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“Not everyone lives happily ever after”

March 4, 2014

Weight LossFat HealthFat ScienceEating DisordersMy Boring-Ass LifeWeight Loss SurgeryDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of weight loss surgery and its consequences.

I don’t remember where I saw “WLS: Not everyone lives happily ever after” (I’ve slept since then and my memory is shot, another complication from that failed weight loss surgery (WLS) I had in September of 1997), but my first thought on seeing the headline was “No shit, Sherlock, what was your first fucking clue?”

The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery state that the number of weight loss surgeries in the US increased from 13,000 in 1998 to over 200,000 in 2008. Reasons for undergoing weight loss surgery can range from health needs to the desire for a confidence boost. But new research suggests that although the surgery may make people happy in some ways, it can also cause problems.

Gee, ya think? Sure, it might put some of your ailments into remission (notice, I didn’t say “cure them”), and it might change the way people treat you, but does it really make a person happier?

Before and After

Personally, if people treat me better simply because I’m thinner, then fuck them, I don’t need them in my life. That’s pretty much a slap in the face, telling me that I wasn’t worthy of being treated with dignity and respect simply because I was fat, but now that I’m thinner, I’m worthy of being treated like an actual human being (good thing I don’t have to worry about that, since I am never going to be thinner, short of ending up with some catastrophic disease that causes drastic weight loss).

Karen Synne Groven, of the University of Oslo in Norway, interviewed 22 women aged between 24 and 54 years as a part of her doctoral thesis.

All women had undergone gastric bypass surgery — one of the most common bariatric surgery procedures. It involves rerouting a part of the small intestine past the stomach in order to reduce food intake, promote satiety and suppress hunger.

The majority of the women were interviewed twice. The first time was 1 year after surgery, while the second interview took place 2.5-4 years following surgery.

Groven says although most previous research suggests that weight loss surgery leads to an increase in quality of life for the majority of patients, her findings suggest that not everyone lives happily ever after following bariatric procedures.

“Although most previous research suggests that weight loss surgery leads to an increase in quality of life for the majority of patients…” I would say that all depends on how you define “quality of life.” If you’re defining it strictly on how other people treat you, how much weight you lose, how easy it is to buy clothes, how easy it is to navigate the world — then I can see where “quality of life” might be considered to have improved. But if you’re also considering the physical complications of WLS and whether or not it actually worked, as opposed to the other criteria I listed, you may not think your “quality of life” improved all that much.

“Becoming slimmer and lighter is mostly perceived of as positive. At the same time it is ambivalent, since people start to behave differently towards the women after they’ve had surgery. People are friendlier than before, and this may feel extremely provoking. And people often ask very invasive questions concerning the woman’s radical weight loss.”

The interviews revealed that some of the women experienced a boost in self-esteem after surgery, were more outspoken, and found other people were more likely to listen to what they were saying — particularly in the workplace.

Groven notes that although these factors are clearly positive outcomes, this could also be seen as a “grief” because the women realize they had to undergo weight loss surgery before seeing these outcomes.

These “positive outcomes” have a very negative side to them — what does it do to one’s self-esteem to realize that people are only listening to your opinions because you’re thin? Not because your opinions are valid, not because you have a right to those opinions and to express them, but only because you’re now thin? What happens to your self-esteem if the WLS ends up not working and you end up regaining the lost weight? Does that make you feel even worse than you did before you had the WLS and lost weight?

As for those “invasive questions” that people ask about weight loss, it’s all part and parcel of this thin-obsessed culture we’re living in. Everyone is not only afraid of getting of fat, but if they’re already fat, they feel obligated to ask “How did you do it?” so that they can either say “That worked for me,” “That didn’t work for me,” or “Hmm, I’ll have to try that.” Problem is, if/when they find out you had WLS, they think you took the “easy way out,” and then your “accomplishment” is negated. It’s a no-win situation, which sure doesn’t make for an improvement in quality of life.

Although many women reported negative thoughts and health issues after weight loss surgery, none of them said they regret undergoing the procedure.

“They say they would have done the same today and that they had no choice considering their life before surgery. Some said that the pains were a small price to pay,” says Groven.

She adds that this suggests women are influenced by society’s perception of the ideal female body, and that being obese is not within this scope.

“They are living with a body which is not accepted by society, and they are constantly judged from their size,” she says.

Since this is just a doctoral thesis, Groven’s interviews with 22 women out of the 200,000+ people who have WLS every year isn’t really a representative sample. If Groven wanted to make it representative, she would have to ask more WLS patients if they had any regrets. Of course, she can’t ask those who died from having WLS or who died from the complications from WLS if they regretted having it — want to bet that most of them would rather be fat and alive than thin and dead? Want to bet that their friends and loved ones would rather have them fat and alive than thin and dead?

As for me, I had WLS almost 17 years ago and I can tell you right now that I have a fuckton of regrets — if I had known then what I know now, there is no way in hell I would have gone along with my nurse practitioner’s recommendation for WLS. I would have told her to go to the surgeon and have WLS herself and to leave me the fuck out of it (she was fat too). I would much rather deal with the problems I had back then — arthritis and minor mobility issues related to arthritis — than all the issues I have now.

I’d love to be able to go back to being able to eat a wide variety of foods, instead of having to do without fruits, veggies, dairy, high-fiber foods, and any kind of fat (butter or margarine are out, as well as anything fried in any kind of oil). I’d love to be able to go back to being able to walk through the mall without being in severe pain. I’d even love to be able to go back to my before-WLS weight of 350 lbs. I’d love to not have fibromyalgia, migraines, and explosive diarrhea if I forget and eat something that triggers my mutilated digestive system. None of these are worth having just for the slight chance of being thinner, and risking death sure isn’t worth being thinner. I’ll take a life lived fat over being dead and thin any day — and I know too many people who died after having WLS to feel any other way.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2014 10:35 am

    “I’d love to not have fibromyalgia, migraines, and explosive diarrhea if I forget and eat something that triggers my mutilated digestive system. None of these are worth having just for the slight chance of being thinner, and risking death sure isn’t worth being thinner. I’ll take a life lived fat over being dead and thin any day — and I know too many people who died after having WLS to feel any other way.”

    I want to shout this from the mountain tops, I haven’t had WLS, but this is exactly why I never will.

  2. vesta44 permalink
    March 4, 2014 11:21 am

    The real tragedy, for me, is that people have been dying from WLS for over 40 years that I know of. I knew a family, back when I was a teenager in the late 60s, where the mother, her son, and her daughter all had WLS – the one where they stapled their stomachs and removed a good length of their small intestines. All three of them lost massive amounts of weight, and all three of them were dead within a year of their surgeries. For me, that was a senseless waste of life – a whole family gone just because they were told they were too fat and their fat was going to kill them one day. It wasn’t their fat that killed them, it was a society who told them they didn’t deserve to exist in fat bodies that killed them. That intolerance is what kills people, and I really don’t see things changing for the better – at least not in my lifetime.

    • Dizzyd permalink
      March 10, 2014 6:07 pm

      No, Vesta. It’s society that doesn’t deserve to have US in their midst!

  3. redhester permalink
    March 4, 2014 12:34 pm

    WLS is barbaric and gross and inhumane and should be grounds for severe penalties. instead, ‘doctors’ are held up as saviors of TEH FATTIES and i am mortified that our ‘medical establishment’ has reached such depths of depravity.

    DO NO HARM!!!! they take this oath. every single doctor takes this oath. DO NO HARM!!!!!

    i am so so angry. WLS is punitive mutilation. an obvious ‘corrective’ surgery inflicted on those who our disgusting society deems too nasty and large.

    there should be a proper national memorial to those slain by WLS. so we can have a place to come and wail their stolen names.

    • Dizzyd permalink
      March 10, 2014 6:05 pm

      Amen! I can’t believe that these so-called “medical experts” can inflict this inhumane, cruel and barbaric torture upon people in the name of so-called health when all it is is a means to try and force people to conform to a societal standard that NOBODY can reach without majorly hurting themselves to do it. And our society just stands by and smiles smugly as they watch people kill themselves practically throwing themselves on the altar of acceptable “perfection”. When will the madness end? Unfortunately, as far as the oath is concerned, that got thrown away as outdated and old-fashioned. Now the new oath is “Anything for Money!” I agree, they should be locked up for cruel and inhumane treatment. If this kind of stuff was done to prisoners of war, they’d have Amnesty International all over their ass.

  4. March 5, 2014 12:28 am

    Thank you for posting this. Today a doctor recommended WLS to me. I just said, No thank you, and I will not be back to see him.
    But it still pushed my buttons, and I had to remind myself of the people I’ve known who died or who had disastrous results.
    Your words remind me that I don’t have to do it, and that I am not alone.

  5. March 6, 2014 8:25 am

    Whenever I go through periods of horrifying self-loathing that I think WLS would cure, I remember what you have said. The self-loathing is still there, but I know that this is not the way to solve it.

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