Weight Loss Surgery: Jan’s Story

Published September 4, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m very happy with how the last guest post on the topic of Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) by Becky was received here on Fat Heffalump, and how respectfully people responded to it.  It goes to show that even though we might have had different pathways in life, and we might have some differences of opinion on fatness, that the crux of what we need to work on is the simple fact that fat people are marginalised and neglected when it comes to health care and support for our quality of life.

I am honoured to share with you all another guest post from a WLS recipient, this time from Jan of Outside the Lines, who is incredibly brave to share her story here.  I’m amazed at the strength Jan has had to show, as evidenced by her story below.

Again, please remember that this is a safe, respectful forum to discuss the topic of WLS, and while we may have differences of opinion on the matter of fatness, it’s important that we talk openly about the issues around WLS, especially the experiences and perspectives of those who have had the surgery and been dissatisfied with the result.  And in Jan’s case, she has some questions she would like to invite people to answer.

Without any further ado, here is Jan’s story:

As far back as I can remember I have had size issues. As a young girl, whilst not fat, I was always the biggest and tallest girl in my class. I didn’t like this at all, as like most kids I wanted to blend into the crowd. I had black curly hair which I didn’t like either. Actually there wasn’t anything I did like. I grew up in a family of 8 siblings all similar size. My mother was short and cuddly, my dad very tall and well fat.

Two of my older brothers used to tease me a fair bit telling me I had tree trunk legs, or piano legs. Funny thing is that looking back at my pictures I was not that big at all, so I am not sure what they were seeing. It probably started there. As I grew up it became quite obvious that I was always much bigger than the other girls and in some cases the boys too. The teasing was not that bad really. It was more that I felt so different. I was never picked for sports teams at school, that shame I remember well. Team captains would take it in turns to choose who they wanted on their team. I was never chosen, a team would get me as a default, as I was the only one left so someone had to take me. I sucked at sports, hated it with a passion. I was very conscious of the shorts or short skirts and felt awkward.
I was the tallest girl throughout school and so when we had to do dancing at school I was not chosen by a boy and had to either sit out or be made to partner up with a boy who didn’t want me as a partner cos I was too big. But really looking back I wasn’t fat, just larger than all the other girls. But I internalised all of this. Of course I did. My family did not support me, but then I don’t think they even thought there was an issue they just treated us all the same.

Of course being more developed than other girls I matured earlier having to wear a bra at age 10 or 11, then periods etc.

High school years were some of my worst. I think this is where the depression started really. I had always been anxious and shy as a small child and this continued throughout my life.

I really did not like myself but this stage. I wanted to be small and cute and pretty like the other girls. They were all getting boyfriends and going on dates, but not me. I was part of a strict family never allowed to go out.

As I approached my first working years I continued on feeling that I did not fit in. I entered the nursing profession but after only 9 months was forced to resign after failing exams. This set in place a huge amount of self hatred. My long held dream job and I had fucked up. Devastation was an understatement. Then at a young 20 I married and was pregnant and a mother before I was 21. At this age I weighed in at 101kg. The Dr’s told me to lose the excess weight. Then the next year another child and more weight loaded on. I went on to have 5 children and each time grew bigger and bigger. By the time the last one was born in 1992 I weighed approx 180kg.

Life for me was getting tough. Too big to run and play with the kids. I felt shit and a failure. Then in 1994 I had a friend who went and had WLS. She was much smaller than me, but anyway I went along to my doctor who thought it was a great idea. So I went through the process-endocrinologist, 3 sessions with a psychologist then proceed to surgeon, who I met the day before the surgery. I was so scared.

But dreamed of how beautiful I would look when I got slim. I was so scared that we bought a video camera and filmed me talking to the girls sharing memories just in case I didn’t survive the surgery!

Anyway I survived came home and was terrified. I could not eat normally. The first weeks its small bits of soup, jellies etc. I was 100% unhappy. Even though I thought I was prepared for this change I wasn’t. The medical and support staff had not focused on this part. I went into a fog, crying and raging that I was starving but could not eat. I panicked big time. My husband would shout at me to do the right thing and that I was fucking hopeless. Many other people who knew I had surgery were continually asking of my progress. It was the main topic of conversation. I was like a circus freak. I suffered mentally. I initially lost a few kilos, but it was slow going. However after about 6 months I had shed 30 kg’s and did start to feel good. People were noticing my weight loss and for the first time in my life I was receiving compliments. I actually though this is how life is meant to be. It slowly dawned on me that now I just might be acceptable to the public and more importantly myself.

However due to the nature of my WLS (stomach stapling) nutrients are prevented from being absorbed. You are meant to take multivitamins for the rest of your life. Well I didn’t.

It hadn’t been over emphasised so me being me didn’t do it.

After 12 months things slowed down and I wasn’t losing weight. I had managed to increase my eating amounts but eating little more often. I also found out that I could eat the so called empty calorie foods like chips, lollies and others such things with not too much discomfort. Then I added soft drinks like diet coke. By this stage I had a huge hanging amount of hanging belly fat reaching to my knees. So off I go to another surgeon to see if I could have it removed. He agreed to do it and in two weeks I was under the knife. Big mistake! I won’t go into the whole sorry saga but suffice to say I developed a huge wound infection and spent time in and out of hospital contracting a serious infection from the hospital. It eventually turned into gangrene and I needed blood transfusions and god knows what. After having the community nurse come to attend my wound daily for about a month or so it was decided to send me to a major city hospital. I spent a month undergoing repeated surgeries to remove dead flesh and rid me of the toxins in my body. I believe that I came very close to death. Luckily I survived and came home, but never returned to a healthy person. So time moves on and I gradually keep piling weight on and can eat just as much if not more than before. My body hungers for the food. For the comfort it gives me.

When I had that WLS I weighed 200kg and when I was weighed in May this year I clocked 301kg. I estimate that it is more now though. I am what they call a death fatty.

So there my shame is out there. I have been reading the FA blogs for some time. I started after contacting Dr Samantha Thomas, after seeing her on the telly one night. She is gorgeous and introduced me to some people like Kath. Finally I felt I was amongst people who could understand.

But here is my dilemma. I want to love myself 100%. I have progressed but how can I in all honesty do so when I am dealing with so many health issues due to it. I can’t kid myself. I currently have high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, high cholesterol, swollen limbs, depression, and anxiety +++, I am housebound, can’t wear shoes due to swollen right foot. Can hardly find clothes to fit.

I read many blogs from FA members and I don’t see anyone who is as big as me, so I still feel outside the lines

I think this is sounding a bit woe is me now, and I admit that I do deign the cloak of victimhood. I am interested in receiving feedback on my particular situation. What do I do when it is clear that my excess weight it causing me poor health and may ultimately result in a shortened life span?

46 comments on “Weight Loss Surgery: Jan’s Story

  • Hi Jan, Your story really moved me, thankyou for sharing it. I dont want to patronise you but my immediate reaction was that is it your weight that is causing your health conditions? Or would you have arthritis, asthma etc even if you did weigh less? Were these conditions caused (or exacerbated) by your WLS? It might sound like a moot point but I dont think it is when you consider that these conditions are obviously affecting the way you feel about yourself (and your weight). In trying to love yourself for who you are and where you are, maybe consider the things you can do. You are clearly articulate and eloquent (as your writing of your story protrays) and you obviously have considerable self awareness and insight. What things do you do at the moment that you enjoy doing? How do you pass the time in ways that you enjoy? As I said, I dont want to patronise you and you obviously have difficulties that pose great challenges for you in living your daily life. Can I ask what sort of support you woud like? What would you like from Fat Acceptance as a movement and us as individual bloggers and activists to make your journey easier and more bearable? *hugs*

    • Hi Bri
      Thank you for taking the time to reply. You ask a good question and it is one that I have pondered on myself. I do have a family history if arthritis, high blood pressure, cholesterol, depression and anxiety issues so there is that. We are a family of large than the average person. My father was quite big being 6 feet 2 and about 130kg. All his family were big built. I am the biggest out of all the family. 🙂
      I might indeed have gotten all these conditions whether I was the size I was or not. Of course I got suckered into the get fat-this is what will happen. However I look around and know many people who are very thin and suffer the same conditions.
      I do think that carrying this amount of weight had made things much worse though. But more importantly I think it was the WLS that set the self destruct button on overdrive. Mutilating your stomach is not the way to go.
      I do things like sew and quilt but like most things need a lot of assistane to be able to do this. It’s the dependance on others that causes me a lot of grief. I did in fact work until June 2008, when due to mental and physical health issues I needed to stop work. Then stopped driving and have been a virtual recluse since then. I do think that there is hope.
      I love reading the positive comments and feel that somewhere there is a place for me and I am getting closer all the time. Thanks for posting.

      • Jan hon, I am wondering if it is not so much your weight that has exacerbated your health issues, but your mobility issues and depression? After all, we do know that depression and illness can be a vicious cycle (you get sick and it makes your depression worse, which in turn makes you sicker, and so forth) and that physical activity is beneficial in keeping us strong and robust. So if someone is suffering both depression and mobility issues, it makes sense to me that it all contributes into holding your wellness down.

        Wellness is the most important thing, because when your wellbeing is good, it naturally gets better as you become more confident, more active and a higher self esteem.

  • Accepting yourself or accepting your overweight body does not mean accepting a shortened life span or poor health. In fact, accepting yourself is the first step in making positive changes that will improve your quality of life. Acting out of self-rejection or loathing only leads one down a path in which one makes poorer choices (i.e., those that lead to worsening health) because you feel defeated and unworthy of better than you have.

    When society rejects you, and it seems you’ve had a lot of rejection, you feel valueless and decide not to care for yourself. I know that is a cliche, but I know from experience that the only way to improve your quality of life is to internalize that you as a human being have innate value. This is really hard if you are very overweight (and I’ve been there much of my life with a top weight near 400 lbs.) and people are dehumanizing you at every turn. It is that rejection which drove you to surgeries which have damaged your health.

    At this point, what you may want to consider is your best options. When I say “your”, I mean the best that you can do for you to gradually increase your quality of life. That may not be what other people can do, but rather what works for you with your limits at present. Accept that you will never be running a marathon or modeling a bikini. Accept that you may not even be able to walk around the block, but that you may be able to walk around the room once, twice, or however many times you can manage. Set your goals to improve your health, not achieve some arbitrary societal goal or look. Those goals should not be too high. They merely need to be a small step beyond what you are currently capable of. Stretch just a little to improve your health, because you are worthwhile and important and your continued existence matters. This is how you accept yourself. You embrace the idea that your value is great and you deserve health, no matter what your size or appearance.

    If you’d like someone to talk to about your feelings, please feel free to e-mail me. I have dealt with a lot of issues which you may also have suffered. Though I haven’t had weight loss surgery mutilate my body and destroy my health, I have been so disabled I couldn’t walk but a few minutes without pain and struggled life-long with my relationship with food. My e-mail is screamingfatgirl@gmail.com

    • Howdy Screaming Fat Girl

      Thanks for the comment. Your words speak the truth. And I have had times when I have felt worthy, I just need to maintain that idea still. 🙂
      I do indeed need to stretch a little and so on. I am someone who needs continual, friendly encouragement (yes a needy girl) and that is what I don’t get from close family. I get the cruel to be kind type which does not work for me.
      I want to learn to march to my own beat and carve out a niche fit for me. At 47, I wonder if there is still time. Well i have nothing to lose have I?

      • I don’t believe the cruel-to-be-kind type works for anyone long term. It’s pointless!

        And there is PLENTY of time Jan. I really believe that we all work towards living our lives to the fullest we can given our personal circumstances.

  • Dear Jan,

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    My initial reaction is that it is very important for you not to focus on your size and weight any more. Not ever again! Focus on LOVING YOU. Focus on finding small ways that you can move your body. Keep reading this blog and others like it to help you remember that YOU absolutely have the right to love yourself no matter what size you are, AND no matter what your state of health is!

    I was a fat kid. Got teased a lot. As a teen that changed to an eating disorder and body image disorder. I was thin, miserable, and unhealthy for years.

    I had kids (four) and the weight piled on. I fought it, was a total yo-yo, ended up sedentary and depressed.

    Then I discovered Fat Acceptance. l am five foot six and I weigh 250 pounds. I’m roughly a size 24-26. I walk 2 miles at least five times a week. Eating whole/natural foods and moving makes me feel good, but it doesn’t have much effect on my size. The old me would have given up because of that or maybe done unhealthy things to try to shrink myself. NO MORE. I don’t give up on me because I know my beautiful fat body deserves to feel good and be healthy. Accepting that I will always be fat and that there is nothing wrong with that is an amazing and liberating feeling!

  • Thanks for your story. My heart goes out to you for always feeling like an outcast. It must have been really, crazily tough.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the stomach stapling surgery is supposed to make you feel full a lot quicker than before, since the stomach is essentially smaller. I thought that was the main point behind that type of surgery.

    I agree with Screaming Fat Girl about doing what you feel you should do to improve your quality of life. Surround yourself with things and people that make you happy. Learn to accept what things may never be perfect but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy, fulfilling life. Only commit to things to improve your health that don’t involve high risks, like surgery. Find professionals who you can trust when needed,although this may take some if you have none at the moment. Of course, those are just my personal suggestions, I am no doctor though.

    I truly wish you the best!

    • Ashley WLS-stomach stapling is supposed to do that but like all WLS there are ways to circumvent it. It is quite easy to slip into poor habits, or never stop them and as there are no guarentees of success. It did work initially in the early stages while the gut was healing but then because all the same mental stuff was there the need to eat was stronger. If it was as if my body had to claw back the weight it had loss and then some.

      So I am trying hard to accept some things and learn to do what I can with what I have. It is convincing others that is the hardest.

      • I don’t actually believe it’s… circumventing it. It’s your entire body and mind working out ways to survive despite what is happening to your digestive tract. We know now that this surgery fails far, far more people than it helps. We know that the human body will fight in so many ways to right itself after a trauma like this surgery.

        Jan, I don’t believe you failed the surgery at all. IT FAILED YOU.

  • I need to firstly say that I’m not a trolling, nor do I believe that I am trolling with the reply I’m about to give. I’m 140 kgs myself and don’t diet. Ok that said I am an advocate of fat acceptance and believe that people, regardless of size or any other characteristic, are entitled to respect and fair treatment.

    I also believe that fat acceptance for me means accepting that I am fat and then getting on with my life and treating myself with love and respect and not hating myself for my weight and punishing myself in any number of ways. If I love myself I don’t need to comfort myself to cover up the pain (emotional and physical) and shame.

    Treating myself with respect and love also means giving myself the best possible life I can, and if that means making lifestyle changes to help that then I will. I don’t want to get into the ‘is weight really causing my health problems?’ debate as I’m not a medical researcher or expert. But if there are solid signs that certain lifestyle changes would have a positive impact then I would personally attempt to make them for all the reasons above.

    I think your story is a very important one and people who embark on WLS need to hear experiences such as yours. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Gina
      Thanks for the post. You are so right. It needs and will be my mission now. I aim to be the best I possibly can right now. I can not wait until… or until…

      Thanks for giving me hope.

  • You sound like a really great person. I struggle with liking myself, let alone loving myself. I can relate to what you said. I wasn’t fat as a child, but I was bigger than pretty much everyone in my class. I was reasonably tall and big-boned, not petite at all, and forget about cute. I had ugly, greasy, dishwater-colored hair and when I was in the seventh grade was given that Martian headgear to wear by my sadistic orthodontist. Actually he was a very nice man, but the procedures I went through…ye Gods!
    I have not heard anything good about WLS and therefore will not be doing it. I was very strongly considering it as I’ve hit 300 pounds. I’ve gained a lot of weight since I went back to working night shift in health care. I know it shouldn’t matter, and I love how I find so many people in the size acceptance community who truly like themselves at whatever size and they truly look great, but I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 13 and a lot of the time when I look at myself (this does NOT apply to other heavy people) all I see is “failure.”
    I’m glad you shared your story. I think people need to know the TRUTH about WLS, not lies told to them by bariatric surgeons who are profiting from doing these procedures.

    • Hi Fancinacroud
      Thanks for posting and telling us your story. I love the size acceptance community and the generosity that comes from their shared experience. I have learnt so much and I am excited to learn more as time goes on. I know that this is bigger than me and that alone keeps me from running screaming into the sunset.

      I wish you well and acceptance :0

    • faycinacroud – I think it only appears that everyone truly accepts themselves all the time. It’s hard no matter how many years you’ve been at this fat acceptance business, because we’re living in a constant stream of fat = bad messages. We ALL struggle with that stuff.

      However, the difference is once you know that, and acknowledge the struggle, and deal with the tough days, it gets easier and you know fat = bad is not the truth. When you get to the point that you know that in your heart of hearts, that’s the bit that makes you look like you’ve truly accepted and love yourself, you know?

  • Jan, I don’t know that I have any useful answers for you except to say that I hope that you know there are no lines in FA for you to be outside of, you belong inside the fold by virtue of being a human being, because that’s all it takes to deserve love and acceptance and dignity from both yourself and others. I’m having trouble finding words that come out right so I’ll stop there and finish with *hugs* and my appreciation of your courage in sharing your story so openly.

    • Hi Mimbles

      I am certainly understanding now that I can fit no matter what. It feels like I did need to hear that I am still okay when doubts crowd my thoughts.
      I can understand what you are saying and I too get all muddled up when trying to get my point across.
      We all share the lowest common denominator that if being human-and I am certaintly that.


  • Hi Jan,

    Thank you for your story. I’ve seen you commenting on Sam’s blog and you always have something insightful and interesting to say.

    As for your question at the end of the post, I wanted to note what much of the research is suggesting now—that positive changes like working towards increasing mobility with additional exercise, and other ‘lifestyle’ changes with health in mind, are the best way to start feeling healthier, regardless of your weight. You probably know this already.

    I think that weight loss is held up as the panacea of all that ills an individual, *especially* if he/she is very fat. I think that very fat people can feel outside of fat acceptance sometimes, because while an apparent argument can be made for increasing health without expecting weight loss when one has a wide range of mobility at his/her current weight, this argument might, on its surface, seem to fizzle when weight is a factor in decreased mobility.

    However, it’s not as simple as that, and I think fat acceptance needs to start talking about this more. At very large sizes, such that mobility is decreased significantly, the same questions and truths about diet and weight do not go away. For instance, if you have a binge-type eating disorder, then the way to treat it isn’t through dieting (which can increase the desire to binge), but through psychotherapy to address the root cause of compulsion.

    Overeating disorders like ‘extreme’ comfort eating are harder, because they’re much more difficult to diagnose properly. Comfort eating has been demonized popularly, though we all do it. But theoretically if you truly have a problem with overeating on a regular basis, then there are ways to work towards a hunger-cue type of ‘natural’ eating that works (called intuitive eating). However, your hunger cues might very well have been screwed up by the surgery, which means that you would need to simulate a hunger-cue type environment…and here my knowledge of this subject runs out. But a compassionate nutritionist should be able to help.

    That being said, you may or may not lose weight by regulating eating (if eating is a factor), and increasing exercise (in whatever way possible). If that is the case, then it’s time to really think about what other things are causal factors in your weight, which is true for everyone at every size:

    1. Genetics. You might be meant to be very heavy. Some people are. I had a great-grandmother who, in photos, looked about my size — 182 cm and about 175 kg. My grandmother tells me she had *enormous* aunts — so, my great-aunts.
    2. Your dieting history. People who diet/restrict over life to be heavier.
    3. The obvious – your surgery, and the health problems that resulted. They could have had an enormous impact on your metabolism; the initial stages after weight loss surgery mimic famine in the body. The body’s famine response could have been to slow metabolism further still, so it could hang on to every nutrient. It’s possible that not taking multivitamins after surgery could have had an effect on how your body processes food; I’m not sure, you’d have to ask an expert.
    4. Other medical issues can contribute to weight gain, like insulin resistance, PCOS, and thyroid issues.

    I think if you can get a reasonable idea of *why* you weigh as much as you weigh, then you will know what you can do to help increase health and mobility. If it is something you can’t change, like genetics or your dieting/surgery history, then the question becomes how can you improve health and mobility without the expectation of weight loss? That is an essential fat acceptance question.

    All in all, there *is* a place for you in fat acceptance. We all ask ourselves the same questions — why do we weigh what we weigh? What can we do to improve health if that is our goal, knowing that diets don’t work? If some of the changes we make result in weight loss, then how do we fit into the community (answer: same way as before, by speaking out against fat discrimination!)? How can we focus on our individual health issues when the medical establishment keeps pushing the magic bullet of weight loss?

    Thanks again for your post.

    • Hi Bigliberty

      You post resonated with me. I wonder and question why I weigh what I do and while obvious things like mucking around with my body surgically would be a contributing factor there are many psychological ones. I have had a lot of psychological counselling over the years and that has helped but has not quite done the job.
      For me accessing support and services is a big thing as I live in a place not equiped to deal with anyone like me. I have tackled the head of the health department but it was fruitless as it was me on my own, no one else to help advocate for me.
      But I am done yet so there is hope.
      Thanks for your kind words.

  • Jan, I really feel for you. I really wish that the stigmatisation of bigger than average kids would stop, because the effect in self-esteem, eating habits and weight is so thoroughly negative and extremely damaging. I look back on childhood photos and wish that someone had told me how beautiful I really was instead of calling me fat and encouraging me to diet.

    I spent nearly 30 years dieting and overeating but once the HAES message sank in I was able to stop dieting and gradually learn to eat without shame and listen to my body. I’m still big and always will be, but my weight has stabilised, the same clothes fit me year after year, and I’ve finally learned to feel positive about my body despite various health issues.

    I find it unhelpful to wonder what my health would be like if I was thin. I’m not. I am who I am and I need to look after myself as I am. Regrets and self-blame will get me nowhere. There is plenty of evidence that binge eating and weight gain are the natural long term effects of dieting, and the only way forwards is to break out of that vicious circle. I’m actually quite surprised at my progress as I used to think I was a hopeless case and that if I ever stopped dieting I would simply gain weight forever!

    I think you might find it helpful to check out http://www.eatwithoutdrama.com/.

    I wish you all the best in dealing with your health issues. My personal view, since you asked, is that a HAES approach would be beneficial to you rather than fretting about weight loss. A normalised eating pattern might also help you lose some weight. It will certainly help you to feel better about yourself and many good things can follow on from that. You’ve tried everything you could to lose weight and the results appear to have been purely destructive. There is no reason to assume that following the same path will suddenly take you in a different direction. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to let go and move on with no regrets or blame.

    • Hi TheHuldra

      Thanks for your comments. Everyone on here has been helpful and I appreciate it so very much. Will check that site out.

  • Okay, I just have to ask this: Jan, have you considered starting your own blog? You have a unique, articulate voice that I, for one, would love to hear more from. You have a story that a lot of people need to hear. And yes, you absolutely do have a place in FA.

    The point of FA isn’t physical health or specific actions, but simple human dignity. The point of FA is that we deserve the same rights as everyone else simply by virtue of being human. You are human. You deserve to be treated with dignity, consideration, and proper care for your well-being, both physical and emotional.

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter how or why you weigh what you do. What matters is how society at large feels okay with shaming you for your weight and your health issues. I truly hope that you will find a way to leave shame behind and love yourself for the special person you are.

    And yes, I mean that with every bit of asthma, high cholesterol, depression, and anxiety you have right this very minute.

    Please, do consider writing your own blog. And if you’re not ready for that, I sincerely hope you’ll stick around the Fatosphere and comment often. I’m eager to hear more of what you have to say.

    • Hi Twistie

      You are so kind. I do in fact have my own blog, however it is not just about fat acceptance, but more ramblings from all over the shop. You see I am still trying to find my brave feet and keep in my comfort zone. 🙂
      To tell me that I have something worth reading means a lot to me as it is something I enjoy but not confident. If you wish to check out my blog Kath put a link in her piece at the top.
      Look forward to hearing from you too and others.
      You rock.

  • I’m sorry you had to go through all of this. It sounds horrible. I wish people had been there to help you with depression and self-hatred sooner.

    Your worth as a human being isn’t determined by your health. You can be a valuable human being with high cholesterol, with arthritis, with all of those health issues. Being sick doesn’t make you bad.

    If you want to get healthier (and it sounds like you do), it might be worth trying to focus on something other than weight loss. Doing exercise can help a lot with mobility issues and general health, and is potentially helpful in dealing with depression. Making sure to get enough of all necessary nutrients can help (that may mean more fruits and vegetables, taking regular vitamin supplements, possibly even increasing protein intake, or any number of things). Improved exercise and eating habits sometimes lead to weight loss, but can lead to improved health whether or not the weight is lost. It can be discouraging to work out regularly with weight loss as a goal and repeatedly ‘fail’ by not losing, or not losing enough, or not losing fast enough, and focusing on stuff like building strength and stamina without worrying about whether or not it leads to weight loss can help avoid that loss of motivation.

    Seeking treatment for mental health issues can make a big difference, both emotionally and physically – feeling bad and unworthy can make it hard to take care of yourself, and easier to think that “getting healthy” only counts if it involves punishment and suffering. That can lead to poor decision-making on choices affecting physical health.

    Does your husband shout at you and insult you very often? Because I read “My husband would shout at me to do the right thing and that I was fucking hopeless” and that is not a good way to treat one’s spouse. Does he say things like that regularly?

    • Ako that is indeed what I need to focus on-moving more. I hardly move which is not good and is making things much worse for me. So will endeavour to get up.
      I do face a lot of hostility within my family, and it seems they can not understand it doesn’t help. Keep working on that.

      • Moving more can make a big difference in terms of health. It can also be really hard to do, particularly for someone who doesn’t enjoy or do well at the options commonly presented as “healthy exercise”. I grew up both disliking sports and completely lacking in talent for them, which put me off a lot of potential ways to exercise. However, I enjoy lifting weights (an activity not generally encouraged among women and people trying to lose weight), swimming (again, I’ve had people recommend against this from a purely weight-loss-focused approach), rowing, and some martial arts. I don’t like yoga, but a lot of people do. There are a million ways to move, and it’s good to look for something that appeals to you.

        The hostility from your family sounds bad. One of the better messages I got from fat acceptance is that you can’t shame someone for their own good. You deserve better than that, and whether they imagine they’re helping or not, they have no right to insult you and yell at you for not being thin enough.

  • I am sorry that you are in such a difficult situation, however, as other people have already said: Your worth as a person does not depend on your weight or your health. Plus, your weight might contribute to your health problems, but that does not mean that losing weight is the only thing you can do to improve your health. Unfortunately, it is often really hard to find healthy professionals who are willing to work with fat clients on non-weight-loss-focused interventions…

    I don’t know if this is an option for you, but Kelly Bliss (who is a well-known fat-acceptance and HAES advocate) offers online/ phone lifestyle coaching: http://www.kellybliss.com/main/index.php

    She also sells a series of fitness videos for people of literally any size and fitness level, for example sitting aerobics: https://kellybliss.com/store/product_details.php?item_id=164

    Finally, there is this free booklet by Jon Robinson available on Kelly’s website: http://welcoa.org/freeresources/pdf/10thingsyoucandorightnow.pdf

    As I said, I don’t know if any of this is helpful for you in your current situation. However, there are other resources out there (among them the fat nutritionist: http://www.fatnutritionist.com/), even though they can be hard to find (and it sucks that so few are available locally and in face-to-face format). Depending on where you are this list of fat-friendly health professionals might also be useful: http://www.cat-and-dragon.com/stef/fat/ffp.html

  • Oh, and one more thing: At least for the depression and the anxiety I can assure you that while this is an often repeated point there is not credible evidence or even theory whatsoever that being fat CAUSES them. In fact, I think it is much more likely that being discriminated by society/ feeling excluded is a major cause.

  • Hello, Jan.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is very brave of you to have done so since you feel you are exposing your shame and failure to the world. I haven’t had WLS, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital for other things. I know the hospital is the last place in the world anyone wants to be.

    I’m glad that you were able to fight through and survive all your ordeals. I’m very sorry you didn’t get what you paid so much for in pain and risk. However, I don’t see you as a failure. I see you as a person on a life journey, just like the rest of us, trying to do the best you can.

    The only advice I have for you would be to remember that baby steps add up. We all get caught up in the idea that big, dramatic changes are required for things to improve in our lives. I don’t believe that is the case. Anything, no matter how small, that improves your circumstance is a giant step towards a better life.

    Hugs to you,


  • Jan, thank you for being brave enough to share your story. I know there are others out there who can relate very much to your story. You may never know how you have helped someone else by sharing your story. I hope you will continue to share.

    There is absolutely a place for you in fat-acceptance. Please don’t feel you can’t belong in it because you are a certain size or have had medical complications or had WLS or whatever. Remember, fat-acceptance is a journey; you don’t have to be perfect at it *right now*. Give yourself permission to let it be a journey.

    Let me share what the journey has meant for me, and then you can take from that what makes sense to you (or not take anything if it’s not meaningful to you).

    The first essential part of fat-acceptance to me is feeling like you DESERVE to be treated well and that you have the same right to happiness and respectful treatment as everyone else, regardless of size, dieting history, or medical conditions. I would encourage you to work with a counselor if at all possible (even by phone if you cannot get to their office) so you start working through some of these issues. It really helps to have an outside perspective. And if you have eating issues, be sure you find some help for that which is not dieting-related, which helps you untie eating from emotions and promote its use for health and sustenance instead.

    The second essential part of fat-acceptance to me is taking what actions you can to work on your health right now, at this weight, without the express purpose of weight loss, but just because you deserve to be healthy and feel better. Emphasize baby steps. Stretch out your body as best you can. Walk around your house if you can. If you can’t, use a couple of cans from the cupboard and do some arm curls with them. You don’t have to be very mobile to get your heart rate moving, and there are things like chair aerobics and chair yoga that you can try. Start with what you CAN do and set small but achievable goals to move forward with that and make progress. It may or may not result in weight loss but that’s not what it’s about….it’s about progress towards feeling better and getting more mobile.

    Most of all, believe that you matter, that what you feel matters, and that you have valuable things to contribute to other people, whatever is going on with your body and regardless of whether you ever lose weight or get more mobile or whatever. YOU MATTER.

    • Hi The well rounded mama

      You are so kind with your comments. Your words hit a nerve and I think that is what was happening in thinking I had to conform to some type to be part of the community. It is indeed a journey and I can not rush it. In time I am getting there.
      My friend who was here today discussed some things I can do to get moving and I am working to this, need help to move some obstacles from my path but watch this space. 🙂

  • Thank you all so much for your thoughtful, caring responses to Jan! My word you folks impress me so much with your honesty, intelligence, compassion and support for others. I really mean that.

    To Jan, I would have to say that I understand being really sick and feeling like that can’t be changed unless you lose weight. I was like that for YEARS. What I didn’t realise was that two things were causing me to be sick all the time – 1) all the punishment I was putting my body through trying to make it thin and 2) not believing that I could be healthy unless I lost weight.

    The minute I started to question those two things, and started to undo the damage that fat stigma had been doing to me, my health has improved SO much. And for me, the one thing that made those bells ring in my head was Linda Bacon’s “Health at Every Size”. It took a bit of chewing to get through because it is a really intense subject, but it’s such a positive, forward moving approach to feeling healthy and strong and robust.

    For me, the moment I decided that it wasn’t important to “lose weight” but instead to GAIN health, my entire focus started to shift. I found myself being able to eat well without so many negative emotions and stress, and looking for ways that I could become more active. My weight has shifted around a bit, and it ebbs and flows depending on other factors, but all in all I am so much stronger, more robust and have far better energy than before.

    But the really surprise benefit is that my depression has diminished to a very manageable issue now. Where it consumed me before, now I deal with it when it arrives, let it pass through and move on. All in all I just feel better, both inside and out.

    You know I wish you every happiness in the world Jan – you’re an awesome lady, don’t you ever forget that.

    • Kath thank you for your ongoing support and faith in me. I am honoured. I am about to purchase the book by Linda Bacon 🙂

      Thanks so much. I have enjoyed reading the comments so much. It has really powered me up today.

  • Hi Jan. I’m a fat cancer survivor and it was difficult for me to accept that firstly, I hadn’t caused myself to be sick – my body just decided to do this – and secondly, that I wasn’t a normal, healthy person and that was okay. My focus needs to be on taking care of myself, not on my size or shape. I found disability blogs like FWD (which is now closed but has awesome archives) to be very helpful.

    Anxiety, arthritis, severe asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, difficulty walking? Sounds like my mum, who is medically underweight. She seems to think it’s some kind of terrible punishment for being “too fat” (she’s a size 10 Australian and I literally weigh 3 times her weight) which goes to show how messed up our perceptions are!

    • Hello Lilacsigil

      Thanks for that link will check it out. 🙂
      That’s a very good point about your mums conditions. That is what I see too, many slim people with the same health issues. Makes one wonder. 🙂

  • Hi Jan,

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’m just so glad you survived. My great aunt had her stomach stapled and she died from it. So much for losing weight making you healthy! You know, I’m pretty sure she had it done after years and years of public vilification for her fat. What that woman had to put up was shameful. Just shameful. But when she died, she left behind a huge hole in the lives of people around her. Publicly, she was shamed. Privately, she was adored.

    I can’t possibly know anything about you from your post, but if I had one suggestion, it would be to deal with one thing at a time. Depression and anxiety would be top of my list. It’s very hard to accomplish anything when you’re depressed. Secondly, as other people above have said, little tiny goals that are achievable, so you can see what you’ve done.

    Also… you’re not your illnesses. I used to loathe my body. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and I avoided buying clothes. Then I got cancer. Well, that’s given me a whole bunch of new scars and a couple of lifelong health legacies I could do without. But suddenly, I really love my body, because of the way it keeps plugging away at life. I don’t give a rat’s arse what anybody else thinks about it, and I’ve gone a bit crazy spending money I don’t have on things like pedicures. You know why? Because this body is the only one I’m going to get in this lifetime. It makes no sense to hate it.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing. You’re not alone!


  • Oh Alexie I am sorry to hear that your dear great aunt passed away due to WLS. Tragic just tragic. You too Kath, at losing your friend due to WLS. They don’t advertise this fact of course.
    Alexie your right this is the only body we are gonna have so I will love it and and honour it. Thanks so much for commenting, it means a lot.
    Love to all the commenters, you have all helped more than you can know.
    Kath thank you so much.

  • Disability related blogs may help you with the emotional work of dealing with your health problems. It sounds like a lot of your feelings have to do with being unable to do what other people do, it is totally understandable and it is exactly the kind of subject matter that disability related blogs deal with. FA isn’t incompatible with that. Your health problems don’t make your body a “bad” body more than anyone else who inherited disease risks and later had health problems as a result. People with dark skin can more easily suffer from vitamin D deficiency and are almost exclusively the population of sickle cell anemia patients, people with lighter complexions and certain nationalities are more at risk for skin cancer, european people are at a much higher risk for osteoperosis, etc. That doesn’t make a case against people of different nationalities accepting themselves as beautiful at all. Most of all I want you to know that this isn’t your fault. A lot of stuff in the post hints that you think it is your fault that you are sick now. You behaved reasonably, using the information available to you, the entire time. There is no shame in that, and I hope you never feel shame for being sick or needing help.

  • Jan,

    I just read your story and I wanted to let you know that I think you are so strong. Your story was moving, and the way you described your childhood reminded me a lot of my experiences as being the biggest (tallest) girl and feeling awkward. Your story was really inspirational and made me think twice about weight loss surgery. For what it’s worth, I think you speaking out about your experiences will help a lot of people.

    Much Love

  • Jan, I am so sorry to hear how badly medical professionals failed you. As you’ve found, the psychological dimension is a huge part of WLS and whether it is successful or not.
    Have you tried Overeaters Anonymous? I ask because you mention using the food for comfort, which is exactly what I did/sometimes still do. OA has helped me deal with my feelings without using food to make myself feel better. Good luck in whatever you do.

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