I wore a bikini for the first time in February.
First time ever in my life! I laid out by the pool in the South American summer, sun shining on my pale stomach, enjoying this “first” and remembering all of the firsts that I have accomplished since my gastric bypass surgery 8 years ago.
I pushed through a running class, performed samba “no pe” in full sequins and feathers in a student dance recital at the Alvin Ailey Extension, tried online dating, and did walking tours in foreign cities. Before surgery, I would find anyway to avoid moving too much because it was physically uncomfortable.
But isn’t weight-loss surgery the easy way out? You cheated. All you have to do is just reduce calories and increase exercise and…poof! You will be healthy and slim in no time. Just try harder.
Replace food with new activities.
Know that surgery is not the easy way out.
Well, actually, even if it is the easy way out, so what? The most important thing is that it offers a chance to start a healthy life — one where you decide to have a new active lifestyle, enjoy different ways of eating, feel energized and excited about being able to move, to explore, to be free in so many physical and mental ways. You are given this opportunity, and what you do with it is up to you. We all deserve a chance at healthy living.
Understand the process, which ain’t easy.
Realize that your relationships will change.
When people who knew me before surgery see me, they are shocked! But they’re also happy for me, as if something good happened to them. I get wide smiles, hugs, and praise. My weight loss makes most people feel good.
But then there remain the people who ended up questioning their place in the world since my weight changed. You see, I lost the unofficial title of “the fattest person in the room.” That can be comforting to others when you are overweight. But with my weight loss, that crown would pass to someone else. For the relatives and friends who were dealing with their own weight issues, that comfort was removed. Some relationships changed with fewer social calls, avoidance, and then a gradual falling off.
Relish in what your newfound abilities.
I just came back from a vacation in Buenos Aires, a city made for walking and exploring. Every day I went on a 3-hour walk or bike ride and I was hyper-conscious about how I could never have done this before. When I climb the stairs in the subway, when I learn dance choreography, when I decided to explore a new set of skills like writing or public speaking, I’m still conscious of how my body, my mind, and my confidence have all been affected.
Life starts to feel like a comparison of before and after, with the “after” keeping me excited to be active and take care of myself. Even when I fall back into bad habits, my desire to stay healthy and experience the fullness of life helps me to start again, to keep moving, to eat foods that make me feel good, to be thankful for the opportunity the surgery has given me.