Anyone who loses a big chunk of weight becomes some sort of weight loss evangelist. I know this, because I’ve worn those shoes. I’ve lost more than 100 pounds in less than nine months twice in my life.
That’s right. Twice I’ve done the work to lose triple digits, and each time I gained it all back and more. Weight loss gets harder every time, and even the small wins become more few and far between.
Right now, I weigh more than 400 pounds and I wear a size 26/28. My large lipedema calves mean that some pants will never cover my body despite the waist being too big.
At my size, weight loss surgery is an inevitable topic of conservation. And although I occasionally entertain thoughts of having the surgery myself, I always come back to the decision that such surgery is not for me.
I find myself increasingly told what to do with my body anytime I’m honest about my weight struggles. It’s a dilemma that’s made me bite my tongue on more than one occasion.
In fact, I’m biting my tongue even now.
People mean well when they tell me that surgery is my best option. I try to remind myself of that regularly. But I am still not convinced that surgery is in fact my best option for lasting weight loss or my personal peace of mind.
And when I say that, folks go on a mission to change my mind. I wind up regretting that I ever got honest about my weight struggles.
There are a number of reasons why I’m not jumping at the opportunity to have weight loss surgery. Clearly, every surgical procedure comes with risks. And any elective surgery isn’t something to take lightly.
Yet the biggest factor preventing me from choosing bariatric surgery is the fact that I don’t believe it’s in the best interest of my mental health.
When it comes to weight loss, I think most of us carry some sort of feeling that any measure is worth it in the long run if it means we lose weight. Everybody just has different levels of whatever measures they find acceptable.
Some folks are quicker to approve of crash diets or near starvation, whereas others promote rerouting your intestines or having a sleeve placed around your stomach to prevent your usual intake of food.
As much as I get that surgery is a great tool, and for many folks, an effective one, I can’t help but notice that people gloss right over the mental health consequences.
We have to talk about mental health and weight loss. Post-bariatric surgery patients have a higher self-harm and suicide attempt risk compared to others of the same age, sex, or BMI. People who undergo a Roux-en-Y are three times more likely than those in the general population to die of drug- or alcohol-related causes. Transfer of addiction is a real problem after weight loss surgery, as studies have found increases in opioid addiction, alcoholism, and more among bariatric post-ops.
The thing is, I already know what it’s like to battle addiction in toxic relationships and deal with chronic suicidal ideation. I already have been through some addiction transference after triple digit weight loss. As a woman with borderline personality disorder and asperger’s, I see how easy it is for my mental health to get off track.
And at this point, I don’t believe that weight loss surgery is worth the risk to my mental health.
Just because weight loss surgery isn’t the right choice for me, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right choice for someone else. It could still be the right choice for you. And perhaps one day it will be the right choice for me.
All I can deal with is today, and right now, bariatric surgery is not the right choice for me. I feel this in my bones.
It is more important to me that I work on my eating issues in a holistic way. I want to deal with my issues before expecting a tool to change my life. Besides, for every person who tells me that surgery was their best, most life-changing decision, there is somebody else who tells me that they really do wish they had worked more on their mental health before having the surgery.
And I know myself well enough to know that I would be one of those folks to consistently struggle in the same damn way.
These days, I want friends to quit asking me why I don’t just have weight loss surgery. And I want well-meaning strangers to quit telling me to “do something.”
So much of the well-meaning messages carry an extra serving of guilt. Or, people can’t help but make remarks that if I really love my daughter I’ll figure it out.
As it turns out, human beings can struggle with their mental health and addiction without it becoming some issue of not loving their children enough. We are allowed to be mixed bags of issues… are we not?
I want so much to get my shit sorted out. Yes, I do want to live in a straight-sized body. But I also want some damn peace of mind while I’m at it. And apparently, that’s where we disagree.
My peace of mind isn’t necessarily congruent to anyone else’s. Their hopes and dreams for me are not mine, at least not the way they want me to go about a better life.
It’s possible that I’m just dreaming. Maybe I’m even fooling myself to believe in a life where I learn how to have a healthier relationship with my body and food.
It doesn’t matter.
I’m still not ready to put down the dream of changing my habits and doing things more mindfully. Surgery is a big decision. A serious commitment.
And I’m not ready to go down that road.
I just wish more people would accept this part of me.
This is my dream, and I’m not willing to give it up just yet.