Sunday, April 02, 2006

Bariatrix

("Bariatrix" sounds like a superhero, or an old-fashioned feminization of something, but I am going to be talking about weight-loss surgery. Yes, even though "bariatrics" actually refers to any and all care for very fat people, technically.)

Here, the proprietress of Hello, I am Fat considers weight-loss surgery. That woman is a very good writer, and every time I visit her blog—which is admittedly sporadically, since her updates are few and far between—I am overwhelmed by the visceral force of her suffering. That woman is suffering, and she is not kidding around about it. Feeling her suffering reminds me of how I used to feel about my own body, and I can't usually stick around that blog for very long. What disturbs me most is how normal people seem to find the fact of her suffering. People empathize or try to buck her up, but there is no sense that this experience either is or should be out of the ordinary.

Already, I'm imagining how I am going to be, a year from now, she says. I've done that too. I've made lists and spun fantasies to go to sleep by. I have tried to stop doing those things. I have considered weight-loss surgery.

But more than I have considered weight-loss surgery (and I never, certainly, went as far as scheduling a consultation, because for me, once I set myself on a track, I am on it, so a consultation is basically anaesthetic), I have considered how I feel about weight-loss surgery in the abstract. People who are in favor of fat acceptance are supposed to really hate it, and I think part of the reason that it's a thorny issue for fat acceptance is that in some way, it makes fatness a choice, and a lot of fat activists are devoted to fighting that idea. Me, I don't care so much. I'm okay with choosing fatness. I'm kind of having fun being fat right now. I'm kind of having a lot of fun being fat right now. I am rocking my fatness. I don't know if I'd choose it away. (I think if I were less socially privileged I'd be a lot more interested in choosing it away.) On the other hand? It is expensive and dangerous, and it is the promise of all of your fantasies fulfilled, and it might be a lie. It kills people because they want to be thin, or it cripples them, or it takes their money and years of their lives and doesn't make them thin. Or it makes them thin, and they have what they thought they wanted and discover that thin isn't quite the magic bullet that we, the unthin, tend to think it is. There are so many people waiting to begin living their lives until they are thin. But I think what they are waiting for is not "thin," it is "assurance of safety and success," and thin can't really give that. And maybe there are people for whom weight-loss surgery does just what it needs to do, it takes the pressure off their knees or rebalances their hormones or whatever. Bodies are mysteries.

It's hard for me to figure. On the one hand, can you blame people for wanting to escape social stigma and the suffering that comes with it? I don't think so. That is such a powerful dream—there is no way to describe it if you haven't experienced it. On the other hand, can you wish that they would stick around and tough it out and get their shit together and stop feeding an industry and an image that's damaging to fat people who don't choose weight-loss surgery? Yes, I think you can.

So why haven't I chosen weight-loss surgery? Usually when I ask myself if I'd rather be thin than fat, say, a size 8 rather than a size 20, the answer is an instant and unqualified "yes." Currently I'm having a little bit of difficulty answering that question because I'm not really feeling any penalties of being fat other than residual emotional stuff, and I'm so enjoying all of the stuff surrounding fatness—getting to shock people by shocking about it, the thrill of the chase of fat clothes shopping, the thinking about fat semiotics, &c. Nevertheless, I think if the question were if I'd rather never have been fat, the answer would be affirmative. But that's not going to happen. And weight-loss surgery won't take away the pain I've already come through. It won't take away my stretch marks or my loose skin or give me unblemished years as a taut teenage beauty-ideal girl. I'm sad that I never got to be that girl. But weight-loss surgery wouldn't fix that. And it would, I think, in some way negate the tremendous amount of work I've done to stabilize my life and my mind, not to mention my weight, to make myself happier and healthier and kinder to myself and others. A friend told me recently that she thought I should take a fattish friend of hers under my wing, teach her to stop yo-yo dieting and how to dress her body. That I am the kind of person who is a resource for that is something I consider a tremendous achievement. And weight-loss surgery would tarnish that achievement.

Also, it would cost me a gazillion dollars and might kill me or leave me malnourished and smelly and emotionally shell-shocked and it would hurt a lot and I would never be able to eat tremendous amounts of Indian food with my dear friends and then go to sleep in a happy exhausted sated pile ever again.

16 comments:

PastaQueen said...

I think "bariatrix" is my favorite new word :)

Word. I think you really summed up how I feel about "Hello, I am Fat." She's a great writer, but when I read some of her entries I feel like I'm driving by an injured raccoon on the interstate. You want to stop and help, but what can you do?

"It is the promise of all of your fantasies fulfilled, and it might be a lie." Ooh, that's good. I think that's one of the major hang-ups I have about WLS, especially when I see ads about it that mention how the patient now has a boyfriend.

I really, really like this entry. Very insightful. Thanks.

Laura Bora from Bufadora said...

You have summed up very nicely how I feel about the surgery.

I've known two women who have had it done only to regain about half the weight they lost. They also have permenantly altered their digestive system. I'm sure that we haven't even seen the long term effects of bariatric surgery yet.

I once lost a lot of weight -- for years my best friend and I would say, "Someday with be thin and gorgeous and they'll all be sorry." Well, guess what, nobody was sorry. In fact, my drug/alcohol bottom coincided with the painful realization that being thin and attractive didn't make my life magical and fabulous at ALL. I had all my same issues, I just had smaller pants.

Thanks so much for your honesty! As much as I love the IDEA of magical weightloss through major invasive surgery, I just don't trust it and I guess I'm willing to work to lose it -- and still be able to over-do it at Indian restaurants once in a while.

Sally Rand said...

Hey there~

I stumbled upon your blog and found this entry quite insightful.

I had GBS last Dec. -- prior to that I did the fat & proud thing for many years and it worked for me. Worked all the way up until my own girth became the cause of many health issues.

There is no doubt that our society views fat people (particularly fat women) as stupid, slovenly and lazy. At 39, with my list of obesity related illnesses growing and zero self-control in re: food, I decided to check out GBS. Like you, I knew I would do it once I made the consult appt.

And I haven't regretted it. The drive to EAT EAT EAT is gone. That insidious drive and the causes for that NEED was awful.

I am lucky I guess because my blood pressure and cholesterol have normalized. I can run. I can climb 3 flights of stairs. I feel a zillion years younger.

Weight loss surgery is not something I would ever recommend for another person. However, in my case I feel like I've given myself a chance for good health(physical & emotional) as well as a new relationship with my own body.

Like I said, I am pretty friggin' lucky.

Check my blog here:
http://www.weightedlongenough.com/2005_11_01_archive.html

for an entry you might find interesting.

Thanks for an excellent post.

The Fat Girl said...

Sweetie...arbuckle, there's no doubt I've been lucky too. I'm a healthy girl, with no fat-related health issues, and I've always been pretty active (I stopped dancing when I was a young teenager not because it felt bad—it felt great—but because I became too self-conscious to look at myself in a leotard). I have access to excellent health care, including mental health care. There is not a doubt in my mind that I would be making concerted efforts to lose weight if it threatened my mobility or caused me pain. It did when I was a size 26. At a size 20, it doesn't. I'm pretty much just hanging out here having a good time.

Do I think the fat acceptance movement facilitates denial and escapism? Absolutely not. For a lot of people, fat acceptance—and size positivity!—is the first inkling that it might be okay to stop beating themselves up. I have spent a lifetime at odds with my body. I began hating it when I was three. Proportionally speaking, I have had an eating disorder for the vast majority of my life. Fat!So? was a hugely important step for me in beginning to make a peace with my body that could allow me to take proper care of it. And for me, taking proper care of my body involved getting myself into treatment. It means feeding myself when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full, with the occasional brownie with friends thrown in. For me, fat acceptance is the recognition that my body deserves care, not abuse. And that I don't deserve abuse for living in it. All people are entitled to live without the fear of insult, threat, and other forms of oppression. Fat people included. Me included.

I wouldn't predicate my happiness on getting the world to accept fat people. That seems...well, that seems like it would take too long. I would rather start being happy right away. I would rather not predicate my happiness on being thin. I want to be happy now. And...I am. At some point I just sort of started. I pretty much think I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I have wonderful friends who adore me and whom I adore. I have a wonderful boyfriend who adores me and whom I adore. I'm smart and I'm funny and I'm determined even though I procrastinate a lot. I have a good relationship with my parents. I have a great education. I have good skin and nice cheekbones and great hair. I have great sex. And I found a sweater guard in a junk store this weekend! And I am fat. Seriously, that should stop me being happy? I'm in denial for thinking I could be happy? For thinking I should have the right to be happy anyway? I have every reason and every right to be happy, and I'm going to go right on ahead. The biggest obstruction to my happiness currently is that I'm under a lot of academic stress. I'd still be under a lot of academic stress if I wore a size 4. I know, because my size-4 friends? Also under a lot of academic stress!

At this point, actually, I'm pretty delighted to be fat. I'm enjoying it immensely. I've never had the opportunity to shock people before, and in addition to its fun shock value opportunities I feel like being fat is every day making me tougher and more interesting and more understanding. I'm...kind of into fatness, these days. I mean, what else would I blog about? James Joyce? You don't care about James Joyce! Fatness is way more interesting!

Like I said, I don't at all lack the ability to understand why people go for bariatric surgery. In this "comment" (so long!), I'm mostly reacting to the post you linked me to. And I'm glad you've been lucky with your surgery. But my "drive to EAT EAT EAT," which let me tell you, ran my life for awhile, is gone, too. It crops up every now and then, but usually I take a bath or call a friend and it goes away.

WifeMomChocoholic said...

I just want to take "hello" to therapy! At this point in my life, recovery from compulsive/binge eating is far, far more important than losing weight. When I was a size 6 I was still miserable, still binged, still ate compulsively. After regaining 25 pounds, I finally sought help. I'm not sure if I'm losing weight or not, but I'm sure as heck a LOT happier.

Kendra said...

thanks for a great post! One of my best friends went through weight loss surgery,and I've watched as her body bloats at the slightest taste of rice, as her body blocks nutrients and as she's taken iron shots to alleviate the anemia that has happened as a result of the surgery.

Though thin, she still struggles with binge eating, guilt and compulsive tendencies.

And, so for me, I've chosen a different route. I've chosen a path of healthy habits. After trying any diet that seemed like a quick fix, after trying to starve myself (cabbage soup), gorge myself (body for life). I've decided to be simple - eat food for fuel while still enjoying my life. I'm not going to count, I'm not going to obsessively stock the fridge - I am going to be prepared and make good choices and keep my eye fixed on a healthier me.

Like you - there are days I feel happy to be me, to be my size. There are also days I joke that I have the opposite of "anorexia" - I look in the mirrr and see a thin person! In reality, I'm a large woman, touting size 24 pants, fat feet and the stretch marks to match.

I've come to the realization that I don't want to be fat anymore. I don't want to wallow in food as a substitute for love, sex, companionship, wealth... It's just not me anymore. I don't know if I'm a chubby girl or a thin girl or a pleasantly plump girl, but I know I'm not a fat one.

I don't know what size I'll end up, but as long as it is one that doesn't include compulsive binges and as long as it is one that releases me from my obsessive thoughts (will I fit there, what am I going to wear to that wedding, how do I look sitting here, etc.), I will be content.

Thoughtful and insightful post!

~kendra
foraytofreedom.blogspot.com

Wendy said...

I just adore Anne over at helloIamfat, especially how she is so honest about her pain but also has an incredible sense of humor that seems to have carried her. also, some mad writin' skills.

but like you, I was so sad to read her last entry. my most lasting reaction was to her expressing that she awaits:

how things will be when the weight is finally gone, and for good – you know exactly what it is I'm talking about, those overwhelmingly hopeful feelings you get, when you start again, when you think that this time, you've found a solution, and it is the solution, and you are proud and happy and confident.

and my reaction to that is that "how things will be when the weight is gone" is that she will still NOT be "proud and happy and confident"! instead, I strongly suspect that she will still hate herself! she may have discovered that the fatness is not the reason she hates herself, but maybe not.

in fact, it seems to me that the unhappiness with being fat is stemming from not feeling "proud and happy and confident", and not the other way around.

it is truly distressing to see self-loathing take up so much of women's lives. but what can you tell people who feel this way? they have bought the idea that fat is disgusting, and you can't change their minds on that with just a comment in their blog. ya know? I think the best thing we can do is lead by example, though I think even that won't change minds. we're swimming against a raging tide here. I think really the only people we can help are ourselves, and those that really do want to be helped, that truly want OUT of the abusive thinking, and not just out of the fat suit.

Jill said...

Great post. Weight loss surgery is an extreme measure that takes a lot of thought and consideration. If you're happy, why alter yourself so drastically?

anne said...

Hello, I am Anne who is Fat. I would like to mention that part of the injured raccoon problem is that I generally only write posts when I am feeling bad enough that the only way to not explode is to go on about it at length. And also ha! Injured raccoon.

I have been in therapy bunches, and have loved my round body and hated it and have liked it and loathed it and hated the idea of surgery as a fix for something that is wrong and evil - it has made me furious that fat is considered wrong and evil.

But what's tipping me towards it, personally, is that I am tired of this particular brand of worrying and psychological trauma and am ready to be psychologically traumatized by something completely different. That is sort of a joke.

Anyway. I just ran into this entry, and the point of my comment was to thank you for a really, really smart and insightful post about issues that are hard and complex. I would say "you go, girl!" about loving yourself, which is awesome, but I bet I would sound really stupid.

Creature said...

"I would never be able to eat tremendous amounts of Indian food with my dear friends and then go to sleep in a happy exhausted sated pile ever again."

I think that sums it up. Doesn't it... I mean, I think having such a drastic procedure committed on you (like a crime) starts to define you. I know a blog by a perfectly nice guy who subtitles himself, "bariatric surgery patient". I don't want to be one. I don't want to have the bypass, like a tattoo I no longer care for, hang over me for decades to come.

I jotted down some other stuff about it here, and blogrolled you while I was at it. Nice one.

Regards,
Creature.

Ezpy said...

This is such a tough subject. I read Anne's blog too and was a bit surprised to see her thinking about weight loss surgery.

Then again, given that I've always been all about accepting / loving my body, had a good (well, as good as most women) self image, was a huge coward about knives and such, had a loving partner and never had much problem finding friends or lovers, a number of people were really surprised when 18 months ago I told them I was having duodenal switch surgery (that's a form of gastric bypass). Especially given that 10 years before I'd backed out of RnY surgery after going through the education and insurance approval process.

The thing is though, what I felt like I was losing and what tipped me into going to the doctor and telling them I wanted a weight loss surgery consult was that I was losing my health. I couldn't walk more than a couple miles in a day without my feet hurting so much the next day I could hardly stand. My liver was being invaded by fat and its functions were slowing down. And my body just hurt.

That last is probably not very specific, but its true. It hurt so much that some days I could hardly make myself get out of bed.

What I realized when I faced that I weighed 367 pounds was that at 37 I might not have another 10 years to diet. And if I hadn't been able to lose the weight with dieting from age 12 to 37 (going from 130 to 367 in the process), to think I was going to be able to do it in the next ten was the height of unlikely. Or, as my doctor said when I asked him if I'd be a good candidate for wls, "better than you will be in 10 years when you're recovering from your first heart attack."

Yikes!

So 13 months ago I had my stomach made smaller and my intestines re-routed. I've lost 187 pounds and more dress sizes then I can count. My largest jeans were size 36. My last pair were a 12.

Is it all golden? No. I've lost foot as a provider of calm and comfort. But I can backpack again. I get nasty gas if I eat sugar. But I can buy clothes from stores and try them on rather than being stuck with cataloges. I've got piles of excess skin. But my liver is functioning normally again.

I may not live as long as someone who has never been super morbidly obese and then had weight loss surgery. I may not even live longer then I would have if I'd not had the surgery. Who knows?
What I do know is my quality of life is 100 times better.

Sorry for being so long winded. :)

Kim said...

Went from a 26/28 to a 12 (sometimes 10 depending on the clothes). I just enjoy life more now...I guess because when I was heavy 289 at 5'3 I was just so tired all the time. Everything was just "hard". My bloodsugar was very high as was my blood pressure. My doctor asked me "Didn't you feel bad" I told him I thought I felt bad because my life sucked not because I was fat. At any rate I think my attitude changed after weight loss and then I felt better so everything seemed better or not so bad. It is really hard to explain! But I think that my life has not really changed that much it is just my perception. OH...and fat people ARE treated differently!!!!! EXPERIENCE SPEAKING HERE!

Anonymous said...

I have found this website very insight and thought perhaps someone could assist me with the guilt I am feeling right now. I have struggled with my weight my whole life, I am about thirty pounds over weight and have been struggling to lose the weight. Recently my sister in law, whom I adore, went through the WLS in August. She weighted about 240 pounds in August and now in November weighs about 180. I am happy that she has fulfilled her dream of loosing weight but yet am saddened that she had to choose the surgery over exercising. Now she is a totally different person, her attitude is different, she is more boisterous, and can be obnoxious, nothing like she was before. Everyone loved her and now I can see people can’t stand to be around her. I went to a party she had a couple of nights ago and another lady that was there had the WLS, a tummy tuck, and was going in for liposuction soon to remove some fat from her hips. The lady looked very good and perhaps a few extra sit ups a day and lunges would decrease her hip size, but liposuction…. Then another girl at the party said that she was going to go through the WLS just like my sister in law did and was looking into finding a doctor to do it all the while she is munching down on two cupcakes, a couple of cookies and dousing it with some mountain dew. I don’t want to feel this negativity, it is not like me and perhaps I am a little jealous because I struggle too to lose weight but I can not get the surgery because I am not “morbidly obese”. I have to exercise every day and watch what I eat, there is no magic pill for me. I would like to know if anyone has any suggestions for me to get over this hump this selfishness, I truly don’t want to feel this way towards individuals who do get the WLS, I don’t want to feel angry.

Anonymous said...

I am 39 years and my surgery is over 10 years. Being SuperFatgirl made me very sad. I can't go back to my sweet 16 year which in reality was a bitter 16, but I certainly had very sweet 30. I had anemia, I recovered from it and I recovered some weight and I am in the fight against it again. Noone can take away the fun of knowing what it is like to be not SuperFatgirl. I am still a fun person, even more than the one I was when I was SuperFatgirl and without having to hear the Fat jokes about me. Now, I have the super power that the truth about being thin gave me.

I don't recomend the surgery to every not so thin person. Actually, there is only one person I recommended it, many years ago. I heard him breathing and I thought "Sleep Apnea". He told me he did not needed it, his wife love him they way he was...Well, less than a year after that, I heard that he died. He was thinking about the surgery...Guess it was to late when he did. I bet his wife and his family would have love him...alive...Guess I will never know.

Surgery or not it is just a choice but remember...money does not buy love, can't warraty happiness...nor the surgery.

Many have died trying it but they tried to get what they wanted. If you are not happy with yourself, the surgery will only make you happy with what the world says is normal. Happiness comes within, the appropriate choice comes within.

Surgery or not, there is no right or wrong answer. It saved my live because it saved my mind but when I did it I knew I would never enjoy Mc Donald's chocolate shakes again and I only have tried it twice since 1996. But I still eat lots of chocolates...I go out and eat with FRIENDS that I enjoy to be with. Most of them are prior to my surgery since they still enjoy SuperFungirl and they understand why I always end up with a doggie bag.

Boyfriend??? Yes, I had one after the surgery...He would have never loved the SuperFatgirl who still part of me, so he is no longer here because to love SuperFungirl you must love SuperFatgirl since they are part of me and they will always be.

The important thing is I am in a process of learning to love me by taking care of my body and my mind and the surgery GAVE ME the opportunity because I gave it a good chance by going to the proper doctor, and changing my live style.

Everybody have different answers you must find yours and accept the concecuences. Good Luck with your choices. Just one last thing go to a doctor, assure yourself that you are healthy, go to your mirror an ensure yourself that you could live with yourself, if you can or not...then you will have your answer.

yipeiokyay said...

While I applaud everyone who feels at peace with their weight I also cannot understand it.

I was a healthy regular sized kid who started gaining weight as my family started gaining weight in response to a family members illness. That was how the adults dealt with adversity..."here eat this and you will feel better." We have all heard it.

By the time I was about 20 I was 250+ lbs and thought nothing of it. I thought nothing of it because I avoided it. I avoided mirrors, pictures...anything that brought attention, or should I say realization, to myself of how I looked.

In my opinion...or should I say in my life it never was about acceptance by others or teasing from "thin" people that made me want to lose weight. It was never about the girls in the magazines or in the movies or anything like that. FOr me it was that I wanted to be able to walk ANYWHERE without being out of breath. It didn't have to be up stairs...walking across the room could wear me out. My knees hurt so badly at one point that just the thought of getting out of my chair at work would almost make me cry. The pain was so severe it was almost unbearable.
I just don't understand how anyone can honestly look in a mirror and say "I am happy with my fatness" It's just a lie and it has nothing to do with society or anyonelse.
Can you honestly say that you are "happy" with being out of breath just walking or that you are happy not with the way you LOOK in a bathing suit but with the way you feel trying to swim.
I'm sorry are person is more "comfortable" with less weight period. You can do more things and feel better doing them. AND...Let me just respond to the person who said that the hunt for fat clothes is fun...F-U NO IT IS NOT!! Under No Circumstances is it fun NEVER. I don't care if you really are a happy happy fat person. NO, NO, NO....forget it. You are insane. Unless you have nothing but $$ and can shop anywhere in the world you want, which might only make it marginally easier anyway, no....the hunt sucks and you are lying to yourself if you think otherwise.
I was stunned to read that....I dread even the thought of trying to find knee high nylons that won't cut off my circulation or roll down like donuts around my ankles let alone ANYTHING that even makes me feel remotely good about my weight/size.

I have a lot more to say but I feel that this statement will get me into enought trouble so I will stop here and let the daggars fly as they will.

BTW...I personally wouldn't get WLS as I don't think I need it to lose the weight I need to lose but knowing the risks and the rewards I would do it in a second it I needed to. I know a few people who have and they thank God every night for making the choice to do so.

Anonymous said...

I am at a crossroad in my life. I have been fat for about 15 years, I'm 52 right now. I think sometimes that I just stay fat because it's easier (and more fun). But now because of the fat I have some major health issues and if I want to live longer, I have to change. It's scary, I can't just quit dieting now because I have no willpower, like I've always done in the past. I'm not one of those women who base everything on how they look. Which is kinda weird because until I gained so much weight(262 lbs) I was the girl everyone envied. I am pretty, I'm not trying to sound vain I just don't understand why it dosen't bother me more. So, I have a new chapter of my life beginning, I want to be around for my family and I just might get some energy back again!