My Body, My Self

Food issues and a bad self-image led our columnist to undergo weight-loss surgery. She's still a mess, but a better-looking one.

Surprisingly, I had no real health concerns. My cholesterol was normal, as was my blood pressure and blood sugar, and I had a very healthy heart. In fact, that's something that pisses me off about the whole weight debate. Just because someone is fat doesn't mean he or she is unhealthy. Many fat people work out and eat well. That said, I couldn't sustain 200 pounds of extra girth for the rest of my life. My knees were starting to ache. I also wanted to have a child someday, and pregnancy isn't safe if you are obese. Finally, I had done a lot of work on my insides, and I was ready to have my outsides match. I needed to become a whole person and meld my two selves.

The first thing I remember after the surgery is waking up in pain and being wheeled into recovery. From there, things just got better and better. I have zero complications from the surgery, and, as expected, the weight begins to fall off. Basically, the surgeon sews off most of your stomach and leaves an itty-bitty part at the top intact. Then your intestines are rerouted to the "new" tummy. The weight loss comes from basically starving yourself with the small amount of food you take in, while parts of your digestive tract that absorb calories are "bypassed." People who undergo gastric bypass surgery do not process the same calories as other people, even if they eat the same things.

The weight falls off rapidly for about a year, then slows a bit for the next half year. I start losing between 15 and 20 pounds a month. Every time I go down a size I am sure that is it — that I won't lose any more — and then, of course, I do. One side effect of the gastric bypass is hair loss, and I experience a substantial amount. This is all part of the sucky mid-weight-loss stage, when you are aren't thin yet, are partially bald, and get full after a few bites of food.

One thing that strikes me is that I don't have that same "high" I would get from losing weight back when I was bulimic-anorexic. Now I truly am melding my mind and body. My form is catching up with my function. I am clearing out the cobwebs, not creating a whole new person. Every day, I feel more comfortable in my skin. A lot of people say this surgery is the easy way out. Then the weight-loss-surgery proponents pipe back up with how hard it actually is, how much work goes into it, how much willpower is actually needed. Well, I'm here to tell you that weight-loss surgery is the easy way out. Thank fucking God!

The world starts treating me differently, too. The first thing I notice is that the smaller I get, the more people start letting me into traffic. White men begin to notice I exist. Clerks in stores don't assume I'm stupid.

At almost two years out now, I am still losing weight. Your new stomach pouch stretches a bit over time, but your intestine really stretches, so that three years out from surgery, you can eat a pretty normal amount of food, like a sandwich and a banana, for one meal. This is how you slow down and then maintain your weight loss, along with exercising and eating healthy, lower-calorie food.

As I write this, almost at my two-year anniversary, my life is both very different and very much the same. I have lost 160 pounds and now weigh 200. I'm tall, so though not slim, I look pretty proportionate. I'm hourglass-curvy, and for the first time in my whole life I love my body.

Then there are the myriad other little things that are different. I no longer have to scout out the strongest chairs when I enter a room. I can still make jokes about my size. (I no longer have to post "Lost Dog" signs around town, all the while not knowing that the Chihuahua is actually wedged between my butt cheeks. D'oh!)

What hasn't changed is my relationship to men. I still can't tell when I am being asked out, and I still expect to be rejected at every turn. If I have a date with a guy and he cancels for a good reason, or says he is tired because he has been working for two days straight, all I hear is "I don't like you." The more I like someone, the harder it is to get that he might like me. If he does give me nice attention, instead of feeling all glowy, I feel like breaking down and crying. And even to this day, if a handsome man is staring at me from across the room, I do the Molly Ringwald Sixteen Candles thing of slowly looking over my shoulder to see the person behind me that he must be looking at, or the John Cusack Better Off Dead thing of assuming that I must have a booger, or the Revenge of the Nerds thing of quickly changing into a Darth Vader costume so that I can more comfortably sleep with them without their having to see my face.

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