No cover-ups here
Monday, January 14, 2008
Last week at my support group, one of the women there was talking about how she's an "undercover gastric bypass patient" because she hasn't told anyone outside of her immediate family. She said people ask her what she's doing to lose the weight, people who want to lose weight too, and she tells them that it's all "eating right & exercising!" I instantly thought to myself "Wait a minute! Not cool!" but since it was a support group, I figured I should save the indignation for my blog.

Here's the thing. As both a WLS patient and someone who believes in HAES, I think that keeping one's surgery under wraps and pretending that you are dropping huge amounts of weight in a short amount of time just by exercising and eating healthy foods does a great disservice to every overweight person you say it to. And that's why it pisses me off when famous people hide or deny their own WLS (Star Jones, I'm looking at you). Every denial or chipper "Oh, I'm just eating a lot of protein and working out a lot!" from a WLS patient perpetuates the "Eat less and move more and you'll be skinny, fatass!" message that we're bombarded with every day.

I won't deny that I have used the "Oh, I've been eating right and exercising" line. I have used it once, when trying desperately to avoid discussing my weight loss with my father-in-law and his wife. But in general, 99% of the time when people say "Wow, you look great! What are you doing to lose the weight?" I answer them truthfully. I tell them I had gastric bypass surgery, and that it's helping me eat less and eat right, and that I'm totally starting to run. The last thing I want to do is make someone who's struggled with his or her own weight feel like they just aren't trying hard enough or aren't dieting the "right way." I do not want someone to tell themselves "Well, Melinda lost 71 pounds in 6 months so I can too!"

This is an issue that's found its way into the political arena because of Huckabee's semi-mysterious weight loss. Now here's the thing. It's entirely possible that he did some crazy liquid diet and now maintains his weight loss by eating some kind of uber-restrictive diet. But yeah, the evidence I've seen and read about in more than one place makes me think that the probability of him having surgery is pretty high. Regardless of how he did it, I believe with all my heart that he did not do it the "old fashioned way." He had to do something drastic to lose 75 pounds in 6 months, and telling people that they just need to start eating better and exercising more (as he does in his book) is not fair to anyone.

The thing is, I could totally pass for someone who hasn't had WLS. I have some sagging skin but not so much that I look freakish; really, it's not even enough for anyone to notice (yet). My hair thinned out some, but not enough to have bald spots or anything. My color is still great (if a little pale, which it always has been), and what I eat wouldn't give me away in mixed company. But I choose not to pass, because I feel like I need to be honest with everyone else in order to be honest with myself. The truth is, I couldn't do it alone. I couldn't diet the weight off, and it needed to come off to make me healthier, so I got a permanent helping hand installed to help me out. Like it or not, people look to me for answers now, because I am Losing It. The least I can do is be honest with them.


Anonymous lisa-marie said...

Well, I know I appreciate your honesty about your WLS! I suppose I can understand this woman from your support group being afraid of ridicule or judgment from others if she confessed to having the surgery, but it still makes me mad that she's lying about it for exactly the reasons you mentioned. As an overweight person who's trying to lose weight by watching my diet and exercising (i.e., "the old fashioned way"), I would be mortified to see someone else getting so skinny so fast and claiming to be doing the same things I am! Thank you for being so honest and up front about your surgery and recovery. I only wish others could be as brave.

Anonymous Comrade GoGo said...

I found your blog via Body of Work and just wanted to let you know that I'm really enjoying reading your posts. Hooray for honest, articulate bloggers!

Blogger Melinda said...

Thanks, both of you!

And Lisa-Marie, can you imagine if you didn't know I'd had the surgery and you saw me next week and I said "Oh, just diet and exercise!" Blargh, so mean of me, you know?

Anonymous C said...

I always tell. Even when I really don't feel like having that discussion.

I suppose on the flip, I could see how one might not want to tell - simply because you get so tired of talking about it. Still dishonest though.

Blogger Dagny said...

This is such a sticky issue because the farther out I get from my surgery the more I regret the number of people I told back in the early days when the rapid weight loss was exciting. I found for a lot of people my weight loss defined me in their minds. When I meet new people now I decide how much I want them to know about my past.

But when overweight people ask you about how you're achieving success, you can STILL be damned if you do! I've met overweight people who feel shame for not wanting to get WLS. The more of us they encounter, the more commonplace WLS becomes, the more pressure overweight people feel to do it despite whatever it is that's caused them to make a decision against it.

So it's a tough call when you're in the midst of the big losing period to be judicious about discussing the issue! Two years from now you may have a completely different perspective. It's a personal decision. Make the best choices you can for yourself.

Blogger Lea in WV said...

I sooooo have issues with folks who take the diet/exercise line when they've really had WLS. Why not tell the truth? Why hide the fact that you needed a tool to do it right? I need a car to get from point A to point B, but I don't tell folks I walked it! I guess we're all different and think differently about exposing the facts of our WLS. I scream it from the rooftops! LOL

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