An open letter to the world
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
You know what really pisses me off lately? What really pisses me off is the fact that I can't read comments at any fat acceptance/size acceptance websites ever without ending up walking around my house ranting about how fucking annoyed I am by people talking about how HORRIBLE and DANGEROUS weight loss surgery is, along with comments about how "it doesn't work" and "people are just doing it to get skinny" and "the surgery doesn't help health problems" and "having the surgery means you hate yourself because it's just a form of plastic surgery." Know what's even more awesome? Reading these comments (and long, ranty entries on numerous message boards and blogs) and realizing that the people saying these things are essentially saying that weight loss surgery patients are a bunch of idiots who were duped into having a deadly surgery just so their doctors and hospitals could make a few bucks.

And here's what I have to say about that: Fuck that noise.

First of all, did no one in the fat acceptance/size acceptance movement bother to read this study in the New England Journal of Medicine? I would like to point out the conclusion in particular:
Long-term total mortality after gastric bypass surgery was significantly reduced, particularly deaths from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

(In the interest of fairness, it also stated the following: "However, the rate of death from causes other than disease was higher in the surgery group than in the control group." To me, this is a "Duh" statement because people who have lost a ton of weight have a tendency to go out and start doing more activities that can lead to deadly accidents, and depression seems to be more than a little rampant amongst WLS patients. But that is a whole other can of worms to discuss at a later date.)

In other words, weight loss surgery works.

As far as the DANGER, DANGER, DANGER warnings go...well, duh. Surgery is dangerous! Surgery on your insides is especially dangerous! That's why anyone who's going to have any kind of surgery needs to research the hell out of any possible complications, needs to research the hell out of their doctor and their hospital and the aftercare that is expected. Any bariatric surgeon who's worth his or her gigantic salary will tell you up front that hey, you can die from this. Or you can get ulcers or hernias or strictures or deep vein thrombosis. Or you can be one of the lucky few who ends up with fucked up hypoglycemia issues or pernicious anemia or osteoporosis or beriberi. The key is to pick a surgeon who knows how to prevent (not just treat) these kinds of problems. Which leads me to my surgeon...I picked him because A) he had a 0% mortality rate and an insanely low complication rate (I think it was like 3%?) B) he had 17 years of laproscopic surgery experience, including his stint as Chief of Surgery at the hospital I had my surgery at and C) he has an excellent follow-up/aftercare program (which is why I take a shit ton of vtamins, more than a lot of other WLS patients that I've met, but I take them because he's done his research and he has figured out what I need to do to prevent myself from having problems).

I say on a regular basis that I have been very blessed to be without problems, to be healthy and complication free, but the reality is that most of us are doing really well. I sit in my support group every month and look around and see people of all ages sitting around and talking about how good they feel, how many miles they walked, how many pills they are no longer taking and I wonder how anyone could begrudge them thier surgery. How could anyone look at these people and think that the surgery has been anything other than something good for them?

Look, I know that this surgery is not for everyone. The idea of telling someone they should look into it makes me gag, because I completely believe that it's no one's right to tell another person what they should do with their body. Really, I'm not trying to say that all the fat people in the world need to get the surgery so that there will be no more fat people ever. And I think that's where a lot of the anger and antipathy and outright misinformed ranting comes from: an innate fear that gastric bypass surgery is going to become so common that fat people will be pressured to have it RIGHT NOW, that it will become the boob job of the 21st century. In reality, it is a drastic last chance for people who want to keep being able to walk, who don't want to take 10 pills a day to force their bodies to operate correctly, who would like to breathe without wheezing. Telling them that they are wrong for taking that step, that they are mutilating themselves and are sure to fail and calling them betrayers of fat people is not helpful. It's just another form of marginalization that is no different that the marginalization of fat people that you are trying to overcome.

I will tell you a true thing about me: size acceptance helped me decide to have gastric bypass surgery. Counterintuitive, isn't it? But here's the thing...I never used to pay attention to my body or think about what it needed until I started reading and thinking and discussing size acceptance with people. Once I did, once I finally focused on myself and the signals that my body was sending (had BEEN sending me, for a couple of years), I realized that it was telling me it needed some major help. My knees were screaming about needing to be replaced in 10 years, my blood was shouting about how thick I was letting it get, my heart was racing to keep up with me and every I time walked up the stairs at work, my lungs reminded me that their capacity was not enough to handle a body as large as mine. And because I was finally able to love my body for what it was, I was able to love it enough to help it get back into shape, through any means necessary.

There are still days when I feel like a hypocrite, when I worry that my (gorgeous, witty, intelligent) fat friends will think I can no longer empathize with them over body issues because I took such a drastic step to change my own body. But that's mostly just my personal brand of brokenness talking, and I get over it and get back to having awesome discussions with them about the idiocy of the media. What would be really awesome though is if some of the people who are so adamantly against WLS, the people who sneer at us and tell us we've destroyed our bodies and are no longer healthy would just sit and talk to a few of us. Maybe then they'll realize that it's really not as evil as they think it is. And neither are we.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more, and I have not had WLS. Also, I get enraged by the the argument that crops up frequently in so many comments; that the field of western medicine is evil and that nurses, medical researchers, doctors and surgeons are part of one big conspiracy to harm people(presumably for money).

Blogger She Smiles said...

I totally hear you on this post. 100%.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your blog; this is the first post I've read. I agree that there are some bloggers out there who are excessively critical of WLS ... but some of us have already BEEN pressured to have it RIGHT NOW. My highest weight was 275, and I had a doctor offer me information on WLS when I was at 250. I've had family members ask me if I've considered it. When I told my father I was going to have insurance, the first thing he asked me was if I was going to look into WLS. I was 22 at the time.

That sort of thing is what worries me. I'm healthy, and I have not tried everything and failed to lose weight. I am not at that "last option" point ... and yet I've had a doctor, my father, other family members, and a woman who had the surgery herself recommend it to me. It seems like WLS is already sneaking into the public consciousness as a "no more fatties!" tool.

Blogger Melinda said...

You know, I can agree that there are doctors and others who are pushing this surgery on people who don't need it, and that irritates me too. I have a friend who is perfectly healthy but overweight; she's nowhere close to the weight I was at when I had the surgery, yet her doctor told her she should look into WLS. An when she told me that, I actually got really angry on her behalf.

I am not preaching the miracle of weight loss surgery here, because I do not want the idea that it is a miracle cure to keep being propagated. I think doctors who are uninformed enough to try and push it on people who do not need it are doing a great disservice to their patients, but that's really a discussion that will take an entire entry for me to cover.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melinda, having read through your blog, I totally understand that you are not present WLS as as miracle cure. I think it's amazing that you're doing so well post-surgery, and that you had such a sane approach to the entire idea. I worry about people perceiving it as a quick fix, an "easy way out", and I think more people need to read blogs like yours and Anne's to understand that it's definitely NOT an easy decision or a ticket to a carefree food life.

Blogger Donna said...

I'll preface this by saying, of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion... even if it differs from mine, no matter how much it may madden me. :)

I used to be a player/advocate in the size acceptance community. Ironically you described what I wen through. I finally started listening to my body and realized something had to change.

That said, I also feel to some degree, if I'm being honest with my self, that "Size Acceptance" gave me an identity; a way to feel good about me at my largest in spite of my blaring health issues. It took me a few years to break away from the size acceptance movement and learn who I was and decide what path I would take.

I am sad for those who know they are suffering from obesity issues and don't do anything about it because they are so wrapped up in SA.

I am still an advocate for size acceptance. I believe that no one should be judged based on size and we should all love ourselves, our bodies as we deserve, but that also means taking care and keeping relatively healthy.

Sorry to be so winded... I could have gone on forever!

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