There is no doubt in my mind that when someone chooses to lose a tremendous amount of weight that it is a life-changing, transformative experience. I also understand that weight loss surgery for most is a life saving operation that can extend life and drastically improve its quality.
There is a local bariatric surgeon (who shall remain nameless) who widely advertises his services on television, radio and on billboards. The television commercials for this particular doctor have two women in them, one older, one younger and both of them talk about how their decision to have weight loss surgery changed their lives and they outline the reasons they elected to have surgery to help them manage their weight.
The older woman says, “My one reason was to simply live.” Okay, I get that–you want to spend time with your grandchildren and your doctor told you that you needed to do something about your weight. I’m right there with you. My primary care physician told me pretty much the same things as yours likely told you, which motivated me to seek out my surgeon. Never mind that it was something I’d been thinking about for a few years–at one time I’d actually attended another surgeon’s seminar to learn about weight loss surgery long before my insurance would cover the procedure. But it took my PCP telling me that if I didn’t do something about my weight I’d be placed back on Januvia and then probably insulin, to light the fire under my butt. Never mind the whole host of other health problems I’d develop since I’m now 40. So I totally get where the older woman is coming from in terms of doing this for health reasons because self-preservation is an instinct I possess in spades. In short, I love my life and don’t want it to end prematurely.
So then the younger woman says, “My one reason was to live life again.”
You mean, you didn’t live before? You didn’t have a life? Now that, I don’t get. I mean, you allowed your fat to keep you from going places and doing stuff? Why? Why would you do such a thing? Why would you deny yourself the joy and bliss of fully living?
I have never once felt that my fat kept me from living what I believe to be a pretty freakin’ awesome life so far. Not. Once. It’s like I told my therapist the other day,
You know, I have had a pretty fabulous life so far. I have two college degrees, I’m married to the best husband ever, I’ve gotten to travel lots of places, I have a professional career that I am proud of and I have fantastic friends and a wonderful family. I have never once felt like I didn’t live my life, so I don’t get it when people say, “This surgery gave me my life back.”
And I don’t. At my heaviest, I weighed well over 400 pounds. Was the quality of my life diminished? You bet. It’s no picnic to carry that much weight on a frame that’s only 5’4″. Never mind the health problems that accompany such obesity. You name them, I had them and was being treated for most of them. Life wasn’t easy, but I lived fully each and every day.
But did I ever once feel like I didn’t have a life? Never. Did I feel like I was missing something, like there was a hole in my soul because of some thing on some list of “things you must do because you are alive” that I had not done? Nope.
And perhaps because I did not allow my life to be put on hold because I am fat, I have a tough time conceptualizing the idea that this surgery will magically give me the life some may feel that I have not lived back to me.
How I view this surgery is that it will allow me to continue to live the life I have been blessed to have been given by my parents 40 years ago. The sleeve Dr. Nicholson created for me nearly three weeks ago is going to allow me to have at least 40 more years on this Earth (that’s what I told him I wanted, anyway). I plan to work the hell out of this splendid tool so that I can get those years (and then some, hopefully) and to paraphrase Thoreau, suck the marrow out of the rest of the life I’ve been given.
Yes, there are things I would have never been able to do at 400+ pounds that I will be able to do as I continue to shrink to a healthy weight, but I didn’t allow my inability to do these things to stop me from finding other ways to make my life the rich and wonderful experience that it has been so far. I look forward to trying a myriad of new things that previously would have been unavailable to me at my former size. I am excited at the possibilities that being a healthy size will allow me to explore, and that will undoubtedly enrich my life in countless ways.
To borrow from Jill Scott:
I’m taking my freedom,
Pulling it off the shelf
Putting it on my chain,
Wear it around my neck
I’m taking my freedom,
Putting it in my car
Wherever I choose to go,
It will take me far
I’m livin’ my life like it’s golden, livin’ my life like it’s golden, golden, golden
I have lived. I have lived well. I have been fully present in all the moments of my life, no matter how trivial they may seem at the time. I have experienced great love, great joy, great heartbreak and great loss. To me, this is what it is to live.
I have lived.