My relationship with my body, 7 years after weight loss surgery

Seven years ago, I had weight loss surgery. I lost around 180 pounds and as Monica Geller would say, Yeah, yeah, my heart’s not in trouble anymore.  But sometimes I forget that it ever happened, that I was ever anything other than the size I am now (a 10 on a good day), but then I’ll have something that I like to call an “episode.”

An episode—technically called “dumping syndrome”—goes like this: my hands start shaking, my face turns as red as a fire truck, and fat drops of sweat start pooling off my skin and soak my shirt, my bra, and whatever sofa I might be sitting on. My thoughts are jumbled and incoherent, and forming sentences becomes a problem. It sure isn’t pretty.

These awesome glucose-level-freakouts are usually caused by eating/drinking too much sugar, too many fried things, or sometimes “just because,” and the latter usually happens to me on a date or somewhere equally as awkward. It’s really fun to explain to a guy that, “No, I’m not dying, but standing up is not an option, my sugar levels must be spiked right now and do you have any chocolate? This is an emergency!”

I was warned that there could be serious side effects to having gastric bypass surgery—but as a 21 year old eager to just “be normal,” I was quick to sign the dotted line that got me through those operating room doors. I could worry about all that other stuff later, because I had skinny jeans to fit into! Life to live!

Seven years later, I can wear those skinny jeans. But my relationship with my body is a complicated one. Anyone who considers weight loss surgery an “easy way out,” needs to see me in the middle of a random “episode” (I refuse to call it “dumping syndrome,” because I’ve always hated that technical term and it makes it sound like I have the runs. I don’t! Really!). It’s wonderful that I can occupy an average-sized space on the street, and no one glares judgmentally, but sometimes I still feel like 300-pound Mollie, and sometimes she misses buffets.

Most people tend to focus on the Before and After, and none of the in-between. At 28 years old, I’m kind of in, what I’d call, a gray area. I’ve stayed the same weight, more or less, for the past several years. Maintaining BMI isn’t that easy; I gain weight just as quickly as anyone else at this point. The final step of this whole “process,” they say, is to get plastic surgery to fix all of that delightfully droopy skin that will never “snap back” on its own. Luckily I escaped a few of the post-weight-loss blemishes, like the turkey neck and melted knees. But my butt leaves something to be desired. I’ll get around to it—maybe; I’m OK with my body because I earned it, and major surgery? Not super fun, you guys.

Recently my doctor informed me that I was so anemic and lacking in Vitamin D that I deserved vampire status on my medical file. After the lab technician took ten (TEN!) vials of my frigid blood, I was tested for any kind of deficiency and I had quite a few of them, despite the fact that I eat healthily. I was prescribed vitamins so strong that the pharmacist, too, questioned my potential vampire status. When the surgeon (and his nurses, and the receptionist, and my mom) told me to take vitamins every day for forever, they weren’t kidding, and while I was good at it for a while, I lost my way. It’s catching up to me now, and if any of you are thinking about weight loss surgery, for the love of god take your vitamins. I don’t want to be responsible for starting the vampire apocalypse.

Another very legitimate thing that can happen as a result of your primary addiction (food) being taken from you are transfer addictions. For a while after surgery I drank more than my fair share of whiskey—despite the fact that I still can’t gulp liquids and “taking a shot” feels like someone is shoving a hot bowling ball in my guts—it’s easy to latch onto other things. Some people become addicted to shopping, or gambling, or even smoking. Fortunately I’ve overcome my whiskey thirst and instead just drink metric tons of iced coffee. I consider this a win, and I’m not perfect. Don’t take my coffee away from me!

Despite these weird and sometimes random things that occur because I had weight loss surgery, I still wouldn’t trade it for my old self: she was on her way to seriously bad and unhealthy places. I’ve added years to my life, and I still get a little giddy every time I sit in an airplane seat and am able to fasten the buckle. And when people ask me about the surgery I’m eager to talk about it.

Although it’s true that weight loss surgery isn’t for everyone, and I believe that health and happiness can be found at any shape or size, it’s what I chose. Sometimes I wonder where all my fellow weight loss surgery veterans are (I know you’re out there!), as I rarely get to commiserate my awkward “episode” stories with them. Maybe they’re not ready to talk. When they are, I’ll be there.

(Image by Bartosz Kosowski)

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