Fat girl in a skinny body…

Ok, I guess I should re-phrase it to indicate that in no way was I what normal people would consider skinny! My lowest weight was 150lbs, and yeah, I thought I looked damn good, but definitely not skinny. You might think that a former fat girl would LOVE to be inside that new slimmer body and for the most part you’d be right. I did love that fact that when people looked at me they didn’t see fat anymore, they just saw me and I was, for once, unremarkable. There was no need for a double take anymore, no need for THE LOOK, no need for smug smirks in my general direction. That was all wonderful while it lasted. There were some issues with being inside that new body though. For this post we’ll stick to the first two that come to mind.

The first is having a fat girl inside who feels guilty for liking that the body isn’t fat anymore. I can remember a conversation where the people I was with started talking about fat people. They weren’t being overly mean, but neither were they being complimentary. I immediately blushed and started sweating. They were talking about me! How could they?!? But then I realized they had never known me when I was fat. So they couldn’t be talking about me. They were just having a normal conversation and it never occurred to them to edit themselves because I wasn’t fat!!!! That was one of the weirdest moments post op for me. To realize that I LOVED the fact that they felt comfortable enough around me to talk about fat people cuz I (finally!) wasn’t fat enough to qualify. I was elated, but at the same time totally eaten away with guilt. I mean, since I didn’t say anything to defend fat people that made me a horrible person, right? Plus I felt ashamed of myself for liking being in that group. You know the saying,” I don’t want to be a part of a club that wants me for a member.” That’s how I felt. I felt that to be grateful to be part of that conversation I was betraying every poor bullied fat girl everywhere. That was my identity for so long that it felt like I was joining the dark side when I didn’t defend fat people everywhere.

The second issue that I discovered was a huge amount of rage just simmering under the surface. During that conversation, when all I did was listen, it started to bubble. What right did these people have to be talking that way?! They had NO IDEA what it’s like to live as a fat person. A fat person’s biggest flaw is right out there for all to see and judge. These people were so smug and self-righteous as if it was their God-given right to judge, snicker, giggle and degrade this section of our society. I mean, what if we had monthly prejudices? One month is designated the “bad with money” month. For the whole month, those people would be talked about with derision, looked at, pointed at, every purchase scrutinized by strangers. They would have to tolerate being told they are just lazy and don’t care about their families or children. They would have to go to humiliating support groups, have their bosses question if they could do their job correctly with their “money problem.” Fat people don’t have the luxury of hiding their worse problem from the public or trying to keep it private. So where do those people get off?!? This rage surprised me at first, but after a while I realized it had been there all along. It’s just that fat people aren’t supposed to be mad about their situations. It’s just considered to be their own fault and they should just lay in the bed they made and be quiet about it.

Those were two of the issues I came face to face with about a year after the surgery. Maybe if I had been in therapy from the get go they would have been easier to deal with. I don’t know. If you are considering the surgery that is something you need to think about. There will be things that come up that you could not possibly predict that are different for each of us. If you have had the surgery, tell me what you have come up against that surprised you.

Ultimately, I had to change my thinking about those things. I had to come to terms with the fat girl in my head and find a way to merge her with the new body. And as this most recent 50lbs has come back on over the last 3 years, I’ve had to yet again, change my thinking. I had to finally realize that the girl in my head (fat or thin) needs to be loving and know her own worth. That she can’t let other people’s opinions of her define her opinion of herself. That journey is ongoing but the most important part of it is that I finally DECIDED to change my THINKING about myself. You can too. Trust me, you can!



The First Year…Easy?

How do you talk to the people in your life about this stuff? All this sticky, uncomfortableness that’s under the surface about the Bypass surgery or weight in general. If you’re like me and slightly prickly (understatement!) about it all, they don’t ask you. They may, in fact, contemplate moving to another state so they won’t have to. This should help. Send them here. Have them read and maybe it will help them understand and also help you start to share some of the dark with your people.

Surgery is done so now comes the miracle, right? That’s what I thought anyway. The surgeon came in to see me later that same day to see how I was doing. I took one look at him and started bawling my eyes out, thanking him and saying how now it was possible now for me to be normal. The slightly hysterical tone to my thank you may have had something to do with the lovely morphine pump next to my bed, but the sentiment was for real. I truly believed that because there was no doubt that I would lose weight that would make me normal. That lovely golden tinted world where I could (finally!) walk into a room and just be there. NOT walk into a room and have people look at the door way, look me up and down and look away quickly as if they had seen something they shouldn’t – or worse, look me up and down, and quickly look to the person next to them with a smug, superior smirk. I figured if I could be unremarkable because I was a normal size that would be about as close to heaven as I could get.

I was released from the hospital after three days which remain a blur due to the morphine bubble I was in. My diet post op was like many out there and each doctor has their own nutritionist (or they should!). I was allowed protein shakes and water and had various meds to take, which had to be crushed up and put into the shake or water. Let me just say EEWW! I wasn’t feeling very hungry which was awesome, but I almost burst into tears on my first night back over….wait for it….toast! Toast!! How silly is that? My mother, who was staying with us to help out that first week, made herself some peanut butter toast and the smell….Well let’s just say that it really brought home to me what I had willingly done to my body. Never again would I be able to just eat something without thinking about it. It would be months before I was even able to TRY to have some kind of bread and I was told pre-op that most people are unable to eat bread easily or at all after the surgery. FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES! Sound like the easy way out to you?

I was very lucky in that I had no physical complications from the surgery until about a year out. There are major complications possible and they are no joke. According to the Mayo Clinic just a few of the major ones are: blood clots, leaks in the GI system, infection, bowel obstruction, gallstones, hernias, low blood sugar, malnutrition, ulcers and vomiting. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bariatric-surgery/basics/risks/prc-20019138) I ended up with gallstones and I can tell you I’ve never had such pain in my life! I had my gallbladder removed and all’s well. We will talk more about the malnutrition and torture that is Dumping Syndrome in another post. For now, suffice it to say that I was lucky. A lot of people aren’t. Easy way out, huh?

Everything I’ve just gone over for you guys is serious stuff, but to me it’s not even the scariest part of that honeymoon year (up to two years for some). For me it was the actual weight coming off. Ok! Ok! I can hear you saying, “I call BS! It’s what you wanted!! What you risked your life for!” And that is all true. It was one of the most exhilarating rides of my life to see the weight come off. To realize that when I only have one of them, my chin is actually a bit pointy, and that no, I am not really “big boned” at all! If fact, when they are slim, my wrists and ankles seem a bit delicate to me. All of the wonderful clichés you hear about happened to me. Shopping was fun, I could tie my shoes without gasping for air and turning bright red from bending over. Certain intimate portions of my relationship with my husband improved a hundred fold (hey! I said we would talk about it ALL didn’t I?) and I could play with my son at the playground or on the floor with his trains. But…

But as much as I loved seeing myself in the mirror looking like someone else, it was also creepy and scary in a weird way. I mean, it was me, no doubt, but at the same time I had never seen that face before – ever. I starting putting on weight at puberty, so I had never seen what I should actually look like as an adult. I told myself it was a good thing to see me but not actually recognize that person. It’s what I wanted all along. But…

But I expected things of that person that she was not equipped to do and I didn’t give her any time to adjust. Since the weight had come off, all those other problems should be gone too. I know it sounds childish, and I knew in my head that all my other problems weren’t caused by my weight. I had been telling myself that the reason I wasn’t successful in some career was because I was too fat to try. My weight blocked and protected me from a harsh world. The reasons for my failings always somehow came back to the fat on my body. Dreams I wanted to pursue I never really started at because ultimately I felt if I couldn’t even control/conquer and be at peace with my own body, then how would I ever do what’s necessary to achieve anything great in this world? So when the weight came off and all of a sudden I was faced with the fact that some of my problems came from the weight, but in fact, MOST did not. So what was my new excuse? Shedding all that weight brought me face to face with the fact that I didn’t really know myself, what I was capable of or what I really wanted out of life. None of which has a whole lot to do with the pounds I put on my body. I think, looking back now, that those pounds were a perfect way for me to hide all that. Maybe people that lose the weight naturally and in a slower fashion have a chance to deal with those issues as they go. But I was terrified. So given that state of mind, what happens when crisis hits as it so often does. Someone dies, or a marriage falls apart, illness strikes, the “problem child” has even more problems? Easy way out? Really?

I hope this helps and I also hope it’s something maybe you can refer people to when you have a hard time trying to explain that losing all that weight can be both Heaven and Hell at the same time. Let me know what you think! How did it go for you? Tell me it all and maybe we can shed (lol – no pun intended) some light on this for friends and family and even curious bystanders. More importantly, we can start to talk about what happens when you have gained some (or all) back and still have to live life. What do you do, how do you not descend into a black hole, or if you do, how do you climb back out? Your black hole may look vastly different than mine, but I bet it’s covered with the same embarrassment and shame that makes it hard to gain a foot hold. Let’s start climbing.