Isn’t it funny when people becomes experts in everything about your life when you make major changes? Of course, by “funny” I mean “as annoying as something could possibly be” because there is nothing remotely humorous about the ways in which people try to convince themselves and you that they know what’s best for you. “Concern trolling” is the phrase coined to describe when people give you unsolicited, often critical or snarky advice about what you should do “for your health” or whatever other benefit. When you have weight loss surgery, everyone becomes a concerned expert on your health.
I had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, which is becoming a more popular option for weight loss surgery because it does not involve any bypassing, reattaching, or anything as invasive as previous types of surgery. This procedure basically reduces the size of your stomach and elongates it, creating a narrower space through which food and liquids pass. By being narrower and having less volume, you’re unable to consume massive amounts of food in one sitting; doing so can (and likely will) result in extreme discomfort and feelings of sickness. It is, simply, a semi-permanent portion control mechanism.
When I returned home from the hospital, I spent about two weeks at home recovering. It was painful, but this was the third abdominal surgery I’d had, so I knew what to expect. I wasn’t hungry (the procedure removes the portion of your stomach containing about 80% of “hunger hormones”, so few signals are sent to the brain triggering hunger), and couldn’t eat much anyway, so I started blogging and caught up on a lot of television. Almost immediately, people were like “That’s all you’re eating???” Well, yes, because…you know… I did have weight loss surgery.
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It started out with small doses of protein shakes, Jello, popsicles, and water. People seemed to understand that, at least, because it was right after surgery and I was given some leeway. It was when I began to socialize and spend more time around people and food that the shocked questions came. Some people were fascinated and intrigued, especially because of how small my portions were and how much money I was saving. For the first year, I rarely ordered my own food; I offered to chip in with my friends if they let me grab a few bites of their food. As I was able to tolerate more types of food, I began ordering for myself and taking a lot of food home to divvy up for several meals over the next few days. Leftovers became my new best friends.
Image: Feminista Jones
Eventually, though, I noticed some people becoming more critical of what I was eating, especially on social media. Since I was blogging about the process, people were responding to posts and asking questions. As the weight loss grew increasingly noticeable, the “Should you be eating that?” and “Isn’t that bad for your diet?” questions started to come. This isn’t unique to people who have had weight loss surgery, though. As almost anyone on any weight loss journey will tell you, people become “concerned” about you and the ways in which you’re managing your process, even if you give no indicators that you may be in trouble or taking an extreme or severely damaging approach.
Some people say they are doing it out of love and support. They claim they are holding you accountable and giving you tough love. Well, we didn’t ask for that “love” and certainly don’t need people volunteering their “concern” when we don’t ask for it. The side glances, the nose scrunching, the pointing at your plate or bowl, the jokes about you wasting food, the snipping when you eat a small piece of friend chicken once a month, all of these things begin to get to you. You reach the point when you don’t even want to go out with people anymore or eat around others. You feel like you’re being shamed for your eating habits, even when people know why you eat as you do.
Image: Feminista Jones
Yes, I’ve had weight loss surgery and it has helped me tremendously. I don’t regret it for a single day. What I try to do is live a healthier lifestyle now, making better food choices, exercising, and dealing with the issues that led to the initial weight gain. It doesn’t help when people feel the need to pry into my choices or erect me as an infallible weight loss guru. I’m hardly anything like that. I’m just a woman on a journey to being the best me I can be so I can live as long as possible. Yet, the more weight I lost, the more commentary and “concern” I received, the more I began to isolate myself so I wouldn’t have to explain to people why it was perfectly fine for me to eat something other than lettuce and drink something other than water.
When you lose weight rapidly or even just a huge amount of weight, some people feel that your changes are out of their control and they begin to feel powerless to your progress. For many, your physical changes scare them into believing you will change internally and in that process, you will change who you are to them. They cannot control the changes you’re making, but they can find other way to exert subtle control and it is in those questions and critiques about what you put in your mouth that some people find temporary control…and solace.
Don’t let it get to you. Understand it for what it is. Those who love you and value you will respect your process and let you figure it out your way. They’ll offer support when solicited and they’ll accept that you know what’s best for you. Be mindful of feelings of isolation and your tendency to avoid social situations because you fear being questioned about what eat and drink. This is your journey, not theirs.
Feminista Jones is the Love & Sex section editor at BlogHer. She blogs at FeministaJones.com.
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