emails from strangers: should i get weight-loss surgery?

I get a lot of emails from people, all of them pretty much universally wonderful. Mostly it is kind words, or continuing a conversation I start with a post, or stuff that is too personal to share in the comments, or providing me with very important information that I had previously lacked (most notably, about breakfast places in Salt Lake City and interesting medical facts. But not in the same email.). I love the letters I get and the readers we’ve got. Every single one is like Christmas! Generally speaking in a figurative way. Sometimes, though, I get the emails that give me pause.

They’re not terrible, or hurtful, and they’re not even in any way a bad thing, these emails, but every single time one appears in my inbox, I hesitate, get uncomfortable, set it aside to think about and end up thinking about it for far too long, ending up sending embarrassingly delayed and rushed responses. I have been terrible with returning emails in the past, am trying to get better with it, here in the future–yet these emails, which say “You got weight-loss surgery. Should I get weight-loss surgery, too?” defeat me every time.

And here I pause again, because it’s such a huge question, and I approach it gingerly, cautiously, armed with a shitload of digressions and cautions and qualifying statements. The answer can be as easy as hell, no! Don’t get weight-loss surgery! And then we dive into: Unless you’ve been thinking about it for ages and researching the complications and still really want to get weight-loss surgery, unless you think you need weight-loss surgery because you can’t lose the weight on your own and it affects you emotionally and physically in an intractable way, unless you really know what you’re getting yourself into, unless you can afford it, emotionally and psychologically and vis a vis the cold, hard cash involved. Unless you know everything there is to know about weight-loss surgery, and still think it is a good idea. I thought it was a good idea. I thought it was a great idea. I thought it was the best thing I ever did.

But I don’t want to tell you that. It sounds like I’m saying, It is the greatest thing ever! It is the coolest thing in the world! It is happiness on a stick!

I want people to come and ask me, Should I get weight loss surgery? and take my answer and file it away as one of the many millions of answers they’ve solicited from the many millions of people they’ve shook down for information. I want to be part of a continuum of research in search of a final, definitive, highly personalized answer. I’m terrified, though, of answering, of my answering being the thing that pushes someone into doing it. I don’t want to be in the position of being an advocate, a cheerleader, a pro-weight-loss surgery party member, toeing the line.

My answer is–it’s been hard, and I am so glad I did it. Every day is still a struggle. It does not magically cure you of food–it throws all your addictions and problems into sharp relief. You will want to die, sometimes, because you’ve never felt so sick. For me–for ME. For me, it was the right decision. I got weight-loss surgery. For you–I don’t know. I truly don’t. I want you to be happy, and healthy. I want you to make the choice that is correct and right and good for you. I want to not sound like I am waffling.

I wish I had a definitive answer, but there isn’t one, as much as either side–pro-WLS, anti-WLS–wishes there was. It’s an option for a reason. It’s an option for you–maybe. And that’s all I can tell you.

  3 comments for “emails from strangers: should i get weight-loss surgery?

  1. October 16, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Great answer. :-) It’s complicated. And very personal.

    I considered it seriously. I went through and got approved through insurance, etc. I had failed at every diet. I was morbidly obese (>300#). I didn’t think I could lose on my own.

    But the more research I did and the more people I met who had gained the weight back, the more I realized it wasn’t going to fix MY problem — between my ears. I think I would have been one of those people who found ways to overeat anyway, like milkshakes (real ones, not diet protein things).

    After the surgery, I was still going to have to eat differently and exercise.

    And the physical effects, immediate and long-term, were more than I wanted to take on in the name of weight loss since I was pretty healthy, though fat.

    It’s not easy either way. And no one else can make that decision for us.

  2. anon
    October 16, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I understand why you feel this issue weighing (ha! no pun intended!) on you, but maybe this will alleviate that, just a tiny bit:

    It feels like such a big deal because it’s WLS (and, I mean, it IS a big deal; I’m not saying WLS is not a big deal!) (

  3. Sarah
    October 17, 2008 at 10:07 am

    It’s so funny you wrote this post, because I am right now grappling with wether to go to my doctor to discuss WLS, and I had actually considered emailing you for advice! I even went back into your achives to read about the earlier days and see if I could get any insight.

    I agree with the first commenter who pointed out that it’s no miracle cure for my particular problem, which is food addiction. I know I’d still need therapy, and that it would still mean eating healthy and exercising…

    But yeah, your experience is yours, but I wouldn’t be nervous about writing about it or answering people’s emails. And definitely advising them to seek out more than just you for information. Doctors should be the first conversation, in my opinion, then maybe others who have been there. Great post, thank you!

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