Jen581791

Brave, brave article by Roxane Gay on WLS

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Hello all, if you haven't read any Roxane Gay or heard her speak, she's got some really interesting and powerful stuff to say, much of it on identity, body image, feminism, fatness, and the intersection between those things. 

I just clicked on an article by her on WLS, expecting to find a rant about committing violence against our unruly bodies, but instead found an extremely brave account of her decision to get WLS. She had surgery in January. (Roxane, if somehow you happen to be reading this, I deeply respect you for writing about your experience - I'm sure it was a difficult decision for you). It's a great read and touches on many of the issues we've all had thoughts about: how society views fat people, how our relationships to ourselves and others change after losing weight, and what all that means about ourselves and society. 

I highly recommend it. She captures, in beautiful words, that tension we all experience between not wanting to be fat, and hating that society hates fat people.

https://medium.com/s/unrulybodies/the-body-that-understands-what-fullness-is-f2e40c40cd75

 

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This perfectly captures so so many of my struggles with surgery and fatness. I adore Roxane Gay. Thanks for posting, @Jen581791

My favorite quote so far: "I felt a swell of pride and then hated myself for that swell, for being so pedestrian as to take pleasure in the sort of validation that goes against so much of what I believe about how bodies should be allowed to be." Me, like every day? Every day. 

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@Jen581791 - Thanks for sharing! I hadn't heard she had the surgery. 

 

This excerpt below is super powerful I think. This seems to be a struggle for most of us and I don't think it is discussed enough. 

 

"And then, that comfort was gone. I’ve lost the best friend I never had the courage to acknowledge but who was my constant, loyal companion nonetheless. I am left holding the shattered pieces of whatever has been left behind, trying to assemble them into something new, something that serves me better."

 

It makes me sad to read how she is struggling. I hope she has found a support group. 

 

 

Edited by Stephtay

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I have not heard of this author. The article really hits home in some ways! Other ways that I did not have trouble with pre-op were eye opening to me. Thanks for the link. 

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Oh wow. This is an amazing article. This part really hit me:

"I had to face the extent of my unhappiness and how much of that unhappiness was connected to my body. I had to accept that I could change my fat body faster than this culture will change how it views, treats, and accommodates fat bodies. And I had to do so while recognizing that losing weight wasn’t actually going to make me happier — which may have been the bitterest part of all."

I was so involved with fat liberation before my surgery and it's such a strange place to be in. This article is very affirming for me personally, whether she intended for it to be or not. 

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Really good. Thank you for sharing, Jen.

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Thanks for sharing this. It was great.

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17 hours ago, Cardamom77 said:

And I had to do so while recognizing that losing weight wasn’t actually going to make me happier — which may have been the bitterest part of all."

 

When I was pre-op I got to know a woman in her 20's who was post-op and nearing goal. As soon as she hit goal she had extensive plastics (360 lift, arms, legs, breasts, etc). The recovery was long and hard. She ended up becoming very depressed. She was absolutely beautiful and had the body she's always dreamed of having and yet she was still profoundly unhappy. I didn't know her well enough to know what was really going on. My guess was she saw happiness as an absolute. You either are or you aren't. She was so focused on crossing that line of happiness she didn't or couldn't see that what drove to her to abuse food wasn't going to go away because of surgery. This right here is why I'm glad I didn't have surgery when I was younger. I wasn't ready for it. I needed to do years of therapy and addiction recovery work. Otherwise, I would have done exactly the same; assumed/hope/believe no longer being fat would bring me peace and happiness. A bad day is a bad day no matter if you weigh 150 or 350. 

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I'm probably going to ruffle some feathers here.

This article is very well written and does address several of the issues we deal with on a day to day basis. To me the power of positive thinking eliminates the majority of the issues that come with WLS, certainly the issues that are addressed in this article. It is very important to take the time to educate yourself before you decided to modify your body on a permanent scale. I have done so, and have dealt with many similar issues as she has, but I chose to accept the positive changes and celebrate those instead of mourning the loss of one thing that helped falsely fill the void of emptiness inside.

Knowing why you use food prior to surgery is very important and having a plan in place to replace the food is also very important. Everybody has issues and everybody copes with them in different ways, for many of us that coping mechanism was the consumption of food. For others its exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol, and spending money just to name a few. Many of us change to one of these other coping mechanisms and that is why it is important to have a plan in place. The change in how you cope is either celebrated or looked down on. We even have a name for the replacement of food with another negative coping mechanism, we call it addiction transfer. When it is replaced with something "positive", like exercise, everybody has to say how amazing it is. In reality we are all dealing with the same issue, and that is "What do I do in place of food?".

That emptiness that this article revolves around is NOT an emptiness of food, even though we may have filled it with food for many years. It is a spiritual emptiness, it's an emptiness inside your soul that is caused by a longing for something greater, a fear of failure. You and everyone else out there has it in you to succeed! Go after what you want and persistently, annoyingly and brashly claim it. Or as NIKE says "Just do it". I have found in my life that fear of failure breads failure. Persistently striving for success breads success, even if it isn't the success you set out for. Thomas Edison once said "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." and that to me is success.

Every person is amazing and beautiful, every person is special and has their reason for being here, every person is going to succeed and fail, it is up to you to decide how you perceive the out come.

success-iceberg-poster-kids-hardcopy_800x.thumb.png.ecd15b181af7391f5da3f0748463f9ae.png

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2 hours ago, Stephtay said:

Otherwise, I would have done exactly the same; assumed/hope/believe no longer being fat would bring me peace and happiness. A bad day is a bad day no matter if you weigh 150 or 350. 

This point reminds me of Kate Harding's piece "The Fantasy of Being Thin" that has been really meaningful to me over the years. https://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

There are really solid reasons to have weight loss surgery: regaining health and mobility are the big two. But being thin doesn't magically solve all of your problems, and not grappling with how you feel about yourself before you lose weight is a recipe for disaster, imho. 

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My feathers are definitely not ruffled @AustinJ, but I do think it's important to acknowledge that not everyone can just "try harder" to not suffer the ill effects of depression, whether related to food and weight loss or not. Positive thinking isn't a replacement for therapy and/or mental health care. 

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1 minute ago, kristinwitha_k said:

There are really solid reasons to have weight loss surgery: regaining health and mobility are the big two. But being thin doesn't magically solve all of your problems, and not grappling with how you feel about yourself before you lose weight is a recipe for disaster, imho. 

Thank you so much. Having WLS to please others is not going to make you happier but, doing it for the right reasons is going to at the very least give you peace knowing you have done what you feel is necessary. I feel the 6 month insurance requirement is a great thing, it gives people time to filter through all the feelings and issue that they have been covering with food.

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2 minutes ago, kristinwitha_k said:

My feathers are definitely not ruffled @AustinJ, but I do think it's important to acknowledge that not everyone can just "try harder" to not suffer the ill effects of depression, whether related to food and weight loss or not. Positive thinking isn't a replacement for therapy and/or mental health care. 

I have myself dealt with depression, and yes therapy and mental health care can both be very helpful, but it's not until you decided that the change needs to happen that anything changes. Therapy is a great tool for this most therapist help you to see things in a different perspective.

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18 minutes ago, AustinJ said:

I have myself dealt with depression, and yes therapy and mental health care can both be very helpful, but it's not until you decided that the change needs to happen that anything changes. Therapy is a great tool for this most therapist help you to see things in a different perspective.

I think Roxane Gay did decide that a change needed to happen. She also has a therapist and is working on issues she has. She just also acknowledges the difficulty of the process. She has written well about her trauma and her healing and has been incredibly vulnerable. She often catches flak for being too negative - she caught flak for it from the fat liberation/body positivity community, too, when she talked about how it's not all sunshine and roses to be a fat woman.

I appreciate her perspective. I think it's easy to go the other direction and sugarcoat and Pollyanna the experience of weight loss when there are layers and layers and layers of issues that people may need to express. I applaud her for doing so. I think she's strong for making her voice heard. And it helps me to know my negative feelings about this are valid, too. For me, that validation helps me to move forward and feel heard. 

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2 minutes ago, Cardamom77 said:

I think Roxane Gay did decide that a change needed to happen. She also has a therapist and is working on issues she has. She just also acknowledges the difficulty of the process. She has written well about her trauma and her healing and has been incredibly vulnerable. She often catches flak for being too negative - she caught flak for it from the fat liberation/body positivity community, too, when she talked about how it's not all sunshine and roses to be a fat woman.

I appreciate her perspective. I think it's easy to go the other direction and sugarcoat and Pollyanna the experience of weight loss when there are layers and layers and layers of issues that people may need to express. I applaud her for doing so. I think she's strong for making her voice heard. And it helps me to know my negative feelings about this are valid, too. For me, that validation helps me to move forward and feel heard. 

I would triple-like this comment if I could.

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@AustinJ, I'll be honest and say that talk about positive thinking does kind of ruffle my feathers, as I work with chronically homeless persons and see a lot of people completely lacking bootstraps to pull themselves up by. HOWEVER, I do think it's awesome that you have found a way to make peace with your food issues and move forward with strength. I would never tell someone they shouldn't have a positive attitude. Ha! I just know, like *really* know, that it can't fix everything. 

Also I love that iceberg illustration. It's great for so many things. We use it a lot in social work, as well, to illustrate how you see clients with just their presenting problem when underneath there is so much more. There are contributing factors such as trauma, systemic discrimination, generational poverty, chronic lack of resources. There are also strengths we can't see, such as loving family, work skills, resilience, etc. We have to remember that stuff is down there and that we'll run into it with our social work Titanic if we only focus on the presenting problem. It's a cool graphic tool. :)

Edited to add: I also should say I think it's fine to ruffle feathers. Keeps our brains a-thinkin'. ;)

Edited by Cardamom77

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8 minutes ago, Cardamom77 said:

Edited to add: I also should say I think it's fine to ruffle feathers. Keeps our brains a-thinkin'. ;)

Ruffling feathers is what I do best. Everyone has their own way of handling and processing issues, traumas ect. and one of mine happens to be a little on the brash side.

I have found that people either love me or hate me due to this aspect of who I am and that is one of the things that used to bother me. Until one day when I was hanging out at the nursing home play cards with some old guys (also very brash) and one of the nurses asked me to cool it down or to not come back (she really despised me because I would get they guys all riled up) and one the guys said "Scr*w her we like having you around" for some reason at that point I realized I just need to be me and everyone else can decide whether they like me or not and that was their problem.

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1 hour ago, kristinwitha_k said:

This point reminds me of Kate Harding's piece "The Fantasy of Being Thin" that has been really meaningful to me over the years. https://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

 

Interesting - thank you for sharing! I'd never read this before today. I can see it is very easy to get caught up in this fantasy. Also, in the high of the pink cloud when people are still in the post-op honeymoon, have lost some weight and feel like "I've got this dialed." 

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@Jen581791 - thank you so much for letting us know about this article.  While the author's feelings may mirror those of many people who have weight loss surgery, I have never regretted in any way my decision to have a gastric bypass.  For me overeating (and eating unhealthy food and drinks) in the years prior to my surgery was a "toxic friend" that I was (and am) very happy to be rid of forever.  

The article at times seems to dwell on potential negatives, perhaps because the author almost certainly has not reached (and thus enjoyed life at) her goal weight.  For example, my surgery has not made me suicidal - indeed, I find life as a healthy and non-obese person to be wonderful in that I now can do so many this that I could not do before.  Nor has the surgery harmed my marriage - quite the opposite as it demonstrated to my wife that I love her enough to do something to maximize the time that we could spend together.

By the way, I certainly disagree with the advice that she received not to visit on line forums about bariatric surgery as TTF has been a wonderful source of information and inspiration throughout my weight loss surgery journey. 

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5 minutes ago, Res Ipsa said:

 Nor has the surgery harmed my marriage - quite the opposite as it demonstrated to my wife that I love her enough to do something to maximize the time that we could spend together.

By the way, I certainly disagree with the advice that she received not to visit on line forums about bariatric surgery as TTF has been a wonderful source of information and inspiration throughout my weight loss surgery journey. 

@Res Ipsa I want to chime in on a couple of your points.

I can only think of 3 people on TT in the last 5+ years who've posted about how their WLS caused (or strongly contributed to) the demise of their relationship (married or not.) I have read a couple of the authors books and believe her to be someone who checks her facts so I'm sure there is a stat somewhere that supports this "bariatric divorce" statement but I haven't found it to be true with people on TT. My marriage was good before WLS and it is better after simply because I'm happier now that I'm not riding the crazy food rollercoaster. 

 

This forum has been a huge source of information and support for me over the years. A couple of women I met here have become friends in real life as well. I've heard anecdotally that some of the other WLS forums aren't as supportive as this one but I'm only here and cannot compare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Stephtay said:

@Res Ipsa I want to chime in on a couple of your points.

I can only think of 3 people on TT in the last 5+ years who've posted about how their WLS caused (or strongly contributed to) the demise of their relationship (married or not.) I have read a couple of the authors books and believe her to be someone who checks her facts so I'm sure there is a stat somewhere that supports this "bariatric divorce" statement but I haven't found it to be true with people on TT. My marriage was good before WLS and it is better after simply because I'm happier now that I'm not riding the crazy food rollercoaster. 

 

This forum has been a huge source of information and support for me over the years. A couple of women I met here have become friends in real life as well. I've heard anecdotally that some of the other WLS forums aren't as supportive as this one but I'm only here and cannot compare.

Agreed. My marriage did end after I had surgery, but my surgery had absolutely nothing to do with my divorce. There were pre-existing issues and I was considering divorce long before I thought about surgery. I also wonder if “bariatric divorce” is related to people finally addressing issues that they weren’t dealing with before surgery. Ideally, post-WLS life includes working through emotional and psychological issues and any time someone addresses dysfunctional behaviors and patterns, there’s a chance that relationships that worked within that dysfunction won’t in a healthier environment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I believe that any big lifestyle change (including WLS) can magnify problems that are already there, but if someone has a healthy, strong relationship before surgery, they’ll be fine after. 

The article is definitely an interesting read though. I love reading about the experiences and perspectives of others during & after WLS regardless of whether they mirror my experience or not.

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2 hours ago, Res Ipsa said:

@Jen581791 

For example, my surgery has not made me suicidal 

My first surgery did exactly that for me. I had a very astute family doctor at the time, who I trusted wholeheartedly. If that hadn't been the case, I wouldn't be around now to tell that story. That's also why I now drive 4 hours each way just to see a family doctor. I knew that I need someone I trusted enough to reveal those kinds of issues to should they rear their ugly heads again. It's not a great situation to be so far away from my doctor, but for now it's a better alternative than any of the local ones with open patient lists.

It's easy to see those for whom surgery is all sunshine and roses afterwards....it's a lot harder to find those for whom surgery isn't so bright and sunny. We tend to be very adept at hiding those issues from the world. That's how we get through the pysch evaluations pre-op. The truth is there are many many people out there considering and undergoing surgery who still believe it to be a magic bullet. Oh they'll say all the right things, but still in their own headspace think of it as an easy way to deal with a very difficult problem....and a solution to all their life issues. It's only when things don't go to the plan they have in their heads that the real problems start. I believe there are lots of them around, hence the 60% excess weightloss success statistics. If everyone having surgery stuck to plan I believe those stats would be very much higher. When you think that for everyone here that loses all their excess weight, the very method of calculating averages means someone else only lost 20%, those stats really aren't that great after all. I recall reading a medical journal ages ago now where the author asked surgeons if they could predict those patients who would succeed longer term....all responded that they couldn't. They were often surprised that people they thought would fail often far exceeded expectation, while many they thought would be really successful were in their surgical failure pile.

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I had read the author's memoir last year.  At the time, I was engaged in the struggle with my own demons that had me returning to food.  I could relate to a lot of what she said.  I also was conflicted and almost felt guilty having had the surgery. Some days I still feel that way   I have to say it has been an ongoing struggle to accept my body at any weight.  I had hoped for her that she could find the inner compassion for her hurt self that had her connecting to food and not her real needs. To live free of the ghosts of our past and focus our energy on the present requires deep acceptance that we are lovable and deserving despite our size and our history. 

WLS will not make you happy.  No one thing will make you happy.  Can being in a smaller body help you feel better physically.  It can for some if there has not been complications.  It has afforded me the ability to do things I found too difficult to do in a larger body.  For those that are fit and healthy and feel great in the body they are in I applaud them.  

I truly hope she finds peace.  I know it will not be just from losing weight. 

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Wow. Weirdly enough, I'm also a writer and I also had my VSG at UCLA in January, but I'm not Roxane Gay.  

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9 hours ago, kristinwitha_k said:

This point reminds me of Kate Harding's piece "The Fantasy of Being Thin" that has been really meaningful to me over the years. https://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

There are really solid reasons to have weight loss surgery: regaining health and mobility are the big two. But being thin doesn't magically solve all of your problems, and not grappling with how you feel about yourself before you lose weight is a recipe for disaster, imho. 

That's a great piece, thanks for posting. I think it touches on a lot of things that we here (even though we're all actually becoming that thin version of ourselves) are facing: we may be thinner, but we're still us. I'm still me. I have the confidence and physical ability to do a whole lot more now than a year ago, but whether or not I do it is all still up to me. People may be friendlier, but I'm still a little standoffish, so will probably never be a social butterfly. I may be thin, but I'm afraid of heights, so I'm not going to be doing any rock climbing. 

@AustinJ, you're certainly not ruffling MY feathers (I am the person who usually does the ruffling, or so I'm told...). I come from a family where heated arguments over the dinner table are expected and cherished - challenging someone's ideas means "I love you." :lol: So Austin, you're just showing us that you love us! :) 

Roxane Gay certainly does come at WLS from a different perspective than I do and very different it sounds from yours as well. She, as part of who she is certainly as a writer, and probably as a person, has a perspective that focuses on psychological struggle and confrontation with societal values and norms - that's her world. My own perspective tends to focus on the physiological - I feel like my struggles are rooted in messed up hunger hormones and other actual physical processes, although certainly allowing for emotional abuse of food, as well, but the psychological struggle for me seems to come from being fat. I'm lucky enough to not have a lot of underlying issues in my life, I suppose, as well as not not having whatever chemical things going on in my brain/body that lead to things like bipolar, depression, addiction, etc. I think for people who DO have those underlying issues, losing weight is one piece of the puzzle, whereas for me, it's most of the puzzle. Again, lucky me. Is my life perfect now? Of course not, but dang like 90% of my emotional distress is gone. 

We all come at this from our own perspectives. For those who feel like getting WLS is caving to societal pressure to be thin, or that it's compromising their personal values about body image and health and self love, this must be a very, very hard choice. For me, it was an easy choice because I tend to feel that in my case, WLS is almost a biomechanical fix of my problem. Should I take my car to the shop to get the radiator hose replaced if it's leaking? Why yes, I should. Should I have my guts rerouted to short-circuit my body's reaction to food intake if it's causing me to be overweight? Again, yes. But for those who are existentially challenged by getting WLS? Much bravery is required.

I hope that in the near future, RG can start to feel some of the positives that come with surgery, and stop seeing through the lens of the negatives. That emotionally hungry emptiness will hopefully go away. Being haunted by the idea of surgery risks, including health complications and psychological issues (suicide, divorce, depression) isn't fun, but it seems like it's more concentrated in the early days after surgery. However, I think her emotional journey will be difficult since she is so very rooted in her self image as a woman of size. All the changes she will go through will be hard for her. Also, it would be a major departure for the author if she suddenly wrote a roses and sunshine piece on WLS - it would fly in the face of her previous writing and also just be seriously off brand. She's a polemicist. That's her thing. 

Like @Res Ipsa, I feel like it's too bad her team told her to stay away from the online forums. My surgeon and NUT were very skeptical when I brought up forums, as well. I can only assume that they were thinking of the forums where people share cheating tips, spread false health "information," and berate each other for perceived violations of whatever golden rule is currently sacrosanct (straws, I'm talking about you!). Those forums are pretty poisonous. However, our TTF fam here is quite different from most. I have gotten 100% of my emotional support and the vast majority of my knowledge from this forum. I am thankful for this space every day. 

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