skin have stretched to its breaking point? Oughtn’t I look exactly like
a melting candle? That’s what happens, when you are fat and then you
are thin. But I lucked out. I am droopy in the arm, and very small of
breast. The flesh of my stomach crumples, and can be pulled taut, to
either side of my waist. There’s a pooch, where my fanny pack of fat,
the part of my body I unfairly heaped the most hate upon, used to be,
but it does not obscure my knees–it hangs down hardly at all. And then
my thighs, which sort of ooze slowly downward, wrinkling into my knees,
and my butt, rounding down to little folds just above the backs of my
legs.

I want to take off my clothes in front of someone and say, What does
this look like? I mean, is it awful? Do I look terrible? Do I make you
embarrassed to look at me? Do I look a thousand years old? Do you think
it’ll all go away, if I start lifting weights like an insane mad
person? It’s all perfectly ordinary, right? Will that solve my problem?
Is it a problem at all? Can I live with it? What do you think–could you
live with it? Or would you start fantasizing about plastic surgeons,
and thinking about how your body’s going to finally be okay, once you
get rid of this last barrier to being awesome and perfect, with
absolute no hand-holds for mockery. There will be absolutely nothing
for anyone to pick on me for, right? Once I get rid of the skin? I’ll
be inviolable, and unflappable. Literally! No flaps! Literally no
hand-holds. Unless you count the enormous plastic breasts I’m sure I
will be suckered into installing into my chest.

Maybe what I want is someone, with no stake in my self-esteem, with no
reason to want me to feel happy, to tell me that it is okay. To give me
permission to just give it up and get on with living my life in the
imperfect body I’ve ended up with. I’m a smaller person, and it’s
changed my life in an uncountable number of ways, so many for the
better. Isn’t that good enough? It ought to be. That’s what I got into
this whole mess, with the weight-loss surgery, for. To be smaller, to
be healthy, to get on with living my life, without worrying about my
body.  Did I really believe that would happen just automatically? It seems to me that I
did. I can’t believe, however, that I was really that naïve.

  12 comments for “the unexpected side-effects of weight-loss surgery

  1. May 22, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Anne, It Is OKAY.
    You are okay, my darling girl.
    Really, I can’t imagine there’s a soul on the planet that doesn’t want reassurance on some level, that doesn’t think that if only this little bit was a teeny bit tighter, or that was bigger, or this was…etc.
    You will never be more perfect than are at this very moment in time. What is perfection anyway? It’s a mere illusion. Don’t let us strive for fantasy, punishing ourselves for not being the impossible…instead, let’s embrace what it is to be alive, to be active participants in a life that graces us every day with gifts.
    Of course, the theory is always so much easier than the practice.

  2. May 22, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    God, I couldn’t even finish reading it w/o thinking I must have somehow wrote this, only more brilliantly written by you, of course.
    UUUGGHHH!1!!
    Is all I have to say ( and then some..ALOT some) b/c after losing 130 pounds in 2 years on my own, I have massive amounts of saggy skin I PRAY TO GOD will tighten up/go away on it’s own. I think about surgery, too but with what money?
    I have 2 children both under the age of 5, one of them Type1 Diabetic PLUS, ok, get ready…
    1. Will be homeless soon.
    2. Will be without a car soon.
    3. Haven’t had a decent meal in forever and no food for, like, 3 days straight.
    So, if I don’t have money for basic necessities for living, how, oh HOW will I EVER in my life have money for excess skin removal?
    Only hope I have is using my 40 pound 2 year old Son as weights and hope to God I find a Sugar Daddy..
    No, no money or time for school.
    BTW, you guys rock it EXTRA hard with this amazing blog of greatness!!
    KTHXBAI!

  3. M.
    May 22, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I don’t really know, but isn’t it like accepting that you’re going to go through puberty again?
    I mean, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to wearing bras, having a functioning uterus, and getting my period (I still feel it cramps my style – HAHAHA), but it was just going to happen, and I couldn’t control it. I was definitely looking forward to being taller and stronger (although even that got a bit out of hand… :) ).
    Isn’t it sort of the same thing? You know there are going to be some funky changes, but it’s part of moving forward. I’d slather on some of that Dove skin-firming body lotion, eat my greens, hope for the best, and get on with things… no?
    I still have stretch marks on the outside of my upper thighs from growing too fast, and I’m always afraid the knee problems will come back. But they haven’t, and every year, the stretch marks get lighter. It’s been 10 years since I grew 6 inches in three months. I don’t know if I’d start pulling my hair out in frustration over having a little extra skin just yet… :)

  4. May 22, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I can completely relate. I have lost 120lbs in the past 2 years (without surgery so it took longer) and I feel like I look like I am 80.
    For me, the only answer is surgery.
    ick.

  5. Bridgett
    May 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    as someone who’s still fat- obese really- it’s hard for me to relate to this entry. yet i know that excess skin can be a real problem and i can only imagine i’d be the same if i was in your shoes. just try to think of someone like me who is several hundred pounds heavier than you are. i am envious of your saggy skin! :)

  6. May 22, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    You know, I have a sneaking suspicion this is the exact same thought most of us have had, while fat, thinking about being skinny. Don’t we all want someone (a big Omnipotent Unjudging Someone) to look at us and pronounce us good and good-looking? I think that uncertainty occurs at every increment on the scale, and at some point you either get to a point where you accept what you see, or you don’t. I suspect it will be pretty obvious to you when you hit that tipping point of wanting surgery or not. The real issue is learning to get happy with yourself (hardest lesson I will ever attempt to learn, personally) in the meantime. Because after the surgery, will you not want to show off your scars? Wait until the scars fade and you get a killer tan? Wait until you’ve done eight sea salt scrubs? I dunno, there is always one more barrier that’s in the way of a fabulous nekkid self and the big scary world out there, when self-esteem is acting as the tiniest anchor on your ship (um, excuse my mixed metaphors). I hope you do find some peace with whichever way you choose! (Also, having had a breast reduction & lift, I can testify that simply getting the skin removed with a lift will make your boobs feel eight million times awesomer, even without augmentation! It’s all about framing!)

  7. Melody
    May 22, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I felt like I was reading a very accurate description of myself when I read your post. I’ve lost a total of 170 from my highest weight, although, not all at once. Part of it in 2001, and 120 in the last three years. I’m having the same exact dilemmas. I know how lucky I am that I’m smaller, but I’m just thankful that my life typically requires that I wear clothing most of the time. Just last week I saw a picture of myself in a strappy dress at a wedding. I had let my wrap slip off and you could clearly see the wrinkles and ridges on my arms. Since then, I’ve been referring to them as my “ruffles.”
    Part of me agrees with a friend of mine who says that I was previously hiding my body because of its size, and that I’ve worked too hard to feel like I still need to hide, for example, by keeping my wrinkly arms covered now. She thinks the surgery would be good because she knows that the wrinkly-ness bothers me a lot.
    On the other hand, I feel like I’ve put my body through a lot, having been overweight since I was a small child. It almost seems mean of me now to torture my body even more by having major surgery to remove pieces of myself that I find to be aesthetically unpleasing. Plus, surgery is painful, I don’t really like pain, and I would still have scars. That’s a big point for me too.
    I’m so happy to be at my current weight, but I could still stand to lose another 20 or 30 pounds (using BMI charts and my vision for myself as criteria). I’m hoping that losing a bit more will help. I do drink lots of water and slather on the lotions. I also go to strength training sessions twice a week, although the skin is certainly not the only reason for that. I think these things have helped, as I think it could really be much worse than it is, but I still don’t know if I will eventually have surgery. I’ve decided that I don’t have to know right now. I’ve heard that time helps the skin, and I think it will help me to sort this out too.
    Here and today, I know that it is ok. I know that people are proud of what I’ve accomplished, just as we are all proud of you, and I’m certainly proud of myself too. I’m not ready to embrace my “ruffles,” but they are, in some ways, a badge of honor. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one.

  8. May 22, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Ok, here’s a deal for you – since I’ve lost 145 pounds with the same surgery you did, I’ll assess your nakedness and you can assess mine (but can I please wear my panties? I’m shy). It’s not going to be easy – I second what Jesse said: that we all want that Unjudging Someone to accept us and tell us we’re good enough now, and we were good enough before. For real! Honestly! No joke!
    So, you let me know if I need to scrape up plane fare to Utah, ‘kay?

  9. Elk
    May 23, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    I can’t see a reason NOT to get rid of the excess skin. You got surgery to lose weight, why walk around with loose skin when you don’t have to? You’ve already crossed the surgery bridge.
    Wanting to get rid of excess skin after losing weight isn’t some craze vain thought, it’s perfectly reasonable. It’s the last part of your weight loss.

  10. Alexandra
    May 25, 2008 at 5:10 am

    I had WLS just over 2 years ago and have lost about 110lbs. I’m lucky, my boobs are great, my upper arms are great, but I have the “mummy tummy” (and no kids!) – and yes, I’m scared to get naked in front of a man. What’s the point of being “pretty on the outside” if I’m still too scared to go near a decent man?
    I’ve bitten the bullet and am scheduled for a tummy tuck in 4 weeks. I’m scared to have another general anaesthetic – on the other hand, I’m 110lbs lighter than last time, so surely that must be worth something! ;-)

  11. Punchy
    May 27, 2008 at 1:31 am

    I’ve seen some tv shows about people who get the surgery and then get the skin removed and it looks like the scars are pretty big.
    On the other hand, I’ve had some pretty big scars covered up with tattoos and no one even notices them anymore.

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