Some of the side effects of the duodenal switch procedure for weight loss: it is necessary to take vitamins for the rest of your life, because you malabsorb them, and nutritional deficiencies are possible. You can develop intolerances to certain foods. Your body odor can change. If you are not vigilant with the amount of protein you consume, your hair can thin, and sometimes drop out. Your bowel movements will be frequent and unpleasantly loose. And if you eat some foods–particularly high-fat, high-carb foods, and sometimes dairy–you will experience noxious gas, and so will everyone around you. Sometimes, even if you don’t eat anything but protein, you’ll experience noxious gas anyway.
Some of those things, I’ve dealt with–I take my vitamins, some days more vigilantly than others, but I am working on making it an unbreakable habit. I’ve become lactose intolerant, to my great horror. My body odor hasn’t changed, and after a scary few months where I could see my baby-fine hair becoming baby-finer, my hair thickened back up. I poop a lot, and I carry matches with me everywhere, because of that. And I have noxious gas.
It is noxious, embarrassing, unpleasant gas that lingers, which I don’t
like to talk about, and which I have tried to avoid talking about all this
time I have been writing about weight loss surgery. Because who wants
to admit that they smell terrible, that they can clear out a room, that
they live in fear that their body will choose the very worst possible times
in the world to announce itself–on a plane, in a crowded restaurant, in
a car or an elevator, in your boss’s office. When I say noxious, I am
not really so much exaggerating. At all. In fact, it is possible that
noxious doesn’t quite cover it. It is possible that as I type this, I
am sinking deep into that feeling of humiliation and shame that happens
when people in 7-11 start looking around them, wondering where the hell
that smell came from, and oh my god, what died?
I am fairly petite and have a sweet, dopey-looking face. And I can
blink with the best of them, look around confusedly and wrinkle my
nose, and no one ever expects that this terrible smell could possibly
be coming from me. There’s a comedian who tells a story about how he
and his wife were just about to valet park, when she suddenly farts
obnoxiously. She shrugs and says “I don’t care. He’s just going to
think it’s you.” And it’s true–ladies don’t make smells like the smells
that I make. Does that mean I’m not a lady?
It feels oddly good to confess this to you, no matter how embarrassed I
am. There’s so much that has been awesomely wonderfully super-great
about fitting into the world at a smaller size and not being noticed
(and sometimes, being noticed). And then there is this major drawback.
You’d be surprised at what a drawback it is. You’d be surprised at how
often it worries me, panics me, occupies my thoughts, controls my
movements, makes me feel ashamed. Sometimes, regret. You’d be surprised.
Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is, and I am not actually a farting
machine. Except probably it is and I am. I am so aware of it all the time, and
always worried. I spend a lot of time searching other people’s faces to
see if they have noticed, if they are horrified and feeling nauseated,
if they have realized it is me. I spend a lot of time wanting to
There are ways to make it slightly less bad–watching what I eat helps.
Some foods trigger it worse than other foods. They say, charcoal
tablets, chloroform, inserts into your underpants. Not having had weight loss surgery.
Would I go back if I could? I wouldn’t. I don’t think I would. Most
days, no. But if you’re thinking about it, look at that list of
possible side effects and take it seriously. If you’ve got a friend
who has done it–know that she’s really, really sorry, okay?