Written December, 2012, 18 months post-op.

I had no idea what to expect from this blogging experience when I began in May, 2011, just weeks before surgery.  I’ve been supporting weight loss surgery patients for more than 10 years in my career, and now it’s gone even deeper as I chronicle my personal journey. And it’s not only patients, but friends and family of patients who want to learn how to help, and some who are just interested in the art of beginning a new chapter.

Recently, I’ve been talking with a young woman who’s preparing for surgery, Natalie. Her stories remind me of all the sadness and embarrassment that were part of my pre-surgery life. Things that often consume our thoughts when we’re overweight.

Natalie: “I feel like everyone’s watching and judging me. When I go to the store with my mom, who’s only about 20 pounds overweight, I feel like the cashier looks at the chips or ice cream and thinks ‘oh these must be for the fat girl.’ The snacks are usually for my nephews who come on the weekends, but I assume everyone will think they’re for me.” 

I’ve never forgotten an experience I had in my mid-20s when I was a size 6. Yes, a 6. Anyway, one night my friend was coming over to watch Thelma & Louise and eat junk food for a girls’ night in! Totally acceptable, right? I went to the store and bought 2 pints of Ben & Jerry’s, chips, soda, and who knows what else. At a size 6, I didn’t think I had anything to worry about. Why would a cashier say something about this junk food to a slim woman?

Well, here’s what he said: “Wow. Getting ready for a night of overeating, huh?”

I thought I’d die on the spot.

I wanted to cry, run, curse, yell, and I wished I’d never planned my Thelma & Louise night. I can’t remember what I said or did, I just remember I felt horrible. My memories of ‘the fat girl’ were fresh. Only a couple years before I wore a size 14.

What I’m learning, especially over the last year, is that people can view or judge me however they’d like. It only affects me if I give it meaning. I suppose I’ve had bouts of trying to understand this before, but with the major events happening in my life right now I’ve had to put it into daily practice.

Dear Natalie,

There are people you’ll meet throughout your life who will find fault with how you’re living and not just in relation to your weight loss surgery. Like everything important in life, how you react to these people takes daily practice. I still have difficult moments when someone I care about says something hurtful to or about me. But the pain stings less and the hurt doesn’t linger as long. This comes with age and practice. It’s important for you to know yourself first. After surgery, you’ll continue to go through big changes that revolve around your body, your health, your appearance and how you feel about it all. Allow yourself to learn from these experiences. Don’t be too quick to react or judge. Very often it’s our judgement of a situation that makes the experience BAD, HURTFUL, or SAD. Sweetheart, be patient and see what you can learn from the experience or thought. See how you can turn each situation around and make it a positive one for yourself. This takes daily practice. And while I’ve not mastered it yet I improve each day, and so will you.

Love to you,
-Mary

Note from 2015:
The MAJOR EVENTS I referred to in this post were my divorce, taking care of my 90-year-old mom, my kids struggling in the separation aftermath…and more.