I had weight loss surgery in 2000. I am a size 12 and have a disease – that of obesity.
Whether this disease includes disordered eating or an eating disorder is debatable. Who I am is not closely associated to my size, however, food and eating-related behaviours became my currency of communication, absolution, a method of attaining solace and escape some years ago.
In 2000 I had a band placed. My belief, well this would release me, finally, from ever increasing obesity, chaffed legs, soreness in ‘those’ parts and I would become ‘normal’.
My naivety served me well. Perhaps I would not have journeyed had I known that this weight loss surgery merely scratches the surface. The procedure is merely a few minutes or hours. It marks the beginning of a lifelong commitment to understanding and accepting change, and all that entails.
I reflect now and wonder about my set of beliefs at that time. Magical thinking comes to mind!
Finally, yes finally, I had reached the point of admitting to myself, and others, that my size affected my life. It was impacting on daily life as the kgs and years went on. I was desperate for an escape, longing for a solution. Longing for someone, or something to ‘do it’ for me. To rid me of life locked in adipose and the associated issues
I truly believed that a small piece of silicone would ‘do it’. Once again absolving myself of responsibility for what I consumed and why. I would finally be free and reach the prize of ‘slenderness for ever’.
My journey continues. I realise now that my understanding and relationship with food and eating is, and I suspect will always be, somewhat skewed. I need to tend, love and pay great attention to those emotional parts of me that are healed or soothed by using food. It’s hard. It’s very hard at times. The shadows are always there.
Maintenance is a very, very difficult concept for me. I view it not a destination or a final ‘weight place’.
In many ways, for me, it has little to do with food and far more to do with managing stress, exhaustion or time. When those are awry it remains a fact that my preferred method of ‘helping’ myself includes chemicals, I guess one could say drugs. My chosen forms of self medication include cheese, refined carbs and fats.
I am often heard to say that the WLS journey is not about weight loss. People look at me initially confused. Some years later they understand … the WLS journey is about how we manage the ‘self’. That’s why it is so complex, difficult and lifelong. An operation, quite simply, cannot do this for us.
Like you, I am a finely tuned and complex individual. Like you I need to give myself attention, care and respect. Like you I need to listen to my body’s cues and clues and have skilled training to help this happen.
My fears, I guess, are similar to your fears yet I possibly feel them less intensely than I used to.
Regain, I think we all carry the fear of regain with us. Fear of food and over-eating has lessened as my understanding has matured. However, daily I am mindful that I could easily over-consume in volume if I seek self-medication when, for example, angry, sad, confused or hurting.
There truly is no operation that will ‘work’ long term. For me WLS is an ongoing process of personal change and maturing. Remember, there is neither total darkness nor total light in this journey.
The WLS pack is ‘sold’ as something permanent, magical, all solving. ‘Ping magic’. Read the back of the packet there is more in there than the marketing proclaims!
“To rid ourselves of our shadows we must step into either total light or total darkness.”
Mrs Sharon E. Bates MSc RN RM is a registered nurse and midwife who has experience as an NHS manager. She is a professionally qualified and experienced humanistic counsellor and has achieved a Master Practitioner in eating disorders with The National Centre for Eating Disorders where she is a co-facilitator. Sharon has particular expertise having undergone weight loss surgery in 2000.
Sharon trained with Dr Vincent Frering in Lyon, France and was a pioneer in the UK specialising and establishing weight loss surgery teams in the UK. She works predominantly in Bristol as a Specialist Bariatric Nurse. Sharon is a member of the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity (IFSO) and can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
She has written a book for those thinking of gastric band surgery (not well edited folks!! – SB) She has also developed some apps for weight loss surgery with a colleague and friend.