Vanity, or Sanity?

QUESTIONING BARIATRIC SURGERY
 
I used to walk into my doctor’s office with my hand raised defensively. “Let’s just start with the assumption that I need to lose weight, and move on from there.” She would laugh, and we’d begin discussing my reason for being there.

I have long held the opinion that doctor offices psychologically attack patients to ensure a greater adherence to medical advice. They do it by stopping in the hallway, invariably full of foot traffic, to weigh and measure you on a full-sized scale. Textbook perfect Public Humiliation 101.

I’ve never known what it’s like to maintain a healthy weight. It’s been a continuing issue for freakin’ forever. Diets and exercise programs have been intermittent interruptions throughout my life. Sometimes they are a resounding backdrop to other memories, like when I sucked in my tummy so hard my diaper fell off.

My self-esteem took the expected plummet, relieved only during the most successful stages of dieting episodes. I’ve never received so many compliments and/or so much praise as I have when I’ve lost weight. So many, in fact, it made me resentful.

Why didn’t I get compliments like that for other achievements? I have been a storyteller for decades, performing before groups large and small, done community theater, been an award winning teacher, written an award winning novel, and yet the only time my friends and family seem proud of me was when I was thinner. Which never lasted long. (By the way, I know this is only my perception and that my friends, and some of my family, are very proud of me and my accomplishments. But knowing, and feeling, can be two vastly different experiences.)

Sometime in the second or third month following a successful weight loss diet an overwhelming craving would crash over me. If you’ve never felt it you won’t understand this, but it is an absolute imperative that you eat. Your mind focuses on food, and only food. You find yourself wandering in and out of the kitchen, grabbing a taste of this, or a handful of that. You hate yourself for losing control, and yet the body grabs you by the throat and screams in your face, “No more starving!” Then it gets your belly to emphasize the point with a lot of uncomfortable roiling and loud rumbling.

I’ve yo-yo’d up and down so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve been a size 11 and I’ve been a size 26. One time I bought a size 32, but I think that was sheer frustration that I couldn’t find anything to make me look attractive and bought something three sizes too big in a flood of self-loathing. I’ve done Weight Watchers (twice), the egg and grapefruit diet, Phen-phen, low-carb, 7-day diet, oatmeal and apples diet, etc., etc., etc. I counted points, collected cards, and plotted food charts.

Any diet will work, as long as you stick to it fiercely. In my experience that means a combination of severe self-loathing, determination, and acceptance of pain. It takes a lot of hurting to make you turn away from food while you’re still hungry. To refuse yourself a feeling of satiation involves embracing discomfort, and to continue that unpleasant feeling for days, weeks, and months requires (from me, at least) a hatred for my fat self. It’s not enough to want to be thin – I have to hate to be fat.

I beat myself up (dieted) regularly for the first thirty years of my life, and over the following twenty-eight still do so, but with longer and longer intervals between. The last two diets I started with reluctance,  knowing I would succeed, be happy with myself for a few months at least, and then begin the inevitable regaining of the weight and accompanying self-loathing. I did, two for two.

I’ve lost all faith in low calorie, nonfat, low self-esteem diets. How many times do I have to repeat the cycle before I admit it doesn’t work? Apparently, this many times.

I am scheduled for a Roux en-y operation on December 15th. It’s taken me over a year to get to this place, but I’ve finally arrived at the starting gate. Today I have begun the two week liquid diet required before surgery. I’m already hungry, but hopeful that at the end of this journey I’ll be able to lose – and keep off – the baggage I’ve been lugging around my entire life. I’m ready to cut away more than half my stomach to control my eating.

People say to me, “As long as it’s for the right reasons…” meaning it should be a health only decision. Mine is, and isn’t, but more about that later. Being me I need to chronicle this journey. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck.

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