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Struggling Mentally With Where I Fit In



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It took me a long time to get where I am. A long backstory, I’ll try to make it brief.

All my life it was implied that in order to lose weight, you must hate yourself for motivation. “I hate my thighs,” “if only I were thinner boys/girls would like me better.” And it didn’t help hearing phrases like “You have such a pretty face, but...” I grew up in an abusive home with a narcisisitic mother, this isn’t a huge part of it, but it explains a lot about why I hated myself in my childhood, teen years, and even my early 20s (I’m 38 now). I always struggled to fit in with anyone because I was always the fat girl. The few people I could relate to, I’ve stuck with throughout the years. A few good friends, my husband, etc. I’ve tried to explain to people that have never battled their weight in the way that I have since 3rd grade (mom put me on my first diet then), and they don’t get it. Or try to offer tired advice, “have you just tried to lose weight?”

So I never fit in anywhere. I hated how every attempt to lose weight was peppered with thoughts of self hate, suicidal thoughts, depression, and severe anxiety. I’d fall off the wagon and either binge myself to near vomiting, or I’d restrict myself obsessively and worry about every macro- and micronutirent. That was until I started therapy in 2013. I started to learn a lot about myself, and that I’m nothing like my mother. I always feared I’d be a parent like her, or a wife like her. Truly abusive, and it brought on a lot of fear. Eventually I stumbled my way into the Intuitive Eating groups on the internet. I learned to stop binge eating, and to stop obsessing over food. I also found the body positivity group. This was great. I finally got to a point that I was not only ok in my skin, but I could be happy and fat at the same time. There’s this concept out there that most people that are fat absolutely hate themselves and we have no self control. While on the flip-side there’s also this concept that people are “fat, happy, and lazy.” I found that I was aware that I was fat, I kept getting movement, tried to eat healthy most of the time, and I learned to love who I am regardless of my size.

Then my hiatal hernia got worse and my gastroenterologist suggested I look into bariatric surgery. I never really thought about it before. I didn’t think negatively about it, or positively...I just flat out didn’t think about it. When people said it was “the easy way out,” I just ignored them because I didn’t have any frame of reference. I knew one person that died a few months after a “stomach stapling” in the late 80s, but I was a kid and don’t remember any details. However, even as a child, I knew that wasn’t always the case, people die from so many different causes, and this could have been a fluke. My point here being it never really scared me. It was just something that some people did, no judgement, never.

I joined in on following some people on Instagram that have had various bariatric surgeries. I’m finding that I don’t fit in, again. People post before and after photos and talk about how horrible their lives were, how much they hated themselves, and how much they wish they “never let themselves get that bad.” Demonizing obesity and making me feel like I should be revolted at myself. Now, it took 7 years of therapy to get to the point of self body acceptance...so for this reason, I’m feeling conflicted, and like I won’t fit in with most of the weight loss surgery group of folks.

So here’s why I’m making this topic. If you are someone that loved themselves before this surgery, loved themselves during recovery, and love themselves now... Didn’t necessarily do this surgery because you “hated” yourself, but more because of the health aspect of everything (I’m doing it because of my high blood pressure, body limitations (I can’t even touch my feet anymore), hiatal hernia and GERD problems)... My motivations are a little different than just “looking good.” I want to point out here too, that I’m not here to shame anyone that has been motivated by that, the desire to “look good” more over the desire to “feel good” (and I get that you can have both!)...but I just struggle with feeling like I don’t fit in with the WLS community in despising myself before surgery.

Did you ever struggle with where your place was in the weight loss surgery community? This is why I’ve fallen silent on the forums (and a little on my IG if you follow me there). I was looking to do some soul searching as to what this all meant for me, but I feel I need some guidance.

And if you made it all this way, thank you so much for reading. Take care.

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I never hated myself when I was overweight. My weight struggles began when I hit puberty. I would gain 15-20kgs & lose it but when I hit menopause I put on more than I ever had & reached 91kg & just couldn’t lose it.

To be perfectly honest I didn’t truely realise how overweight I was. I thought a lot of photos of me were just ‘bad’ or unflattering photos. (Body dysmorphia I know.) I knew I needed to lose weight for my health. Not that I had any major issues but to prevent any developing & to be generally fitter & have more stamina.

I also wanted to look better. I enjoy ‘dressing’ & was nearing the end of the size options where I could purchase unique & stylish fashion. (I know this might seem superficial to some but for me it is a way of creatively expressing myself.)

I was almost 54 when I decided to have wls & it was an easy decision.

I have overweight friends (two of whom have had the surgery too) but they don’t hate themselves either. They’re confident, outgoing, active, successful women. Like me, the two who’ve had the surgery did so to become better versions of themselves - internally & externally.

I know for many though, being overweight is rooted in emotional pain. That losing weight is extremely challenging, even with support & therapy. For them, the journey begins in understanding & accepting who they are & that they have value. I’m happy you’ve made that journey & came to discover your true value & sense of self.

WLS is not an easy way out. It’s not an easy fix. I’m frustrated by people who say this. I feel pretty confident to say, everyone on this forum works hard every day to make the best choices (what to eat, to exercise, etc.). I like to say the surgery is like a gym membership. If you don’t go to the gym & take advantage of the equipment, the trainers, the classes, make new habits & routines, ... nothing will change. Same with the surgery. It won’t work if you don’t take advantage of it, put in the effort & make the changes. For those of us who’ve always struggled with our weight, we will have to work hard at this for the rest of our lives. (Sorry, I don’t mean to sound preachy.)

Personally, I want to reach that time & place when I’m not defined as someone who was overweight or had wls but that I am just me.

I hope you can find your place. Good luck.

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Thank you so much for your reply, Arabesque, it really means a lot!

I never meant to imply that wanting to look better was totally superficial. I know that a lot of it stems to our mental health. When you look good, you feel good. I had actually gotten to a point with that fat acceptance that I was in, that I bought a bunch of new clothes, kind of “throwing in the towel” about weight loss and “accepting my fate,” so to speak. So I wanted to have cute blouses, and cute pants that fit me well, instead of always having clothes cutting into me or making me chafe, or anything else. I even bought some dresses! I never really wear dresses (though it helps my autoimmune skin condition (hidradenitis suppurativa), because jeans cause a lot of friction if they aren’t the right size!). What I meant when I said that I was looking for people beyond the motivation of “looking good,” I meant that my husband’s doctor once tried to motivate him to lose weight by saying “You’ll look good,” and I don’t feel like that’s always an appropriate motivation. I mean, for some people, sure. It just wasn’t a motivator for me and my husband. I love and accept my body no matter what size it is, even if I “look good” as a thinner person, or I “look good” as a fatter person. If you know what I mean. Haha.

Also, I never believed people when they made “the easy way out” comments. I always thought to myself, I don’t know, they generally say when you can avoid surgery, you should...and people opt to do this, it must be life changing enough, and significant enough, or else it wouldn’t exist as a practice. When my doctor suggested it, I thought for a moment about how people say that it’s the “easy” way...and immediately dismissed it when I kept doing research. Nothing about weight loss is easy, period. But to do surgery for weight loss seems even more of a difficult road to travel, and if you aren’t prepared for it, it’s going to be a disaster.

I am so glad to hear that you (and your friends) have not been the types to hate yourselves. I just see so many posts on Instagram where people declare “I hated myself back then,” or “God I look so ugly, why can’t I lose weight,” or any other negative self-talk. It took me so long to get over that constant negative self-talk, and I worried about how I would fare going into this surgery. Would I look back and claim I hated myself or my body? Because I don’t. I think this surgery is going to be the greatest gift I can give to myself and my body.

Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough, but I just wanted to say thank you again for your very thoughtful reply. It means a lot. I’ve been struggling with even keeping on my weight loss track for pre-op weight loss (I’ve only gained about 1.5 pounds, so I’m still doing good, but I need to get back into gear!). Just to hear someone say a lot of positive and encouraging things is helping me not to do late night snacking tonight and instead drink plenty of Water before bed!

Take care!

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I have struggled with my weight since puberty and I've been obese all my adult life, and I've hated my body for just about as long as I can remember. I never got to the point of loving myself, but I at least accepted it and decided that I was not going to care what other people thought. I accepted that some people get to be thin and beautiful, and that was not among my gifts, but so what? I am great at other things, so I will make the most of those talents. And I think I have -- I've worked incredibly hard to overturn the stereotypes that make people assume I'm stupid and lazy just from looking at me, and I've earned respect for my accomplishments.

But no matter how much you love yourself, and no matter how little you care about other people's opinions of your body, it is freaking hard to go through life as a fat person. There's an active thread on the General Weight Loss Surgery Discussions board called "Things I won't miss about being fat," and while there are quite a few replies relating to body insecurity, there are also a lot of replies about things like not being able to fit in chairs, or airplane seats, or rollercoasters, and not being able to buy clothes in our size at roughly 99% of clothing stores, which are legitimate problems that make life hard. Add to that the widespread size discrimination in our society, and it is hard not to hate being fat. I think you can hate being fat without necessarily hating your body or yourself, although it is easy to see how one leads to the other.

Now, back to your question. I did not have this surgery to look better, but because of the health aspects. I have always pushed myself to make sure my weight didn't stop me from doing anything, but as I've gotten older, that's become difficult. I've gotten frustrated with the physical limitations I'm starting to have, as well as health conditions that are strongly associated with obesity. I am just over two weeks post-op, but I lost over 60 pounds before surgery. I've had recent visits with three different doctors who were just thrilled with my weight loss, and it made me so uncomfortable when they cheered my weight loss and congratulated me, because I have tried very hard to separate my value as a person from my weight. I had flashbacks to when my mom used to weigh me every other day and basically made me feel as though her love was conditional upon my weight. And yes, sometimes I feel guilty here when I congratulate people on their weight loss, because that goes against my normal policy of never commenting on other people's bodies, but I also recognize that people here are working hard to change themselves (for whatever reason) and deserve encouragement.

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I was not a "fat" child; but what I was, was the "not skinny" child in the family, in the extended family. My own family called me ".....two by four can't fit through the bedroom door..." because that was how they knew how to deal with someone who was "different" then they were. I have thought back and looked back at old photos and I wasn't fat. but my family, my cousins were thin - and grown-up in the late 50's and 60's - women were still appreciated if they were "Twiggy". I was curvy and not Twiggy. I think, had everyone not focused on me "being fat" I probably would not have grown to meet those requirements. But I did. I was rewarded with food.

It took me years of up and down dieting, hating being obese, and not really ever getting a handle on what to eat, how much to eat and how my own body reacts to that. Hating not having control. In my mid 50's I decided to get rid of the unloving, cheating husband and take my life back. Part of that was losing weight to make myself a healthy human. I was unhealthy and morbidly obese.

I had surgery at 54 years old.

I am not thin. I am not obese. I am overweight. I am now 64 years old. I wear a size 14 or 16 petite. I am happy and comfortable. I am healthy. I am active for my age, I work a full time career, garden, swim, walk, and take care of a small ranch. I raise chickens, have healthy back yard eggs, organic vegetable gardens, fresh herbs and I can say that I am quite happy.

Do YOU.

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I also never hated myself pre WLS. I lived a fulfilling, generally happy life. I didn't have any health issues pre WLS, I had surgery mainly for vanity sake. Even though I wasn't dissatisfied with my life, I am so much happier now. The best way to describe it is, my outsides now match my insides.

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Posted (edited)

@mil_unloaded

(get comfortable, this may be a long one....)

I'm don't think I "despised" myself when I was obese, but I do know I really disliked BEING obese.

While being fat did limit me in what I could do, in terms of activity exertion and stamina; and had health implications (pre-diabetic, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, aching body parts, incontinence, poor sleep, etc.); and influenced my behaviour/responses in public (hide from cameras, feeling uncomfortable in certain situations), I mostly didn't think about being overweight for the most part (in fact, I didn't even think I was even as overweight as I actually was). Only when I was reminded of the evidence (i.e. seeing myself in pictures) did I remember. Which is probably why I avoided cameras.

Like @sillykitty, I was a relatively satisfied with life pre-WLS. Sure, I was big, but I had family and friends who I love, interests & hobbies, I had a pretty active social life and had no problem getting up on stage to belt out a song at karaoke. I still have and do all this and feel like I'm still the same person, just smaller and with more confidence (the Kid describes it as the same old me, but on steroids, lol) Edited to add: there is one major thing that is different about me now, though: I am way less angry and annoyed. This may or may not be a by-product of the weight loss....

I remember the exact moment I decided to finally go through with the surgery (I had put it off twice in in a span of 2 years, due to indecision): I was at a pool party and I needed to reapply my sunscreen. I was lotion-ing up my legs, and had difficulty applying it to my ankles and feet due to my bulk. So I sat on the steps and had to bend my leg and put my foot behind me to reach. As I was doing this, I looked up and saw a few of the people around me looking at me with what I perceived as pity. And I was all, holy ****. I'm effing fat. Three weeks later, I had a surgery date.

It wasn't so much that I wanted to look better (though of course I did!), nor was it because I wanted to get healthy (again, of course I did), its just that I finally realized that I was, in fact, obese. Morbidly so.

In terms of "fitting in": I think this has more to do with one's own thoughts and feelings of self-worth than whatever predominant interest the particular group they are attempting to "fit in" with (unless of course there is some bullying or ostracizing or hate going on). Like the never-before-heavy person who thinks all overweight people are fat & lazy, just want to sit around eating, and are full of self-hatred, the oft-heavy person may think that all smaller people are vain, lettuce-eating, gym-rats. I suppose its up to the individual if they want to look beyond their preconceptions of others and find a connection.

Not everyone in the WLS community is the same. There will be people that you gravitate towards, and of course there will be those who will just rub you the wrong way and just not be able to mesh with. You could choose to withdraw completely in an attempt to avoid the difficult ones, but then you'll miss out on the ones who aren't.

Anyhoo, preach over.

Good Luck!

Edited by ms.sss

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