Time for Surgery?

News and Advice, Weight Loss
on September 7, 2011

DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I have always been heavy. I eat healthy foods, watch my calories and portion sizes and was exercising every day, and I only succeeded in making my clothes a little bit more roomy. Then I got sick, and started gaining weight again. I'm at the point where I feel like I should just "surrender" and get gastric-bypass surgery. What kind of advice can you offer me? — A Future Former Fat Girl

DEAR FUTURE FFG: I am so sorry to hear about your struggle. I know how painful and frustrating it is to feel like you're doing everything right but seeing no results. Here's a couple of things that might help. First, get a thorough physical–if you haven't already–to make sure there's no medical reason why your weight won't budge. And I mean first–before you do anything else. The fact that you seem to be using all the right tools to lose weight with nothing to show for it says to me that it might be a medical issue–hormones (there's something called PCOS — polycystic ovary syndrome — that's often mis- or undiagnosed in women that can put weight on and keep it on), thyroid (also often overlooked), medications you're on, etc. You've got to rule those things out before you do anything else. If your doctor clears you, I would try spending some of that money you would spend on gastric bypass to hire a personal trainer. Now, you may think that sounds crazy, but hear me out: Exercise can make such a difference in your weight–and your frame of mind–but many of us go about it all wrong. What I mean by that is, we get ourselves to the gym (yay for us!), we get on the treadmill (yay again!), and we put in our 30 minutes (yay times 3!) … but we do that over, and over, and over again, often at the same intensity/speed, whatever. And our bodies get used to it. Our workout starts feeling easy, which is really cool because it's so hard at first. What's not cool, though, is that when it feels easy, that means we've pretty much stopped making progress. What a trainer will do is keep you moving ahead, keep your body challenged, so that you can continue to get closer to your goal. I would do that instead of seeing a nutritionist, or anything else. In fact, I would just take a good chunk of time, at least 3 months, to focus on exercise and not worry as much about diet. Maybe you continue to watch your portions and such, but really focus on keeping true to your trainer's routine, letting her/him push you physically. I am convinced that a good trainer can help you find the Former Fat Girl inside that's just waiting to break through.


I realize that this might sound simplistic: "Hire a personal trainer." But it's not mean to be. I really believe that a trainer could make the difference for a lot of us–could have made the difference for me, years ago, when I was using all my mental energy to propel me forward in my weight loss journey. And if it sounds expensive, just think about what it will cost to do bypass.

The other thing I want to say is this: Gastric bypass is not necessarily "surrender," not necessarily the easy way out. I'm kind of conflicted on the whole subject–on one hand, I do think it's a valuable tool for women and men who go into it with the proper mindset. But on the other hand, my fear is that some people who have it aren't prepared mentally for the result. The fact is that, as far as I know, gastric bypass is a surgery for your GI system, not your brain. So it's only solving a fraction, really, of the issue we all have. I have spoken to people who have had GB who, two years later, start gaining the weight back … and are just then starting the emotional part of their weight loss journey. Whether you go the surgery route or not, you still have to learn how to eat healthy foods and exercise, you still have to learn how to put your health and your needs ahead of the demands of others, you still have to learn to let go of your perfectionism and your people-pleasing attitudes that made it difficult for you to lose weight in the first place. Sometimes I think the surgery makes the journey harder because it can fool you into thinking you don't need to do the hard work, the head work. But, to be a Former Fat Girl, to keep that weight off for good–you've got to.

I hope this helps. You deserve to see yourself moving toward success. Good luck in your journey.