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How to tell close friends I'm getting WLS?



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Hello! This is my first time posting and I figured this would be the best place to ask for advice.

I'm going to be getting a gastric sleeve surgery in mid 2022. I've been meeting with a nutritionist regularly, and in January will be month 6 of supervised weight loss. After that I'll meet all the requirements for insurance and can go ahead with scheduling the surgery.

In July/August of this year, one of my coworkers (Emily, whom I had recently met in April), had asked if everything was okay after I came back from a doctor's appointment. I had been feeling a little overwhelmed at the time with all the information I was receiving, but I didn't want to tell her that I was considering WLS. I told her that I had a small hernia that needed to be repaired, it wasn't a big deal, but I was going to the doctor regularly to monitor it before I could get it fixed. I hated lying to her, but I was still on the fence about telling anyone about getting WLS apart from my mom and my sister. I thought that this would be a good cover as well, since we work together and I'll need to take some time off to recover, but I knew that I didn't want to tell our other coworkers the real reason for my operation.

Here is the issue I'm currently facing. Since we met, Emily and I have become incredibly good friends. We moved in together in October, and the living situation has been perfect. We have a very healthy and communicative friendship, and get along perfectly as roommates and as coworkers. She is one of the best people I've ever met and will be a part of my life for as long as I live. And I've already lied to her about the surgery.

I realize this might be more of a moral dilemma than anything; I want to tell her that I'm getting WLS. I know that she'll be supportive. But I also don't want to put her in an uncomfortable place with the rest of our coworkers where she knows something that they don't. I don't know if I should roll with the hernia story and tell her that I've decided to get WLS at the same time (since small hernias can be repaired at the time of bariatric surgery), which will still be true to the rest of our coworkers as far as she knows. Emily isn't my boss in any capacity; she's been there a bit longer than I have, but we're in the same position so there's no issue there. Or maybe I should come clean and tell her the truth and that there is no hernia, which will then hurt her because I've now carried out this lie for 5 months. I'm going to have to tell her something, especially since we live together and my eating habits will drastically be changing. I wish that I had never lied to her in the first place; she's very important to me and I want to be honest with her. But I also don't want to put her in an uncomfortable position with the rest of our coworkers either.

And yes, I realize that I should have been honest at the beginning. I didn't know her as well then and was scared that she would judge me. But I love her and I want to be honest with her without hurting her.

Any perspective or advice is appreciated, I really don't know what to do from here.

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There seems to be a lot going on with this relationship with Emily. Your life overlaps in many places so if it’s not what you think it is, your life will be very unpleasant for a long long time at work, at home, and with friends. Your relationship is also relatively new. Are you normally someone who is a good judge of character? Or are you someone who quickly latches onto someone new only to be disappointed?

I told people on a need to know basis because the WLS was such a new thing of hope for me, I didn’t want a know nothing to crush my dreams. Now that the deed is done and I’m feeling more confident, I’ve amended my hernia story to a few co-workers because I felt like I needed to have a more forthright honest relationship with them. It was the right move at the right time for me. Only you can speak for yourself.

Keep in mind we are still in a recession and interest rates are climbing. Where your money comes from may be a big deal. A true long term friend will understand your reticence to share everything all at once with so much at stake. Maybe you two are life partner material, only you know. Best of luck on all of your life changes!

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Interesting dilemma. A few perspectives.

  • Would you tell if you had planned knee surgery? Or would you make up a story about getting run over as the day came?

In a lot of ways, and forgive me for being frank, I think your own approach to WLS has been influenced by the idea that suffering from obesity is a moral failure, not a medical issue that can, in fact, be managed.

If you read any of the latest scientific studies on the subject - and avoid people who make money from you suffering perpetually from obesity like weight loss programs, fitness coaches on Instagram, diet products etc - you'll find that some of us simply never had a chance.

Rat populations who get put on too few calories start seeing obesity in the rats lowest in the social order. Isn't that food for thought? Studies where you put subjects under complete caloric input/output control (literally measuring exhaust 24/7 to monitor expenditure) and feed them 1000 calories too much a day see vastly different weight gain rates. Huh? Didn't we just learn calories in - calories out?

Often, and even worse, the societal idea of obesity = moral failure leads to eating disorders, which compound the problem.

--> You need life-saving medical intervention. You're not 'taking the easy road'.

Does this influence your thinking on who and when to tell? For me, it made it much easier to share. And my attitude towards it has been this story, more or less, for my close-to-kinda-close people:

"Hey, nobody loses 100+ lbs by going to a dietitian. And I have a life to live, so I got my head in order first, did the work of getting rid of using food as a stress relief mechanism, and then I was ready to take the road with the best chances of success: minor bariatric surgery, a planned diet, and moderate but frequent exercise. It's been great, really great. I'm now finding my balance point, I think most people gain a bit, so I'm expecting that and frankly, I could stand to gain a few"

Surprisingly, people love this story and it definitely adds social points. Even among people not known for their empathy. Notice how this story is peppered with all the things that don't involve surgery. I want their story to be much more than surgery.

  • Do you share intimate medical details with everyone? Or do you feel that's nobody else's business?

The other - or rather, third - side of this is that it's your body and only you are entitled to learn about it. Medical information (yes, also in 2021 and 2022, freaks) is private. You don't owe anyone any explanation on what goes on inside you.

I have a few co-workers who know, and who have kept it to themselves, but I don't think it's "office news". It's my body and my life and despite the time I took off (six weeks!), it doesn't concern them. Period.

Remember that. As much as you shouldn't be ashamed of having WLS, you shouldn't feel the opposite of shame is self-exposure.

  • Reality time: you'll end up telling her. And it won't be a big deal.

Here's a good outcome, and there's a million variations on this, but I think you'll want to tell someone you share an apartment with. At the end of the day, we need people on our journey. Some of them will let us down, but we'll need to keep reaching out and accept the fact that sometimes, we get burned. That's the price for social connections.

I think you'll tell her some time before, and that you'll tell her in a confident manner that actually, you've decided to think about your health and in a new way. Instead of beating yourself over the head about your weight, you realized this only helps sell more WeightWatchers classes. And here you are, back at square 1. So you've started the road to WLS, you've done your homework, you know outcomes aren't guaranteed, but you want a shot at something that will give you a better life.

And dear Emily, we're close, we live together, and I want you to be a confidant on this new chapter because I like you. I trust you'll know that this is my information to share or not share; it should obviously go without saying with any private medical decisions, but I'm just saying it to avoid any confusion. I'm really excited for this, and well, you're probably going to see kitchen scales, mini-meals in the fridge, and a lot more weird Protein products in the cupboards. Feel free to try them! :)

I don't think it'll be a big deal. I think how you approach it will set the tone for it.

Make sure you take the stress OFF yourself in that close-in living situation by managing expectations subtly like "hey, most people lose 50-60-maybe 70% of their excess weight, I'm not doing this to get a BMI of 25, just so that's clear. If I wanted a guarantee for that, I'd have to go with much more drastic surgery types and for now, I'm going with the first line of procedure recommended for people in my situation to avoid unnecessary complications".

This removes the pressure and hey, anything above 60% will be a shared celebration. I told my close people I wanted to get to 220, but that the surgery on average would get me to 230ish. So getting to 220 was a huge milestone and well, I'm at 197 now. People react how you set them up to react is what I'm saying.

Alright, sorry this got long. I hope some of it is helpful.

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I think for a lot of us there's a stigma attached to WLS. As someone above said, we see it as a moral failure, even though we shouldn't. I told very few people because honestly, I was embarrassed by it - that I'd let my weight get so out of control that I needed to have surgery to "fix" it.

I told my immediate family and a few close friends, but explained that I was very private about it and didn't want it getting out. After I started losing a noticeable amount of weight, I was more upfront with other obese people, but I told most "normies" that I was working with a dietitian, low-carbing, and exercising like a fiend - which was true - I just left out the surgery part.

now at 6.5 years out, it honestly rarely comes up because most people either never knew me when i was obese or got used to seeing me without all the excess weight a long time ago, but I still run into someone maybe once or twice a year who hasn't seen me in years and is shocked by my weight loss. I'm more open about it now when they ask - something I wouldn't have done in the first couple of years.

I don't know at all what your relationship is with Emily, and I am not you, so take this with a grain of salt, but if you're not comfortable with this getting out but want to be honest with HER, you could always tell her but then explain that you're not comfortable with this getting out - at least not yet - so you're sticking to the hernia story with others. And mention that you'd appreciate it if she keeps this to herself. This is a medical issue, so you don't have to feel like it needs to be broadcasted. Hopefully she'll understand.

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Im a 34 year male, I have told everyone I know, as it has been a topic of mine since i was 28, and I was supposed to get it for the last 6 years. But i regret telling some, as they say its automatic . Implying there is no work to be done on my side of the court. It has been hard and only 3 weeks post op, I'm hungry a lot, but sticking to it.

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1 hour ago, Healthy4longerlife said:

I'm hungry a lot, but sticking to it.

This actually gets better - or at least it did for me - once everything healed up. Right now your stomach nerves can't send the signals it needs to send for you to feel the effects. This doesn't happen for everyone, but I was really worried in the beginning. 13 months later, lots of effect still.

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If it were my choice I wouldn't have let anyone at work know, but a coworker let the cat out of the bag when they saw my name on the OR schedule. It has my name and procedure.

Nannette

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When I told my best friend I just blurted it out. She is obese too and has struggled with weight since I met her so she gets it. I understand it’s not that easy since you already mentioned the hernia repair but hopefully you can explain that to her just as you did to us. That you didn’t know her that well back then and just didn’t feel comfortable sharing yet but now you want her to know everything. And I wouldn’t think as your roommate and friend that she would have a problem knowing more personal stuff about you than your other coworkers. She probably already does.

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Great thoughts. If you are living together, it may be hard to hide the WLS. When I came home from the hospital, I had all sorts of literature laid out about nutrition, when to call the exchange, etc. I had new types of supplements. Even months out, my Vitamins have the word “bariatric” on them.

As far as others, it is up to you. Whatever makes you comfortable. For me, only my husband knows. I figure that there will be ignorant people who won’t understand weight loss surgery as a medical need, and won’t take the time to learn. If I lost weight, they would think that I took the easy way out. If I didn’t lose weight, they would think that I am a hopeless glutton, that even WLS wouldn’t work.

I don’t need that stress in my life. So it was easier for me not to say anything. When people comment, I talk about my diet change, which is part of the truth. GL!

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maybe just say to her that when you went to see about your "hernia" WLS was suggested and you are seriously thinking about/decided to do it. that way its doesn't looked like you have lied. I know I know some of you are going to say but that's covering up a lie, well yes it is but you are telling the truth about the surgery in the end. There is no way you are going to get away with "I Had a hernia repair" after the surgery.

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On 12/31/2021 at 7:00 AM, Esi said:

Great thoughts. If you are living together, it may be hard to hide the WLS. When I came home from the hospital, I had all sorts of literature laid out about nutrition, when to call the exchange, etc. I had new types of supplements. Even months out, my Vitamins have the word “bariatric” on them.

As far as others, it is up to you. Whatever makes you comfortable. For me, only my husband knows. I figure that there will be ignorant people who won’t understand weight loss surgery as a medical need, and won’t take the time to learn. If I lost weight, they would think that I took the easy way out. If I didn’t lose weight, they would think that I am a hopeless glutton, that even WLS wouldn’t work.

I don’t need that stress in my life. So it was easier for me not to say anything. When people comment, I talk about my diet change, which is part of the truth. GL!

If I lost weight, they would think that I took the easy way out. If I didn’t lose weight, they would think that I am a hopeless glutton, that even WLS wouldn’t work.

this gave me a giggle only because its so true we cant win either way

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I am about 11 months post op (sleeve). I am generally an open book and was very honest with my friends and family about MY decision to get the surgery. Surprisingly enough I only got pushback from 2 or 3 people. Everyone else was supportive and had more questions than opinions. I think this is an area that different people may have different results with but as mentioned the vast majority were super supportive. I had been battling obesity and food addiction for 15 plus years and the supportive folks were happy I was making a decision to take control of my health and battle my addiction.

As for the few folks that had differing opinions, I gave them an opportunity to voice their concerns out of respect for the relationship. After I heard their side, I explained my side and then immediately set a boundary of “I appreciate your concern, but it’s my decision and this is the path I’m taking. Either you can be supportive or you can keep your opposing thoughts to yourself”. I’ve found the naysayers still wanted me to get healthy, they just had different ideas in how to get there. Now that they’ve seen my success and commitment to the plan, the naysayers have been some of my biggest cheerleaders!

Hope that helps. Ultimately do what you think is best but I’ve found the more people you “lie” to the more the lies build on top of that. And furthermore I think opposition helped mold my commitment to proceed as planned and fueled my hard work to prove them wrong. People are always going to have their ideas of how you should live your life but ultimately it’s your decision and you don’t owe an explanation to anyone other than yourself. But it is super helpful for your inner circle to understand and be supportive of your decision.

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Thank you everyone for the insight and kind words - I really appreciate them and everyone was very helpful. I ended up telling Emily a few days after making this post. I said that it was something I had been thinking about, and that my doctor said that the hernia could be repaired during the gastric sleeve procedure. I showed her some of the papers I had gotten from the doctor, my Vitamins, and tried to answer all her questions. She was definitely thrown for a look - for her this was entirely out of left field. But she said that she supported me no matter what and just wanted me to be healthy. I feel like a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders. I don't think I'll tell anyone else yet, at least not until after the surgery is over, but it feels nice to have someone in my corner.

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Glad it worked out. FWIW, the head doc they make us see prior to surgery really goes over stuff like this in detail. It was honestly shocking when she brought up other people, because I couldn't understand why they'd even care, but she was right.

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