If someone would have told me, 20 years ago, that there was a magical way I could lose weight quickly and forever, there would be nothing but smoke where I had been standing moments before.
I have not been fat all of my life. I have been Rubenesque, big-boned, chubby, overweight -- fat -- since my early 20s. It would appear to run in my hearty Scotch-Irish blood, as several family members have also struggled -- more successfully than me -- with the numbers on the scale.
I, like so many millions all over the world, have gone on diets you would not believe and lost lots and lots of weight -- only to gain it back and more. If I had a dollar for every pound I have lost and regained, I would be, well not rich but I'd have a nice pile of money. Go ahead -- ask me about a diet and whether I have tried it -- go ahead -- any diet. I have. It works! For awhile.
In my lifetime, dietary fat has been very, very bad and now -- maybe good. Carbs are death, grapefruit contains a magical slimming ingredient, as do pomegranates, cranberries, whatever-berries, and the list is added to daily. I have run, treadmilled, slalomed, swum, bicycled, yoga'd, jumped, hopped and shaken until I was blue in the face. I have cut out sugar and eaten sugar substitutes only to be told they will kill me. I have eaten carbs on odd days and no carbs on even days. I have lost a pound a day, I have lost a pound a month. I have cried, I have sweated, I have done it all.
Hello, fatness my old friend. You always return.
I moved to Israel about three years ago. After a suitable period of acclimation and adjustment, I learned through my doctor that gastric bypass surgery is 100 percent covered by insurance here, as long as you meet a minimum (ha) BMI requirement. I passed by 1 point. I was never so happy to be a point over the normal -- er, minimal? maximal? -- BMI in my life. I qualified.
Eagerly, I signed up for all the tests required to have the surgery. Everything in and on my body was measured, tested and tested again, to be sure I could withstand the surgery and recovery. (Pro tip: Barium tests = not fun). A date was set for three months later -- first available dontcha know.
In Israel, this surgery is considered preventative medicine. It saves money down the line. I was on cloud nine. I couldn't imagine myself in a different body. Yeah, sure, sure, insurance would not cover the requisite tummy tucks, etc. but heck, I would save up for that -- the main thing was -- wow, thinner automatically and in only a few months! A lot thinner!
Which is when the doctor began telling me about the possible side effects. Things like "dumping," which relates to bathroom activities that may or may not follow every meal. Doesn't happen to everybody. Things like vomiting. Ditto. The percent of people (a lot) who gain the weight back down the line anyway. The fact that a chunk of your stomach is surgically removed and can never, not ever, not ever ever be replaced. That patients need to take copious amounts of vitamins for the rest of their lives since they will be forever, well -- technically -- malnourished.
As the date of the surgery approached, I began to waffle.
So -- this surgery, huh? This surgery. Just how much of my stomach and large intestine are -- um -- removed? A lot. The visual made me turn a bit green.
But who cares! Thinner! I would be thinner! I looked at my calendar -- this holiday, that event, this birthday -- ho HO would people be shocked to see the new me! Shocked!
Oh -- I have a friend who did that, my friend Adam told me. Every time we go out to eat, he has to run to the bathroom immediately because he has -- you know... Dumping? Does he have dumping? I asked. I don't know what the term is, Adam said, but it's kind of gross. He's way thinner though.
For sure not everybody has bad side effects from this surgery. But some people do. And the thing is, you can't know for sure whether you will or will not have these issues until after the surgery is over and a chunk of your innards are in a stainless steel pan. But you'll get thinner!
Let the fact be damned that you will never again be able to eat more than a couple of ounces of anything before you are full-to-almost-barfing and maybe have to run to the toilet. Let the fact be damned that you cannot reassess and change your mind. Let the fact be damned that now you have a bunch of loose skin that must also be surgically removed. Thin! You'll be thin!
Damn it all -- for the first time in my life, after years of angst and low self-esteem -- there was a magical Way Out within my reach. But -- was it really a way out? Out of the frying pan and into the fire, I thought, as I cancelled my surgery date.
It is most interesting to be able to truly think about getting what you have always wished for. Will it be what you thought it would be? Will you be more confident? Surely. Will you be healthier? Maybe except for possible short term side effects and long term consequences. Will you love yourself more? Will you be a more lovable person? Such weighty -- ha, get it? -- things to consider.
Despite the fact that slowly, there is a growing body of medical inquiry into the causes of overweight, body shaming will likely be one of the very last completely acceptable forms of prejudice to recede into the past. Sure, we talk about it, but we don't really mean it. No, fat people are somehow moral failures, paragons of laziness and gluttony or at best -- unfortunates.
Listen, I'd give my eye teeth to be thinner. But I'm not sure if I want to give up a part of my plumbing to achieve a goal that society seems to think more important than I do. I'm actually pretty okay with myself most of the time. I wear clothes that look nice on me, I am definitely a Renaissance ideal to some; I live in the Middle East, where skinny women are not as attractive to men as women like me. I don't ask a lot of questions, but I do revel in this.
This exploration of what means the most to me and what I would do to have it has been fascinating. Maybe because I can change my mind if I like. It is luxurious, in a way, to think about actually being able to rub the magic genie lamp and make a wish. But it's just like life, ain't it, that we have to be careful what we wish for?
For now, I'm going to stick with the hand that was dealt me. I eat well. I walk lots and lots daily. My Israeli boyfriend thinks I'm the bees knees. I might change my mind and roll the dice on a slimmer body. Maybe. All I can say for now is that it ain't over until this fat lady sings.
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