When I was still in the research and decision-making stage of getting my lap band, I wrote a lot of long, long lists of rationalizations. They could be summed up this way: “Looking thinner will be a happy consequence, but what I really want is to be healthier over my lifetime.” This was a lie I told myself and others. I knew then what I know now– the lap band does not (for the most part) prevent me from eating anything I want. It prevents me from eating large quantities, and some days I just can’t manage bread. But if I wanted to consume nothing but giant bowls of sugar and trans fats all day, and sit on the couch until my ass fused with the fibers,I could. I could before, and I can now.
“I want to be healthier,” was a desire, but it was secondary to becoming thinner. I just assumed that I would lose weight through the Magic of Surgery, and the health benefits would naturally follow.
I still want to be healthier. I enjoy the feeling of my body when it is healthy and performing well, when I run my regular route with a little more speed, a little more endurance on the hills, a little more power left at the end for the up-driveway sprint. I enjoy the feeling of warm, regularly exercised muscles. I even enjoy– as bizarre as it sounds– lying in bed, stretching sore muscles earned through exertion. Its a good pain, and a good night’s sleep is never as satisfying as it is after a hard day of effort. I enjoy feeling energized in the mid-afternoon, instead of dizzy and low-blood-sugary. I enjoy the feeling of a satisfying but not overly large meal in my belly at night. I enjoy being able to greet hunger pangs with equanimity instead of panic. I always imagined that when I was slender, sitting down to a meal would be naturally devoid of the cognitive discomfort of “Oh my god, am I allowed to have this? How many calories, how much fat, how many carbs? Will I hate myself later? Do I deserve to eat this?” Of course, people who diet successfully and keep it off probably never sit down to a meal without that kind of dialogue, but it was part of the fantasy for me.
What I didn’t realize was that I was putting the ol’ cart before the horse. I don’t think (hope!) that my body is at its healthiest right now. If I address my emotional/mental problems with bingeing, restricting, dieting, and self-loathing, I might find myself feeling good all the time. I might find myself renovating my habits to be healthier because I love my body and want to keep it in good working order. I don’t need to wait for my body to reach some acceptable benchmark before I start treating it well.
I am afraid that in going through with the surgery, I’ve done more harm to my body than good. I have five new scars, one that is large and pink and refuses to fade. I have two stretch marks, from the post-surgical swelling, that sadly, have refused to fade away. I have a foreign object inside my abdomen, stitched to my stomach. There’s no reason to think it will ever need to be removed or will cause any problems, but you never know. So, I get to worry for the rest of my life about it being there.
Was it really worth it?
I have gained two things. First, the painful recovery coupled with my fears of adverse consequences (the band can rip loose) caused by repeated vomiting, I have mostly stopped purging. My binges are less frequent and less extravagant, because I just can’t fit the volume in that used to be able to. I am not “cured” because I still do things like order two milkshakes and consume them both, in a fit of emotional distress. But I have more control over my bingeing and purging episodes than I did before. Secondly, because of the extraordinary disappointment I experienced when I realized I was a certified Bandster Failure, I discovered the Fat Acceptance blogs, Intuitive Eating, and Health at Every Size. I wish I had been able to accomplish those without having weight loss surgery, but I can’t change the past.
I have hope for myself, though. I hope I will be able to give up bingeing and purging permanently. I hope I will learn to love myself. I hope I will get healthier and live a life of moderation, one that includes running and walking and eating plenty of fruits and vegetable and ice cream. I hope one day I can look at my wedding pictures without hating myself, and allow myself to be photographed without inwardly or outwardly cringing.