weight loss surgery

All posts in the weight loss surgery category

How Does Dieting Benefit Our Health?

Published September 29, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

**Trigger warning, topic is about weight loss diets and disordered eating.**

I got a fantastic question on my Tumblr yesterday, that got me thinking a bit about diet culture and the constant calls for fat people to go on diets “for their health” and “take care of yourself”.

I was thinking about my own life of dieting, and how I felt all those times, and what my own health was like in those years.

When people say fat people should go on diets “for their health”, they’re not factoring in a) how dieting  affects the body and b) the mental health of the fat person.  Even if they are genuinely concerned for someone’s health and not just using concern trolling to police fat bodies because of their appearance, how much thought do they give to what dieting turns people into?

Now let’s just establish here that we know that fat people aren’t lazy gluttons and that we’re not all stuffing our faces 24 x 7 and that “dieting” doesn’t equal “just eating healthy”.  I know that’s the rhetoric that is spouted at us all the time, that we just have to “Put down the donut/cheeseburger/whatever.”  Let’s make it nice and clear that I’m talking about food restriction or replacement, rather than the mythical “just eat healthy” that the anti-fat seem to think we are not doing already.  When people say “Just eat healthy.” they don’t actually mean that, they mean diet, because hey, there’s no possible way a fat person can already be “just eating healthy”.  I’m talking about weight loss diets.  Calorie counting, no carb, no fat, no sugar, cabbage soup, replacement shakes, Atkins, South Beach, Pritikin, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, grapefruit, high protein, high fibre, high cardboard… whatever the fuck diet we were on at the time.  And this includes any of the disordered eating habits too – bingeing, purging, starvation, laxative abuse, diet pills, exercise bingeing, and even weight loss surgery.  Anything that is designed to restrict, reduce or purge for the supposed purpose of making us thin.

Can I ask… have any of you ever known a person, fat or thin or somewhere in between, who has been on a weight loss diet/programme, who is/was actually HAPPY while they are doing so?

*crickets chirping*

I know I was never happy.  I always felt like shit.  Having to measure every bit of food, count points, calories or grams, having to think about what I was going to eat every minute of the day.  I couldn’t just relax and spend time with friends, because I’d have to think about what foods met my diet.  Organising lunches for work was a headache and I was always on my guard for people questioning my eating habits (or lack of them).  Grocery shopping was even more nightmarish than I find it now (and I hate it now, thank God for online grocery shopping!) because almost everything was “forbidden” on whatever diet I was on at the time.  I was always hungry.  When I did get to eat, it was shitty.  Either it was really bad food (cabbage soup?) or it wasn’t even food at all, it was some powdery substitute or rubbery/cardboard diet version.  I never wanted the things I was “allowed” to eat, and yet I was so unbelievably hungry all the time that I had to eat them when I could.

Physically, my body fought me all the way.  I was constantly sick with every cold and virus that came around.  My skin was bad.  My teeth were terrible.  I constantly had to fight bad breath and diarrhea.  I had constant hayfever and headaches.  I never had any energy and never slept properly.

Emotionally, I was depressed, anxious and obsessive.  Depressed because I hated being hungry all the time and having to eat things that tasted like cardboard or rubber, depressed because no matter what I did, I could never lose weight and keep it off.  Anxious because I never knew where I could get “suitable” food, and I hated anyone knowing I was on a diet.  Anxious because my blood sugar was always low and I was shaky and couldn’t concentrate.  Obsessive because food might actually GET me, if I let down my guard.

Yet all of this was supposed to benefit my health?  How?

We all know that diets fail on the long term in 95% of cases, with weight regain plus more, but we never talk about how bloody miserable dieting is.  How nobody is actually happy while they are dieting, and because 95% of them find diets fail, they’re not happy in the long term either.  The whole diet culture just sets people, particularly women, up to be miserable all the time, both during dieting and then when it inevitably fails.

And this is supposed to be for our health?  This is supposed to be “taking care of ourselves”.

I call bullshit.

Instead, we can put all that crap behind us, re-learn to eat to nourish us, let go of exercising as some kind of penance and learn to find activity that we enjoy and live our lives to the fullest no matter what our weight.

I know which sounds like taking care of myself to me.

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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?

Weight Loss Surgery: Becky’s Story (Guest Post)

Published August 29, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Recently there was some discussion on Facebook and Twitter about the experiences of people who have had weight loss surgery (WLS), and how the voices of WLS patients who did not reflect the wine and roses view sold to us by those in the WLS industry were often silenced, or made to feel like they are the ones to have failed, rather than the surgery having failed them.  I put out a public invitation on both Facebook and Twitter to anyone who had undergone WLS and not been “cured” of their fatness, had any complications or illness after the surgery, or were dissatisfied with the results of their WLS to guest post any time here on Fat Heffalump*, and anonymously if they prefer.

I received a request from Becky of The Ramblings of Mrs Bebe and she has written this piece to share with you all.

Now, before I share the piece with you, I would like to make it clear that while I personally (and vehemently) disagree with Becky’s belief that the medical world should recognise obesity as an eating disorder, and while she currently believes she is glad she had WLS, I still want to give her story and experiences the opportunity to be heard, particularly as they present a highly alternative perspective of WLS to what we normally hear and see presented in the media and marketed by those who profit from this practice of what I believe, is mutilation.

I want you to respect that this is Becky’s story and Becky’s body, and that this is the way she feels about her experience.  You are welcome to disagree with and discuss the issue of weight loss surgery, and the points Becky raises, so long as you treat Becky with respect.  Becky is doing something very few weight loss surgery patients do, and I commend her for her courage to speak out and her choice to be identified in this piece.

So without any further ado, here is Becky’s Story:

Its been noted that all too often we hear peoples stories of their weight loss surgery charting that first vital year, the dramatic weight loss, the life changing effect it has on people and the reaction people receive from friends and family. I’d like to share my story with you 4 years down the line.

I guess I should start from the beginning though, albeit an abbreviated version.  Overweight child of overweight parents, said overweight parent petrified I would end up like them, so I was put on a calorie controlled diet from the age of 9, restricted to 3 square meals, was told off if I even approached the fridge let alone opened it. This was the start of what was and will always be my very difficult relationship with food.

I spent my teens on a vicious cycle of starvation and binging, and gradually I would put a stone on for every year, at 13, I was 13 stone (182lbs), 15, 15 stone…..you get the picture. By the time I was in my twenties, I had levelled off at 24 stone (336lbs). Through various diets I fluctuated anywhere between 20 – 24 stone (280 – 336lbs).  Throughout my life I had tried my very hardest to be positive about my appearance, to the point of appearing on national television to promote image positivity in my capacity as a plus size model.  But at the age of 26 when my knees and hips where starting to fail me and getting out of bed even felt like an effort, I felt a more drastic option had to be considered.  So I visited my doctor and asked for a referral to the weight loss surgeon. At this point in time (2006) the gastric bypass was really becoming popular in England and doctors were handing them out the sweets (ironic).  Without any great resistance from my doctor I was referred to a surgeon, if I recall correctly I had about 4 consultations with him and the same with the dietician. The process took about 8 months, then in August 2007 I went in for my operation, I was wheeled down to surgery at 12 midday on the Sunday, I returned home on the Wednesday.  As mentioned above I wont harp on about this part, but safe to say my story is probably similar to most,  I lost 4 stone (56lbs) in the first 2 months, then gradually over the space of about a year I lost a further 3 ½ stone (49lbs). It was then that I plateaued.

Its probably one of the most soul destroying parts of the process.  To think that you went to through life threatening surgery, months of massively restricted eating, vomiting, diarrhoea, pain, nausea and explanation after explanation as to why you’ve left three quarters of your meal in a restaurant, only to be stared at by the waiter as if to say, “yeh right love, you still look fat to me”, just to find out, that that is it.  You’re still classed as obese, you’re still “plus size”, and yeh, you’re still fat, just not as fat as before.

I tried desperately to get the weight loss moving again, I would walk the daily miles to work at a good pace, restrict my food intake, visit the gym but nothing seemed to work (oh wait does that sound familiar?)  So there I was stuck at 16 & ½ stone (231lbs). Subjected to work colleagues still asking, “oh have you lost anymore weight?”, “how’s the weight loss going?”, “should you be eating that?” F@*K OFF!!!!! I have been scrutinised all my life, the immense pressure after having a bypass is even more intense.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over the sense of failure and disappointment despite everyone’s positive words.

The particular hospital trust at which I had my operation, offers no physiological support whatsoever, and I feel this is the root of the problem. They can re-jig my insides all they like; they can’t operate on my brain. I’m still hungry, I’m still greedy, I still have very deep rooted issues with food and I still dislike myself. I am glad I had the operation and I am glad I was able to shift a substantial amount of weight, but I think the process as a whole needs reviewing and until the medical world recognises obesity as an eating disorder and start treating obese people with respect and dignity, things will continue as they are.

This piece reflects my opinions, and my opinions alone, I still stand by the fact that if you are genuinely happy with your physical image fat or thin, then I am in total awe of you and long may your confidence continue, I, unfortunately am not one of those people.


*The invitation to anyone wishing to share their story of dissatisfaction with their weight loss surgery is still open, either anonymously or identified.  Please feel free to email me if you would like to share your story.