As bariatric patients, we have a lot to deal with. New diets, new exercise regimens, and new ways of thinking. Our insides are being re-routed or removed, depending on the procedure, leaving us with lengthy recovery and relearning periods of time. And ever after we will be forced to make choices that reflect the physical and emotional changes that we have gone through – that or suffer a resurgence of weight as we return to bad habits. Seems like enough to deal with, right?
Not according to a large percentage of individuals out there in the world who perceive obesity surgery as “cheating”. If you have surgery to correct obesity, the thinking goes, you are just lazy. One glorious example was related to us in a bariatrics group – a woman who had lost over 100 pounds post-surgery decided to join a local gym, overcoming her self-esteem and body issues. The trainer she was assigned was blunt: “Did you lose that weight through diet and exercise, or just go through surgery?”
This from a physical trainer – someone supposedly educated in assisting people with their weight loss and fitness goals. Apparently she stopped paying attention during class to polish her self-love. There are reams of studies out there demonstrating that obesity is more than laziness. The condition itself prevents us from high-caloric burning activities, which leads us to depression, which leads us to seek comfort in the very thing that caused our condition. It is very similar to drug addiction (another maligned and misunderstood condition, but my soapbox can only reach so high.) All this was apparently somehow missed by this stunning example of physical training at its worst.
“You don’t see obesity and food allergies in Africa.” wrote another charming individual commenting on an article about a successful bariatric surgery patient. Since starvation exists, he theorized, it was obvious (to him) that the only thing needed to cure obesity was a calorie-restricted diet. It is all about willpower, was his thought.
Such an argument should not even exist outside of an elementary school playground. How many of the starving people in the world (not just in Africa, you budding racist) are choosing malnutrition? Not a single one, I would guess. They, too, would love to exist in a food-rich culture like ours – where they have choices about what to eat on a daily basis. They are not “thin” because they have chosen to not eat. There is no willpower or exercise involved. Where now is your “healthy lifestyle?” This man was too stupid to be allowed on the Internet.
(By the way, this statement is not meant to suggest that there is no hunger or malnutrition within our food-rich societies. That it exists at all is a travesty, but, again, one soapbox at a time.)
Bariatric surgery is not a shortcut to a “slim and beautiful” self. In fact, we not only get the intestinal re-arrangement of surgery, but we then get to do the very same food restriction and daily exercise these bigots claim we are avoiding. We don’t go through surgery and then eat whatever we want for the rest of our lives. We go through surgery and then spend the rest of our lives eating tiny amounts, usually sacrificing the foods we loved the most. Food becomes fuel, not necessarily a source of pleasure and enjoyment any longer. And, thanks to the lifetime of bad habits we previously embraced, we will almost certainly never look like supermodels. Does that sound like a “shortcut” to anyone here?
The ignorance is everywhere. When you encounter it, your initial reaction may be to just run away from it in embarrassment. I would ask you, as a fellow bariatric patient, please do not respond as if you have something to be ashamed of. You do not. You should be proud that you have taken control of your health, and made some very tough decision in the name of caring for yourself and your loved ones by giving yourself the tools needed to return to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Hold your head high, and don’t flee from idiots and the misinformed.
Instead, though it may be difficult, educate. Though there are bigots out there who will not be convinced no matter what you say (about anything, really), there are far more people who simply do not understand the procedures, the lifestyle changes, and the commitments that are required to be a success story after bariatric surgery. Take a minute to explain what is really happening to you. Ignorance is only overcome by one good decision at a time.
Sort of like obesity.
Still Wishing I Could Boycott That Trainer’s Gym,