On January 26, 2015, I had Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy surgery, known as Gastric Sleeve. The sleeve is a weight loss surgery that is the new incarnation of the lapband, it is an invasive, laproscopic surgery that has a VERY good recovery time and is pretty inexpensive for the uninsured. I had plenty of insurance. Blue Cross Blue Shield was paying for my “she don’t have diabetes, but could get that shit any day,” pills. Also, my “She’s in pain 18 hours of a 24-hour day. Also she can’t sleep. Pills.”
I was fat as fuck.
I weighed TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FOUR POUNDS on a good day, with a salad for lunch.
I don’t really wanna talk about food addiction, or what it’s like to be fat. Because if you aren’t fat, you would never understand it. I don’t need to hear you tell me about diet and exercise. Because, honestly, when you talk to a fat person about diet and exercise, it ain’t like you are telling us something we never heard of, or tried. Fat people don’t want to be fat. We try working out, we try eating right. There are some of us who are pre-disposed to obesity who have “fat genes.” That wasn’t me, my mother was thin and willowy most of my life. She always reminded me of Diana Ross, she was skinny, had no titties, and could sing beautifully. Me though, I was other kind of fat, the kind who had low self-esteem, depression, anxiety since I was a child. When I hit puberty, I picked up even more weight, quickly. Sending me into a spiral that would last most of my life.
Losing weight, or trying to lose weight, is like a cycle. You pick a diet, you try to exercise, you experience some wins, something happens to knock you down, and for me, you don’t get back up. You regain the weight you lost and then some, you do it all over again. For nearly 30 years, I engaged in this cycle only suffering more and more damage to my self-esteem. I was fat in high school, I was fat in college, I was fat on my first internships, I was a fat AKA probate, I lost my virginity fat, I had a baby fat. I worked in the entertainment industry and everywhere I went, fat was my plus 1.
In 2014, I researched weight loss surgery, and my homeboy was like, “Don’t do that shit. We gon make it happen. I got these pills, and we gon work out 3 times a day, and we gon only eat salads.” And we did, for about six months and we both gained weight. Finally, without telling a soul I went to an information session with a bariatric surgeon. He took my medical history and gave me a quick exam before telling me, “This surgery,” he said, “was made for people like you.” People who really do want to lose weight, and have relatively healthy lifestyles, but the weight keeps them from being able to do things that will make the process easier.
Them: “You didn’t tell me you had weight loss surgery.” Me: “You didn’t ask.”
I had the surgery, and the weight started coming off. It did, in fact, get easier to do a lot of things in life. I slept better, I had way more energy, I wanted to eat healthy because one side effect of the surgery for some people is that they lose a taste for sugar. I have lost a total of about 62 pounds. I still have more that I want to lose, I have a bit of a beer belly, but I’m happier and I’m healthier. My life is richer. I can and do exercise more. I have more self-esteem and focus. My anxiety is a bit diminished and my self-esteem has increased.
Overall, it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
I don’t tell that many people about my surgery, unless they ask me, “How did you lose the weight?” I promptly respond, “I had weight loss surgery.” I told several friends and a family member who then later had it. They are all happier and healthier and leading fuller lives.
Weight loss surgery still has a stigma in the black community. Like many medical practices that are seen as things one should be able to fix on their own, such as mental health. I had people BEG me not to have the surgery, only to be happy and proud of me when the weight started coming off.
Weight loss surgery is seen as a “quick fix,” the easy way out. It is not. It still requires work, patience, and a strong resolve to undergo a successful procedure and then change the way one eats forever. Weight loss surgery is so stigmatized that it’s killing people in our community. Obesity (and it’s many co-morbidities) are affecting and damaging the lives of so many black folks. I’m not saying that weight loss surgery is the option for everyone. But, it IS an option. It’s an excellent option. People shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to talk about it. People shouldn’t have to pretend that they did it all on their own with no help. It should be ok to say, I had a problem, I got some help and now I’m better, healthier, and happier.
We should want that for every single person in this world.