In the words of Oscar Wilde, "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance." I discovered the ability to love myself within the body-positive community.
The body-positive community is a largely social media-based group, all of whom represent and support the body types of all individuals, from fat to thin and everything in between. Within this community is the fat-positive community, clumps of individuals supporting fat people and encouraging positive self-image, regardless of negligent typical media representations.
I, as a plus-size woman, have been a part of this community for as long as I remember, and it was a beacon of light throughout my teenage and early adulthood years to which I have consistently held fast. Largely due to the influence of these other individuals, who understood my struggles and assured me that my fat did not make me a lesser person, I grew up to be a strong and confident individual, someone who was proud to have the body into which I was born. It made me happy to be who I was.
However, despite my contentment, I was unhealthy.
As a disclaimer: that is not to say that all fat people are unhealthy, any more than I would suggest that all thin people are inherently healthy. Unless one has access to the medical files of any individual, then it is not up to one to decide whether another is healthy or not, based on their weight.
Anyway, I was unhealthy. I have a history of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes on both sides of my family. Not only that, but I have a disability, and being overweight was terribly detrimental to my legs. Basically, I had a choice to make: lose weight, or face a lifetime of health issues. I chose weight loss and decided to help along the process by having surgery done, known as the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, VSG, or Gastric Sleeve. If you're interested in more details regarding the surgery itself, or other weight loss surgeries, check out these sites.
Having this surgery was certainly not an easy fix. It required months of therapy, nutritional appointments, hours on the phone with my insurance company, and a hefty fee to even step foot in the door of the hospital, let alone have the surgery. During these months, I discovered that not only did I have an addiction to food, but I also had a binge eating disorder. It was a rollercoaster, emotionally and physically, and I was scared to death of everything that could go wrong. However, on December 17, 2015, I had the gastric sleeve surgery done, after two weeks of liquid dieting.
Since then, I have lost 44 pounds and counting, and it feels so good to worry less about my future health.
Something else I noticed during this time is a surprisingly large grey area within the body positive community, regarding individuals who have had weight loss surgery. There seems to be a taboo within the community regarding surgical weight loss, and sometimes weight loss in general, and I think that is a gross oversight.
A social media post titled "The Rules for Being Fat" by Lonie McMichael, summed up this oversight best:
"#7. If a diet does not work, go have your stomach amputated or squeezed (weight loss surgery). You might die of complications. You will be 4x more likely to kill yourself than the rest of the population. If you don't die, you will most likely have long-term complications and nutritional deficiencies that will reduce your quality of life significantly. You also have an excellent chance of becoming an alcoholic. Oh, and 80% of you will regain the weight."
The rest of this article, by the way, was very well thought out and did thoroughly explain many struggles and expectations that society has placed upon fat women, but this "rule" in particular bothered me. What did this mean for me? Was I a sellout to this community that I cared about so passionately? Did I no longer have a place within it?
It was terribly disheartening, the idea of being in the gray area of an important movement, slipping between the cracks. Fat, but not as fat as I was six months ago. The body-positivity movement has always been so good to me, and for so many others like me, and has made me incredibly proud to be the person I am, and it hurt me to imagine that those who did such wonderful things for my confidence would be the ones to put down my decision to do what was best for MY body.
Fat positivity is supporting the choices of all fat people, regardless of one's opinion of those decisions, so long as what they are doing is healthy (in the opinion of themselves and their respective doctors) and makes them happy. Disregarding surgical weight loss and the patients of it is not only unfair, but it also goes against the entire body positivity movement. It is body shaming, plain and simple.
If you're happy without surgery or dieting, I'm happy for you! I will support you to the ends of the earth, and will never, ever question your decision to be exactly who you are. On my end, however, my genetics and weight were such that I had to make a decision for my personal health, and that decision was weight loss surgery.
Even if an individual's reasons for surgery are purely cosmetic, who are you to judge? Ultimately, we're all just individuals trying to find the solution that best fits our needs and makes us sleep better at night. In the words of the great Danny Glassman, Associate Dean of Students at the University of Tennessee, "Don't yuck my yum".
I'm not ashamed of my body. I'm not ashamed of my weight loss. Please don't try to make patients of weight loss surgery feel ashamed for doing something that we felt was best for our bodies, respectively. Make room for us, and others who take different paths within their self-image journey, within the body-positivity community.
Lift people up. Love them unconditionally. Support them no matter what. Don't yuck their yum. Keep the movement inclusive. There are plenty of negative people in the world, keep the positivity movement positive!