1. Eating cake means things get ugly.
It’s been seven years since I had weight-loss surgery, and sometimes I forget that I ever had it. But every time I experience “dumping syndrome,” I am reminded that there’s a reason the surgeon told me to never eat sugar again. My body can’t process it correctly; it was a “benefit” of the type of surgery I had. Dumping is basically a psychological punishment system. “Dumping” means that the foods I can no longer digest properly are rushed too quickly to the small intestines, and not only does it cause physical distress (my body drips with cold sweat and my hands shake violently like two dying fish), but mentally I am rendered completely, uselessly drunk. The room spins and I have to find the nearest wall to lean into.
Sugar is Pavlov and I am forever its dog.
2. Guys who never paid attention to you before you were “thin” suddenly do, but it will take a few years to realize that most of them are turds.
Maybe I had it easy before I lost weight, but back then I had what I referred to as “the asshole filter.” The asshole filter basically meant that it was easy to discern the people that were only interested in me because of looks. If someone was my friend in high school, it meant they were good people because they were willing to be friends with a fatty. It’s sad but true. And after losing a lot of weight, people were magnetized to me as if I’d suddenly started leaving money trails wherever I walked. Guys wanted to make out with me at bars or take me home. “Who, me?” I thought. Before that I had reckoned that any guy willing to date me or sleep with me was doing some kind of charity work because he could overlook my naked imperfections.
3. But things are jiggly. Really jiggly.
My stomach is droopy. My thighs are like two beaten-up tree trunks after a heavy storm. My boobs are two deflated party balloons. I spend a large portion of my day trying to keep my arms in a downward trajectory to avoid their gentle flapping in the wind. There’s no way around this, and no amount of working out at the gym that will make the excess skin go away. Everyone will warn you before surgery that this might happen; it’s common to have saggy skin after a rapid weight loss. It’s easy to forget this fact when you’re promised a smaller skirt size. Unless you want to have a surgical correction, that skin is sticking around like an annoying houseguest. This is also the reason I avoid the beach. I tell people “I sunburn too easily,” but the truth is that swimsuits don’t agree with any part of me.
4. People think they are entitled to know every little detail of your “journey.”
I don’t typically bring up the fact that I had a gastric bypass in casual conversation. If I’ve known someone for a while, and weight loss just “comes up,” or I’m drunk and feeling particularly prone to divulging, I might say something like “I lost 180 pounds once,” which leads to the inevitable how question, which leads to a confession and the up and down stare. You know the stare—it’s the same one the saleslady at Saks gives you when you walk in wearing a hoodie and flip-flops.
But you look so normal! The friend might say. I never would’ve guessed you used to be fat. Thanks? is all I can say to this. After the can of worms spills all over the floor, there’s a barrage of questions like: Can you eat normal food? Did you have a hard recovery? What did you weigh before that? Do you have, like, diarrhea all the time? (Answers: mostly…yes…314 pounds…no.)
5. You will never go to a buffet again.
I loved Chinese food buffets. If I could’ve gotten drunk in Vegas and married something, it would’ve been Chinese food buffets. After surgery, I wrote a journal entry about how I was mourning food. I just want to have this reversed and go to a buffet, I wrote. For two months I had to get used to surviving on small amounts of protein-heavy foods and sugarless shakes. Greasy, high-fat foods were out of the question, and I was depressed. I’d never be able to comfortably (or safely) eat large portions of food again. Those things were my safety net my entire life, and suddenly I couldn’t have them anymore, and it sucked. It took losing a few dress sizes to realize that giving up buffets wasn’t the worst thing ever.
This also means I can never partake in a pie-eating competition.
6. Self-confidence is always a work in progress, and that’s OK.
I may always be a little extra squishy in places, and I may always bounce between a size 10 and 12, but that’s far better than a size 28, where I was breaking chairs and flirting with diabetes. When I’m feeling down about not ever having a “perfect” body or being able to eat dessert, I think about how much better it is to not have to buy the biggest size at the plus-size stores or to run out of breath from one flight of stairs.
While I did have weight-loss surgery to help me lose weight, it’s not a perfect solution (complications can still occur at any time in my life) and I still have to watch what I eat seven years later. Weight-loss surgery is just a thing I did, not something that changed how I feel about myself. The insecurities are still there, but I’m working on them, just like everyone else.
I still miss pie.