I’m writing this message for people thinking about, and those who’ve had, weight loss surgery (WLS), such as a Roux en Y, or the Sleeve. You (me too, I’m five years post-op) are making life-altering and significant decisions concerning your health. It’s natural to turn to those closest to you to discuss your choices and compare options. And when you do, you’re likely to run into someone who is going to tell you WLS is a way to “cheat” at losing weight.
It might be a family member, friend, co-worker, spiritual advisor, gym instructor, teacher, or even an acquaintance. She may have been your greatest cheerleader during every diet you’ve failed. He might be the one pressuring you to get thin. They may have watched your weight gain over the years and had plenty to say about it. But it’s pretty much assured that someone is going to say to you, “Surgery is taking the easy way out. C’mon, it’s really cheating.”
And after you’ve lost a significant amount of weight the same people will say, “My, you’ve changed. Where’s that sweet person I used to know?”
Okay, let’s take this step by step. In the first place, it’s not easy to realize that repeated failure is inevitable through traditional means. Oh sure, diets work until we reach our desired weight and begin to eat normally again, and compulsive exercise programs may shape and tone…until we get thinner and decide to skip a session or ten. You have stepped out of the box and recognized that it’s foolish to keep doing the same things time and again with predictably disappointing results – every pound you lost traditionally has come back and brought twenty more for good measure.
Secondly, who exactly are you cheating? And precisely how?
Are you cheating the person accusing you by taking their money under false pretenses? Perhaps they’re paying for your weight loss program, diet, and gym costs and think you’re dodging your responsibilities?
Maybe you’re swindling society at large because everyone’s physiology is obviously identical and those who no longer conform must struggle? Is dieting a competition you are fated to lose? Is it really depriving your community of anything if you choose to step out of a race you can’t win, place in, or even finish? Is dieting plus extreme exercise equals weight loss the only honest solution to a compulsory problem?
Or more insidiously, are you being accused of cheating yourself? Out of what; depression, health problems, discrimination, dismissiveness, rude behavior, cruel bullying, or early death?
Nonsense. Cheating, even short-cutting, permanent weight loss is impossible. It is not a game to be won, no score is being kept, no investor is paying for your weight loss and expecting a dividend. And duh, it’s impossible to cheat on yourself. As Yoda explained, you do or do not.
During the miraculous year following WLS when so many pounds melt away, you’ll get reactions ranging from praise and admiration, to curiosity, to shock and jealousy, the whole gamut. As strangers start being nice to you (another topic for another time), the bullies up their bullying.
It could be they’re resentful because you succeeded when they secretly bet against you, counting on you to fail this time as you always have before. Some, like alcoholics, might have thought of you as their eating buddy, the one they could always count on for a pig-out to make them feel better when they lost control because you did too. They may have always measured themselves as ‘better’ than you because thinner is the winner and you always outweighed them. Now they are bigger than you and they don’t like it for all the reasons I’ve mentioned and many more I haven’t. The happier you feel the more miserable they become.
They start saying snarky things to undermine you. The first is usually, “I don’t know you anymore. You’ve changed.”
Uh huh, duh. That was the plan, Fran.
You have changed, a lot. You’ve taken control of your own body and now manage its health in ways you never have before. They don’t know who you are anymore because you’ve made decisions far different than their own and much more difficult than they’ve ever managed.
You’ve learned a lot about your body, self-esteem, and the space you take up and it’s changed you. You’re not the same sad, lonely, self-deprecating, shrinking violet they knew before WLS. The days of pretending to be wallpaper so no one will look at you are over. You no longer hunger for acceptance or feel desperate for approval. You don’t need anyone to know your worth because you know it.
When asked where that sweet person they used to know has gone, I’ve answered, “I’m right here, stronger, healthier, and happier. Where’s that supportive sibling/friend/co-worker I used to know?”
If you’ve chosen WLS and someone accuses you of cheating or tries to belittle your accomplishments tell them, “Listen, you can either hop on board my Success Train or get out of my way. Either way, I’m moving on.”