Weight Loss Surgery – one woman’s story


The media have recently been looking at weight loss surgery, including lap banding and gastric bypass, as the solution to the “obesity epidemic”. Since I’ve never had weight loss surgery, or met anyone who has, I put a call out on Twitter looking for people to tell me their story, either good, bad or indifferent. One person answered the call.

Doreen from San Diego, California had gastric bypass surgery seven months ago. I asked her some questions regarding her experience with weight loss surgery. I thought her answers so so well written that I should just let you read them as she wrote them. So without further ado…

What prompted you to consider weight loss surgery? (e.g. doctor’s advice, friends and family, something you saw in the media)

To fully explain why I made my decision I need to tell you a little bit about myself.I grew up in a large family. My maternal grandparents had 10 children and by the time I was born most of them had kids so I was one of over 30 grandchildren. Of all of them I was the only fat kid. The rest of my cousins are all willowy and small whereas I somehow inherited the bulk of my Father’s genes. His family lives on the other side of the country so they weren’t a big influence in my life at the time. The only fat people I knew growing up were one of my aunts and the older ladies at our church.

Through the magic of a young mind & too many Disney movies I basically believed that I was destined to be my family’s ugly duckling. One day I would wake up thin & lovely like my siblings and then my real life would begin. As such I lived my life waiting for that magic day. I wore shorts with elastic waists in horrible colors & shirts with puppies, kittens & teddy bears from the Kmart plus section. It didn’t matter what I wore because nobody was looking at me anyway.

Cut to high school, my parents have divorced & I finally start to wake up & come into my own. It has to be the result of many converging factors. Years of well-meaning relatives giving me diet books and workout supplies; trying to live on cabbage soup & pepper; my Mom getting a Lane Bryant credit account so that I could get semi-stylish clothes that fit me & my new friend, Candis. Candis came from a family of fat women. She, her Mom & her 2 sisters acted more like roommates than mother & daughters and more importantly the were all fat & all unique. I would love to say that my friends were years ahead of the times and had accepted themselves & loved their bodies but it’s not true. They were just women who had tried everything and were still fat. They were resigned to it. It had never occurred to me to be okay with being fat before. It was mind boggling.

I slowly began decide that I was okay. I was smart, pretty and well-spoken. I began to dress well, speak my mind & was even the Co-Editor-in-Chief of my High School yearbook. Still I was by far the fattest person in my social circles. It’s like I was thinking, “It’s okay to be fat but not this fat.” I would still try to exercise & would start a new diet every few weeks but it was always with a resigned sense of impending failure.

I started seriously considering a gastric bypass after I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. I started falling asleep at my computer, at work, even in my car in traffic. It was pretty scary for while. I thought I was Narcoleptic. I redoubled my efforts to exercise and eat well. I bought a treadmill & join Nutrisystem but a year later nothing had changed. I was being to lose hope so I went to seminar about Gastric Bypass. I went by myself and didn’t tell anybody. I debated with myself for almost a year before I sent back the paperwork to start the approval process. I was 3 months into my required 6-month, medically-supervised diet when I told my family & friends what I had decided to do.

Ironically it was while researching gastric bypass online that lead me to the Size Acceptance community. At this point I had completed all the steps to get approval from my insurance company & I was just waiting for a surgery date. I briefly considered stopping the whole process but I had come so far & I was afraid that I might not get another chance. I’ve done a lot of research and I believe I was as well-prepared as possible. I believe I went into the process with a realist expectation and I am happy with the overall results.

I was also afraid that the other people in the Size Acceptance movement would see me as hypocrite so I spent many months just lurking around the websites. I finally got up the nerve to join in the community and found everybody to be wonderful but I haven’t come out and told everybody that I’ve had surgery so this may change some of that for me.

What expectations did you have of the surgery?

I tried very hard not to have unrealistic expectations but I have to admit that the “ugly duckling” ideal has still cropper up a few times. A part of me still expects to find the perfect dress to wear to that conveniently timed gala event where everybody I’ve ever know will see how fabulous I look.

I feel I should confess that since my surgery I have starting taking an antidepressant. I think that I’ve always been mildly depressed(obesity & depression are a bit of a chicken or the egg situation in my mind) but I think the fact that I KNEW that having the surgery wouldn’t make my life all sunshine & roses and then, the fact that it didn’t caused me to spiral into a depression shows just how pervasive these ideas can be.

For the most part I got exactly what I expected. A few weeks of living on mainly chicken broth & creamy soups followed by cottage cheese & eggs. I lost a lot of weight very quickly & was able to start doing more exercise. I am surprised at how much more I enjoy the exercise, especially since hearing a skinny girl talk about how much she loves her aerobics class usually makes me want to claw her eyes out.

Did you feel it would be THE solution to your weight issues or something that would work combined with other changes?

I do feel that this was THE solution for me. I know that the reason I ended up as heavy as I did was because of my eating habits & my sedentary life. Don’t get me wrong, as I said above I got my Dad’s genes so I was built to be a big girl but wasn’t genetics alone. I was binge eater. When I was stressed, sad or even just bored I would eat massive amounts of food sometimes to the point of making myself sick. Once I got a car, my physical activity was usually limited to my part-time retail job & the occasion trip to the beach.

Gastric bypass has been referred to by some as a “fresh start” & I agree. This is was I needed. Given all I had learned about nutrition & exercise over the years I knew I could be successful if I could just get a good start. After all of my “failures” with diets I needed something that I was convinced would work(almost like Dumbo’s Magic Feather). The biggest reason I was so convinced that gastric bypass would work for me was because after surgery your body will usually produce a lower amount of the Ghrelin hormone; which is what makes that little voice in your head go, “I’m hungry!” Without the constant thought of food in my head I am freer to live my life.

How long has it been since you had the surgery?

7 months.

How did you feel after the surgery was done?

I felt great. I’ve always been remarkably healthy, even at 400 lbs my cholesterol & blood pressure were near perfect. I was up and walking around just a few hours after surgery. I took 4 weeks off work to recover(mostly because I could). I felt a little light headed & tired for the first few weeks but once I was able to start eating protein shakes & soft foods I felt really good.

Mentally I was ecstatic. The weight came off easily & didn’t feel hungry at all for the first few months. It’s actually been fun looking at food in a more abstract manner. My tastes have changed a lot so I’ve been trying new things and wondering what I enjoyed about certain guilty pleasures.

Did you have many complications following the surgery?

Very few. As I mentioned before I am taking antidepressants to treat my current chemical imbalance. As far as I can tell it is pretty common for women who’ve had this surgery or who have lot a lot of weight quickly to take antidepressants. Studies suggest that excess estrogen will trigger depression(because being a woman isn’t fun enough already?).

I’ve been lucky when it comes to food. There are very fews things that I can’t eat. Even sweet stuff like chocolate doesn’t usually give me problems. Only stuff that’s really carb-heavy, like rice & potatoes, upsets my stomach regularly but I’m always careful when I try something new because I never know. Just a few weeks ago a scrambled egg gave me stomach ache for half a day.

Do you feel like you achieved what you set out to by having the surgery?

I can’t say that I’ve achieved my goal yet. When my surgeon originally asked me what my goal was I had no idea what to say. I knew I would never be the 135 lbs that is considered the “Ideal Weight” for a woman my size but what did I want to be? Eventually I decided that I wanted to be under 200 lbs. This meant that I would need to lose 200 lbs. Now I’m 7 months out & I’ve lost 150 lbs. I currently weigh about 250 and to be perfectly honest I think I could live the rest of my life at this size & be happy. I’m still losing weight but the more time I spend with the Size Acceptance community the less I care about the number on the scale and the more I just want to go out & do things.

Would you recommend it to other people who are considering weight loss surgery? Would you recommend it to anyone or only to particular cases?

Given everything I have heard & seen with regard to weight-loss surgery, both online & in real life, I wouldn’t make a recommendation to anyone. There are too many risks not to make the decision for yourself. For me, it has done everything I wanted it to do and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Only time will tell if I can maintain my weight loss without further complications but I am optimistic and I have no reason to think that my life won’t be everything I want it to be.

This is just one woman’s story on weight loss surgery. If you have your own story, why not drop us a line on twitter or leave a comment and we would be happy to help share your story too.

Whilst Doreen is very happy with her choice, there are many different opinions on this subject. If you want to read another view on weight loss surgery (this time lap banding), you can check out a recent post over on Fat Lot of Good.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • emma

    my thoughts exactly purplearies.

  • sarahj88

    Rachel I had the surgery as well, one word of suggestion, why not get a fill? It might help you out a bit – good luck =)

  • Rachael J.

    I have been told by my surgeon that I'm almost completely full. I got fed up with them calling me in to “check” on me when they'd do nothing, and I'm out 2 hours of my afternoon and $15 copay. Not really worth my time or money since they're just going to tell me to exercise more blah blah blah. The tool is just not working as well for me, but it's always been a struggle, the band at least makes it harder for me to eat too much.

  • meerkat

    “contrary to what a lot of FA people would believe (or want to admit, maybe), despite not being fat I still have to deal with other people thinking it's okay to make comments and judgments about my weight.”

    You can't hang around the fat-o-sphere all that long without coming across a post about the similarities between people's assumptions about fat and thin bodies and the annoying free diet advice that both thin and fat people get based on those assumptions. And FA people who make comments deriding thin people tend to get moderator notes about how uncool that is, in my experience (my experience isn't all-encompassing, so I'm not saying there is no way you could have gotten that impression, but it doesn't match my impression at all so it can't be the whole picture).

  • MissViolonjello

    What I was trying to say in that little disclaimer was that ideally it would not be a 'fat acceptance' movement, but a size-acceptance-in-general movement, full stop. I understand completely the prejudices and discrimination that fat people (like my mum and my brother) face, but I also have personal insight into what it is like to be picked apart by people regarding my weight. I know that the fat-o-sphere admits this other side, but there is still an overwhelming sense of “she's thin, she wouldn't understand” – that anybody who is not fat could not have encountered any of the same discrimination or nastiness. They can, and do: I, for one, am dreading Christmas solely for the reason of having to see a million relatives and friends who think it's perfectly okay to grab my ribs without my permission, make nasty comments about how I'm sick or whatever, constantly put extra food on my plate without asking, give me that 'worried' look and buy clothes for me a size too big as 'encouragement'. Just as being fat or obese does not make you lazy, greedy, smelly, or any of those other words that people really mean when they say “You're not fat!”, being thin does not make you anorexic, vain, a 'bitch', sick or incapable of having an understanding of all perspectives in issues of body acceptance.
    - anyway, sorry for the hijack – just wanted to state my main justifications for feeling like I needed to make a disclaimer on my last comment.

  • meerkat

    Hmm, I agree fat acceptance should be just part of size acceptance as a concept, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a fat acceptance movement. Issues faced by fat people and thin people are similar in many ways but not always the same, so I don't feel comfortable with the idea that we shouldn't have a movement that focuses primarily on fat, although of course it should do it within a framework of accepting all sizes, not just fat ones.

  • MissViolonjello

    I said “ideally”. In an ideal world there would be no reason to have acceptance movements at all, for anything.

    As I stated before, the only reason I included that disclaimer before diving into my main comment was to avoid having people shouting things at me like “how could you understand? you're not fat therefore everything you have to say on this issue means nothing!”

This site is now in archived mode. Comments are closed but this is left as historical document     Read More »