health

'I have complicated thoughts about weight loss surgery. Here's why I'm doing it anyway.'

For much of my life, my first thought when entering a room was, "I’m the fattest person here."

At times, that was objectively true, and at times it wasn’t.

Regardless of the reality, the thought persisted, corroding my self-esteem and making me so self-conscious that I could never be truly present in my own life.

Watch: Body shapes are not trends. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

I passed up opportunities because I felt my larger body would embarrass me. When I was social, my preoccupation with my size caused me to shy away from making connections and inhibited my ability to really live in the moment.

I thought that if only I could be a size ‘x’ I would be happy. Everything could wait until my weight reached whatever magical number. In the meantime, I would punish myself by missing out. Instead of living, I dieted, I binged, I cried in changing rooms, I compared myself to others, I compared myself to my past self, I cried some more.

I never reached my magic number. But I’ve learned to accept my body. Because at some point, I realised it wasn’t my body holding me back from doing the things I wanted, but my mind.

Changing my mindset from self-critical to self-accepting is one of the greatest achievements of my life.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick. But these days, mostly, I appreciate my body for what it allows me to do; to hike and swim, to travel and play sport and to care of myself and others. I’ve realised, primarily from my work with people with disabilities, that mobility and the independence it affords are not a given and should not be taken for granted. 

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So why, if I’m at peace with my body, have I decided to get weight loss surgery?

My model parents.

About 18 months ago, my parents got gastric bypass surgery. Like me, they have both struggled with weight and body-image throughout their lives. It was the right decision for them, and one made in consultation with their doctor.

Since their surgeries, they have lost a significant amount of weight. And like most people who make big changes, they talk about it, at times wondering aloud if it was something I might want to do.

For over a year, I watched the changes in them with interest, but never with envy. I was finally ok with my body. So there was simply no need to have an invasive, expensive and life-changing surgery. Right?

"But they look so incredible," people would say. They do, but I think they looked fine before. Just like I look fine now. So, no need to get the surgery.

"I can buy clothes from anywhere now," said my mum. "I’m wearing things I would never have been confident enough to wear before." I was happy for her, but I wear pretty much what I want, anyway. No need to get the surgery.

"Our health is so much better," said Dad. "My diabetes is in remission, my joints don’t ache and your mother doesn’t need her CPAP machine anymore." Persuasive, I’ll admit - but I’m younger than them and I don’t have any of those issues, so again, no need to get the surgery. 

In the end, I was convinced not by the health or aesthetic benefits, but by a change in my parents that no one ever talks about.

The weight loss surgery made them... lighter. No, not like that... let me explain.

The heaviness that comes with being heavy.

Even though I have come to accept my fat body - there is a one aspect of being overweight that I’ve never grown comfortable with. The guilt.

I am constantly guilty about what I eat. And how much I eat. And what that says about me. I spend so much time thinking about what I will eat next. If I go away from home, I worry about not having the opportunity (or the privacy) to binge on my favourite foods. It’s an obsession. 

After the surgery, my parents stopped obsessing about food because they can’t eat much, anyway. These days, they don’t think about their weight, or if they will be able to get clothes in their size or worry about being judged when eating in public.

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Being able to drop the guilt and the worry and the expectations has afforded them a lightness I’ve never seen in them before.

I want that lightness, too. And that’s what has convinced me to get weight loss surgery. 

Listen to The Quicky where the speaks to an expert bariatric surgeon, a GP, and a woman who has had the operation to dispel the myths and judgement. Post continues after podcast.


Chasing lightness.

The body positivity movement has brought us a long way in recent years. But there is still a massive stigma around weight in our society, even though ABS data from 2018 estimated that around two-thirds (67 percent) of Australian adults are overweight or obese. 

Our culture disdains people with fat bodies. Every minute of every day we are surrounded by messaging, overt and otherwise, that tells us that people who overeat are undesirable, greedy, lazy and unclean.

When celebrities lose weight, we are careful not to say “she looks better thin”. Instead, we say “she looks so much happier now”. 

Perhaps people who lose weight look happier because they no longer have to carry the weight of society’s judgments. Because they no longer have to carry the weight of their own.

I want to put that weight down too.

But it’s complicated…

Do I feel like I’m taking the 'easy way out' by getting weight loss surgery? Sometimes. Do I feel like I’m surrendering to society’s bullsh*t, patriarchal, profit-driven beauty standards? Yep. Will having this surgery somehow signal to other fat people that I think fat bodies are inherently in need of improving? I worry it will.

That’s what makes my feelings complicated, I guess. But everything to do with my weight and image has always been complicated and... heavy. But hopefully not for much longer.

People will have lots to say, but I’m not worried.

I’ve been practicing self-acceptance for years.

Feature Image: Getty.