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Feeling Like A failure after Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy &  Life after Massive Weight Loss

My Happy Place

I love going to the gym. You’ll find me in a fitness center 5-6 days out of a normal week, which is probably more than is really necessary or acceptable for most. But for me… I’m one of those “the gym is my happy place” people. My gym infatuation is separate from my weight loss goals. To be honest, if working out was part of my weight loss plan, I would probably do it less not more. 
If you’ve been in a commercial gym anytime in the past decade, you’ve probably noticed something inevitable and unavoidable the massive abundance of massive TVs. And while I occasionally love watching Benson and Stabler kick ass and solve crimes while step, step, stepping away on the elliptical, there’s something I don’t love about watching TV at the gym. 

The commercials

Yep. The commercials

I know what you’re thinking. Stephy no one really likes commercials. Like ever. Except maybe if it’s super bowl Sunday. Or maybe if you’re significant other is watching a particular unimpressive show and the commercials are a brief reprieve from the medicoreness.

However, when you’re at the gym and the only readily available things to look at are the TV, the bodybuilder grunting a few feet away, or the woman with the really nice butt doing squats, you tend to pick the TV.  But when the TV is your only focal point for a full 45 minutes you become hyper-aware of a fact that I find both frightening and fascinating.

A great majority of commercials on American TV are about one of two things:

-The food industry and more often than not, specifically fast food.

-The diet and weight loss industry.

Seeking Perfection and Pizza

The glaring contradiction would be almost laughable if, again, the gravity and significance of this situation weren’t terrifying. “BUY THIS LARGE INFINITE TOPPING PIZZA FOR ONLY 9.99” followed immediately by “HEY YOU!! THE ONLY WAY TO HAVE SELF LOVE AND OR VALIDATIONf  IS TO LOSE WEIGHT AND HAVE ABS”
Exhausted, sweat pouring down my face,  my desire for both pizza and seemingly impossible physical change is both literally and metaphorically pouring out of me. 
But nonetheless, these commercials usually make me slightly uncomfortable at worst. More often than not I’m totally indifferent. Everyone is trying to sell something. That’s literally the point of commercials. Sure this girl loves pizza. But there’s a time and a place for pizza.  And while I do want to lose a few pounds I, and everyone else, deserves the same amount of self-love and respect regardless of size or of a number on the scale
But I have to admit, sometimes… they get me. As full of self-love I am. As proud of my self I am. At the end of the day, I’m still a person, with feelings, maybe too many sometimes.

End Obesity For Life…?

For me, the topic of obesity has always been a sensitive one.

I’ve been sufficiently bombarded with tales of the horrors of obesity my whole life. A big, maybe the biggest, insecurity currently eating at me, is that even after losing over 200 pounds, at the time of writing this, my BMI is still in the obese category. According to an arguably outdated measurement of health, I’m unhealthy. 
So the other day when I glanced up at the TV and saw an ad with the tagline “Stop Obesity for life” it hurt. It hurt, even more, when I realized what the ad was selling. Weight loss surgery.

I failed
There I was, 2 years after vertical sleeve gastrectomy, still obese. It was like all my fears and regrets manifested at that moment just to tell me “You failed”. The feeling was overwhelming and I felt the tears struggling to escape my eyes.

There I was, lifting weights in a gym surrounded by bodybuilders and the above-mentioned girls with nice butts, about to cry because I felt “fat”.

And it’s not that my self-doubt wasn’t justified. Afterall, I did manage to get out of the obese and into the slightly more glamorous “overweight “ category for the first time in my life conscious life…for a while. But I subsequently regained about 25 pounds. I could’ve, I should’ve “ended obesity for life”.

But, I didn’t.

Weight Loss Surgery is a Business

But after crying to my, very confused, but very supportive boyfriend for a few moments, I realized a couple of things.

Firstly, and foremost Weight Loss Surgery is a business.

Everyone is selling something, and even life-changing major surgery is just a business at the end of the day. But the thing with treating something like a business is.. you omit the less sexy less marketable parts.

  1. Regain is common after weight loss surgery “Weight gain after gastric bypass surgery occurs in about half of all patients within 2 years” according to Bariatric-Surgery-Source.
  2. Expectations are fairly low. With the vertical sleeve, most doctors consider you a success if you lose between 55% and 65% of your excess weight. RNY, the most common form of the bariatric gastric bypass has a slightly higher expected rate of 60-75% of excess weight. But neither have the expectation of 100%
  3. Eating disorders, or disordered eating patterns, are also common, after massive weight loss, and especially after extreme caloric restriction. And this is not just in the weight loss surgery community. Your body just doesn’t like being in an extreme deficit for a long time. It’s a leftover biological mechanism. If you’re struggling, it’s not your fault, and admitting you might have a problem is the first step in overcoming it.
  1. The last thing I realized, and most important to me, personally, is that failure is subjective.

I’m NOT a Failure

Even with my regain, since I had lost more weight since surgery than either of the people in the commercial. And I’ve lost more weight in total than both of those people combined.

I do want to conquer this regain but in doing so I must remember…there is no way losing 200 pounds is considered a failure.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that the way you define yourself directly determines your success. I’m not perfect, but I am strong and capable of achieving anything. If that isn’t a mindset of success, I don’t what is.