Pennsylvania — I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t the fat friend. I was always the teammate who never had a choice in number because there was only ever one “big” uniform, which usually wasn’t all that big. I was the girl who dreaded going to the doctor because no matter what, I could always count on them bringing up my weight.
I have spent 23 years hearing people make assumptions and pass judgment on my weight.
“Are you sure you should eat that?”
“Why don’t you just go to the gym more?”
“Just eat less.”
“Put the cookie back.”
“You don’t need that snack.”
And I didn’t need these constant reminders that I was overweight. I wasn’t blind to the weight discrepancies between me and my friends, or the fact that most 20-year-olds don’t have to ask for a seat belt extender on an airplane.
My weight and size have always been on my brain.
It’s why I have spent years on diets, exercise programs and everything recommended for weight loss. It’s why I spent much time as a teenager and young adult seeing enjoyable foods as the enemy. It’s why I avoided going shopping or any other activity that involved revealing my clothing size.
But avoiding those things didn’t help.
If anything, it worsened my self-esteem and self-confidence. I couldn't go on feeling like that, so I found a tool to help me lose weight, gain confidence, and feel comfortable in my skin. And that tool was weight loss surgery, which many have seen as a drastic choice for a 22-year-old.
I didn’t think it was too drastic and neither did my doctors.
Yes, it’s a surgical procedure, but as a close family friend said, “It’s just another tool.”
She likened it to a support group or weight loss medication. While this weight loss method is much quicker than other methods, it’s just a tool. You still have to put in work and change other aspects of your life to get the full benefit.
With that in mind, in November 2021 I started the process, weighing 331.4 pounds.
This began months of preparation including consultations with various specialties, bloodwork, and some comments judging me for taking this step. The pre-op preparation concluded with 10 days of vegetables, protein shakes and sugar-free liquids to shrink my liver.
On July 15, 2022, the doctors removed 75% of my stomach, giving me the tool I needed to gain confidence in my body. But as I knew going into the procedure, it wasn’t going to be easy.
I learned that when I went out to a restaurant and couldn’t order food without panicking and asking my mom what I should order. As a 23-year-old, I should be able to figure out what to eat. But since surgery, I’m scared I’ll accidentally order something that will mess up my sleeve and erase all the progress.
I also learned it when I stood in front of the mirror and didn't recognize myself. I saw someone skinnier with the same skin tone and clothes as me, but it wasn't me. Or I looked in the mirror and saw my 300-pound self, not the current one. It’s uncomfortable and scary looking in the mirror and not believing it’s me.
I constantly ask my mom and sister for confirmation that I look different than I did a year ago or even four months ago. Deep down, I know there is [change], but on the surface, I don’t always see it. And I definitely learned it when I saw a picture of me from before surgery. I saw someone who looked like she was the size of a small house and was instantly filled with embarrassment and disgust. When I was that size, I didn’t think I looked bad, but now I see my old self as hideous. And I absolutely hate that feeling because someone’s beauty shouldn’t be determined by their size, yet that’s exactly what I was feeling.
Everything I’ve experienced with this surgery is normal, especially at my age. But normal doesn’t equate to easy. However, if I went back in time knowing what I know now, I would choose to do this surgery every time. I would endure body dysmorphia, anxiety, and self-hatred again because once I get past that and look at how much progress I’ve made, it’s amazing.
My most recent weight was 228 pounds, which is over 100 pounds less than what it was when I began the process a year ago. It’s also 73 pounds less than what I was the day of my surgery, less than five months ago. I’m also down 3.5 clothing sizes, my feet are skinnier, and I am not afraid to wear tighter-fitting clothing.
Weight loss surgery was the tool I needed. And while I still hear the judgmental comments about the procedure, I made the decision that was right for me. And it’s pretty hard to argue with progress that looks like this.