Skinny is a Side Effect

When speaking with friends and family members about my upcoming Gastric Sleeve Surgery, there has been a wide range of reactions. Some are encouraging. Some tell me they are worried about the surgery. A few want to know what effect (if any) the surgery could have on my epilepsy. But, by far the most common response has been some version of the following:

“How exciting! Just think how skinny you are going to get!”

I smile, and nod politely, not trusting myself to speak. But, every time, it makes me grind my teeth a bit. Because if you were going to make a list of all the reasons I was having this surgery, “skinny” would not be at the bottom. “Skinny” would not even be on the list.

Western society is overly invested into the cult of skinny. It is something that my wife has been standing up against her whole adult life – so many women, and not a few men, get themselves emotionally crippled trying to match the societal ideal of what a person should look like. Eating disorders, yo-yo dieting, and emotional scarring abound, all because so many people can’t get themselves to a “perfect” weight, or dress size, or whatever. And that societal disease leads SO many people to believe that my motivation to get a life-altering surgery performed on myself is to get skinny? The minds reels.

As exciting as it is to read about the dramatic weight loss numbers associated with the Gastric Sleeve and other weight loss surgeries, I really wish people would talk about other things more consistently. “Non-Scale Victories”, or NSVs some call them – changes that have taken place that have nothing to do with the number of pounds (or kilos, because this phenomenon is worldwide) that a person has lost.  I do see photos of people standing inside one leg of the “fat pants” they used to wear, holding the waist line out with one hand to demonstrate their weight loss, which sort of qualifies, I suppose – but is really still focusing on how a person looks after surgery. I am not really interested in how someone looks, I want to know how they feel. What changes has the surgery brought to their daily lives? What new doors have been opened that used to be firmly closed? These are the things that I want to know about because these are the things I want to prepare myself for.

The damnable thing is, there are changes I can expect based entirely on how I will look after surgery. No longer will I be exiled to “Fatlandia” (the plus size men’s section in any store) when shopping for clothing – I will actually be able to wear what I want, and might become more fashion conscious. Maybe I will be willing to go to the swimming pool right across the road from our home that I have only visited once in 4 years because I hate the way I look in swimming trunks. Maybe I will become more aware of shaping my physique because I can suddenly have sex again. (Morbidly obese people tend to not have robust sex lives. I would talk in more detail, but there might be kids in the room.) It is entirely possible that I am full of crap here, and that my personal appearance will suddenly be a major factor in my life once I have gone through the surgery.

But, for now, I just wish people would stop focusing only on the number of pounds lost, and would also tell me other things. Have you been able to stop using a CPAP? Has your blood pressure dropped? Are you no longer in constant pain? Can you ride a bike now? How long until I can expect to go hiking in the Sandia Mountains, instead of sitting here on my ass?

You know, things like that.

Not Waiting To Turn Into Brad Pitt,

– Hawkwind

PS – My copy editor tells me I forgot something important: I am very proud of myself for choosing to have this surgery and proud of all of you that are also brave enough to take this frightening step along with me. But, be proud of who you are now. Love yourself for who you are now. Don’t wait until you have reached a “target weight”. You are already valuable and worthy of love, no matter what your scale says.

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