weight-loss surgery is the easy way out

This is not what I meant to write about. What I was thinking about writing, when I sat down and sipped my coffee and opened up my laptop and all the way up to the point where I fired up a Word document and flexed my fingers, maestro-like, above the keyboard: my skin, and the way my body is shaped, and how I can’t figure out if I am getting used to looking slightly crêpe-y and elephantine in the belly-ular area, or if my skin really is tightening up and that’s the reason I am thinking it doesn’t look so bad and hey, cute little boobs and maybe I will just say bite me, plastic surgery, you are expensive and scary.

I started off planning to write that post. I started to actually write that post, but it swerved off almost immediately when I started a sentence with a familiar lament and emerged at the end of that sentence with a tiny little epiphany that maybe won’t startle you, but which startled the hell out of me.



It goes against everything the fat acceptance movement believes in,
which makes me sad–because what they have to say is so, so important.
But the thing is, what I have to tell you, and I am sorry, fat
acceptance activists, I honestly am–but I like having lost the weight. I
like being a smaller person, less remarkable. I like having a wider
range of clothes to cry about in the dressing room, I like being able
to fold over and touch my nose to my knees, I like fitting in chairs,
and I really like not feeling like I have to apologize for my self, my
size, for being a blight on the landscape. I hate that I ever had to
feel that way, and don’t think any one should. I wish I didn’t have to
have lost so much weight in order to finally feel a little more okay in
my body. You’re right, when you say no one should, that it is an evil.

When people talk about weight-loss surgery being the easy way out, what
they’re talking about is a very pro-skinny, yay losing weight! kind of mindset, in which people who have gotten surgery didn’t have to do all
the hard work of exercise or change the way they eat or become
active or have to be strong-willed all the time, right? I will tell
you, because I have to keep saying this: in every way, that idea is
completely untrue and continues to make me mad because it sure as hell
hasn’t felt easy to me. I still have to exercise! I had to change my
entire lifestyle and eating patterns! It was not easy! My daily
struggle with what I eat, getting enough exercise, taking my vitamins,
keeping up my protein and my water, it remains anything but easy, okay?
I might be a little sensitive about this topic.

But here’s the thing. I will admit this to you, this revelation that
I’ve had–in one very real sense, it is absolutely the easy way out.
Here’s a showdown: between learning to love yourself and your body in
the face of a world not built for larger people, which is frustrating
and morale-destroying in so many tiny ways and the number of assholes
who seem personally offended by fat, versus becoming thin. In this
showdown, becoming thin will always win out as the easy way out of all
the complicated, difficult work of breaking yourself of the habits of
self-hate, buying into the cultural paradigm, struggling to find plus-size role models and positive messages and remaining positive in the
face of a lot of crap that is thrown at us, day after day.

I took the easy way out, after all. It was too hard to love myself at
300 pounds. I wasn’t healthy, sure, and I needed to be lighter for my
knees, my heart, my blood sugar–but I also bought into everything that
told me I was ugly, unpleasant to look at, not good enough. It’s still
frequently difficult to love myself at 140 pounds, to tell you the
truth–nobody is immune to self-esteem issues, to insecurity and doubt,
and it’s not fair to suggest that a thin person is not allowed to feel
as uncomfortable in her body as a fat person. They’re just as subject
to the pictures of flawless, Photoshopped bodies and taut thighs and
sculpted abs maybe they’ll never have. But it is entirely fair to
suggest that they sure have it easier, in a million tiny ways.

I am
glad I have it easier. I hate so very, very much that I had to–or felt
like I had to. I hate the idea that I might be a rotten example, I hate having given up on myself–but finally, in the end, at the very heart of it all, it is true that I took the easy way out, and I am glad.

  11 comments for “weight-loss surgery is the easy way out

  1. Susan
    May 16, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I do love all your observations. I hated myself when I was obese. And after losing 120lbs, I still thought I was fat and ugly – it was only when confronted with tragedy and loss, that I began to ease up and accept myself even though that rough time added back 30lbs.
    Now I still want to lose that mourning weight- but I feel so much better about myself than I did before.

  2. May 16, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    You said that very, very easily. :)

  3. Turquoise
    May 16, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    This is a very insightful article. My mother chose surgery while I opted to just diet and exercise w/o surgery. We were both over 200lbs. Both options require a lot of discipline. I wish the best for anyone who chooses to alter their lifestyle. It’s emotional and distressing, but ultimately rewarding.

  4. Elk
    May 17, 2008 at 3:15 am

    I wouldn’t call weight loss surgery the easy way out, I’d call it the wrong way out. As you so clearly explained you have to watch what you eat after the surgery for it to work long term. So in the end all you have done by getting surgery is spend a bunch of money and taken on added risk only to have to do what you could have done without it.
    And I know that’s not what your post is really about so now that I’ve had my mini-rant all get to the main topic.
    I think the whole “fat acceptance movement” is wrong. Your weight is not some per-set thing, it’s something you control. Is it harder for some people sure, but that’s all it is harder. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you should give up. There are lots of kids with learning disabilities, no one runs around telling them they give up on school because it’s hard.

  5. Alice
    May 17, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Word, Anne. I think it’s often hard to acknowledge the ease that we can feel when we no longer experience the same daily pressures and discrimination that we used to. But one thing that’s not easy is continuing to remember and acknowledge the prejudices, misinformation and biases that you had to deal with. It’s a lot simpler to rationalize things away, so that you’re not left in that awkward position of knowing you have it easy while many folks are still dealing with it. Thanks for not taking that easy way out of it.

  6. May 17, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    You didn’t pick the easy/hard way, or right/wrong way, you did what you had to do. I chose diet and exercise, because I am scared of having my flesh cut open, and the cost of it took my breath away. And when you’re done, you still have to diet and exercise, as you well know :).
    You talk about weight loss in aesthetic terms, but I notice that most of the people in FA bloggers are young people. When you are young, it’s an aesthetic thing. But before I lost 100 lbs, I hurt every time I got up from a non-handicapped toilet, hurt when I walked up stairs, and I was only in my 40s. When you are doing something for your health (and yeah, FA people, it was better for my health), there is no right/wrong/easy/hard. Those are pointless judgements.

  7. May 18, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Just a quick note to say that I appreciate the candor on your blog. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose over half your weight. That’s just such an incredible accomplishment. Do you feel more empowered now about other areas of your life now?

  8. Kelly
    May 18, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I’m sorry to do this in comments, but to Elk above: you are just wrong. Moreso, hurtful in your ignorance.
    Yes, as Anne points out so beautifully, the work does not end after weight loss surgery. Exercise and a proper diet are still necessary, as they were before, and as they are for everyone for health reasons. However, it is not just “spend a bunch of money” for something that was unnecessary. I worked out 6 days a week before I had surgery, for almost 2 hours a day. I made every possible effort to eat well, and yes, it was extremely hard. Not just a little hard, not just a challenge to overcome, not just some little weakness on my part, but completely utterly impossible because I was wired to have a large insatiable appetite and frankly, one cannot outwit one’s own body when one feels like one is starving 24 hours a day. The body will win, because the body controls the mind. It’s not a matter of willpower and “trying hard enough.”
    What surgery did for me was to physically alter my body so that it functions like a normal person’s. I can eat a normal amount of food and feel satisfied by that. I have been freed from the constant, unceasing discomfort of always feeling hungry and out of control of my own body. Exercise and diet work for me now, and no, they did not work before. I have been given my life back, and it could not have happened another way. I know because I tried all the other ways first.
    I spent 30 years being told that I was weak, not trying hard enough, and that I must be lying about how hard it was for me, because it was not hard for them. Now that I have had the surgery and live a more normal life, I see exactly how different it is for the average person. Do I have to make good choices every day or deal with consequences? Yes. But that is now a challenge with consequences that are in my hands.
    Oh, by the way, one’s natural weight tendencies are actually preprogrammed to some extent, but that is a rant for another time.

  9. Kelly
    May 18, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I’m sorry to do this in comments, but to Elk above: you are just wrong. More so, hurtful in your ignorance.
    Yes, as Anne points out so beautifully, the work does not end after weight loss surgery. Exercise and a proper diet are still necessary, as they were before, and as they are for everyone for health reasons. However, it is not just “spend a bunch of money” for something that was unnecessary. I worked out 6 days a week before I had surgery, for almost 2 hours a day. I made every possible effort to eat well, and yes, it was extremely hard. Not just a little hard, not just a challenge to overcome, not just some little weakness on my part, but completely utterly impossible because I was wired to have a large insatiable appetite and frankly, one cannot outwit one’s own body when one feels like one is starving 24 hours a day. The body will win, because the body controls the mind. It’s not a matter of willpower and “trying hard enough.”
    What surgery did for me was to physically alter my body so that it functions like a normal person’s. I can eat a normal amount of food and feel satisfied by that. I have been freed from the constant, unceasing discomfort of always feeling hungry and out of control of my own body. Exercise and diet work for me now, and no, they did not work before. I have been given my life back, and it could not have happened another way. I know because I tried all the other ways first.
    I spent 30 years being told that I was weak, not trying hard enough, and that I must be lying about how hard it was for me, because it was not hard for them. Now that I have had the surgery and live a more normal life, I see exactly how different it is for the average person. Do I have to make good choices every day or deal with consequences? Yes. But that is now a challenge with consequences that are in my hands.
    Oh, by the way, one’s natural weight tendencies are actually preprogrammed to some extent, but that is a rant for another time.

  10. Anonymous
    September 14, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Amen Kelly!! There’s a HUGE difference between pre-surgery “diet and exercise” and post-surgery diet and exercise. It’s sooo different. I had surgery 6 years ago and have kept off 130 pounds. I get treated sooo differently by society and it’s something you can’t experience until you’ve been through it. I would have gastric bypass EVERY single year if I had to…just to feel this great. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I could’ve never kept off this weight without it. Yes, it required work…but you get results equal to your efforts. Without gastric bypass…it was a losing battle. Unless you’ve been through it…don’t judge!

  11. Anonymous
    September 15, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Amen to those who bravely had the surgery. I had it three years ago (next week), and have lost about 170 lbs. And to say it was “easy” is a joke. The list of what i can’t eat (without getting sick is long… bread, rice, anything “round” like grapes/olives and much more. In addition to having to watch what i eat all the time very very carefully, so i don’t get sick and throw up, i have to make sure i get enough of the vitamins and nutrients, and i have to excercise and monitor my health.
    One of the hardest parts though is dealing with the thoughtless comments by people who never, ever had to deal with a weight problem or who were fortunate enough to be able to control it with diet and excercise alone.
    On 3 separate occassions, I even did a liquid diet and did not eat a single grain of food for 6+ months. Don’t tell me i don’t have self-control. Now that my body is wired differently, I have what many others were fortunate to have from birth, a stomach that doesn’t enable them to eat too much, and a body that tells them they really are full after only eating a small or normal amount. For me, it was totally and completely a physical issue.
    Judging me for fixing a physical/physiological problem is as stupid as juding someone with another problem… like acid reflux or an ulcer and blaming them for taking the “Easy way out” by getting it fixed.
    Wouldn’t it be so much more useful to stop judging one another and work on finding helpful solutions to the problems our society faces?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *