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Sunday, January 27, 2008

What Price Vanity?

I was just finishing up the most amazing lunch yesterday at a restaurant in Fresno when I encountered a fun group of women sitting in the booth behind me. I had overheard one woman talking of sugar-free chocolate. I turned around to tell her of my favorite brand and we started talking about diabetes, hypoglycemia and eventually bariatric surgery. One woman in the group had gastric-bypass. She told me she had dropped 85 pounds, adding that she wasn't "very big" to begin with.

Knowing that there is some elitism in the bariatric community regarding pre-op size, I shrugged and said their was nothing wrong with being a lightweight. After all, better to take control of obesity before its long-term effects take control of you.

"Oh...I had it purely out of vanity," she said.

That stopped me dead in my tracks.

Since having weight-loss surgery almost three years ago, I've encountered a variety of pre- and post-ops with varying reasons for wanting/having surgery. Though every person has given the same party line about "health concerns," I know more than a few really didn't care about their health -- they just wanted to be thin.

It was those people who I originally wanted to help when I started writing this column (now blog) in 2004. I thought educating them on the risks associated with surgery would drive home the point that this is truly a drastic solution to what should be a very drastic health condition. There are days when I feel like I've accomplished that goal, and other days when I feel like I'm hitting myself in the head with a hammer to no avail. But one thing I can say is that nobody I've encountered over the years has had the either the self-awareness or the gumption of the woman I met in the restaurant.

I applauded her for her honesty. There are many who might not agree with her decision to have surgery for reasons of vanity, but I have to give her credit for being open and honest about her motivation. At the same time, there's a part of me that worries about the implications of such decisions. Having been morbidly obese most of my life, I would never wish that fate on anyone. But I would hate to see this surgery be used as "cosmetic surgery" for anyone wishing to drop 20 or 30 pounds without having to "work at it." That, to me, would be an abuse of this marvelous tool.

Is such thinking naive?


Megan said...

85lbs is quite a bit to lose. She likely qualified for being obese and the surgery. I wonder, however, if the vanity comment was her true feelings - or said for her friends that were at the table. Just musings ....

Melting Mama said...

Wow. You NEVER hear people admit to that. I could easily say it now, seeing as I was healthy before having WLS... and I had "no reason" to go under the knife, if it weren't to just look better. *shrug* But, I made myself believe that I didn't "want to get diabetes," or any other obesity related issue.

Hyde said...

Since doctors don't peform the surgery on people with less than 100 pounds to lose, it can't ONLY be for vanity, can it? I don't know anything about the elitism regarding pre-op size. All I know is I did the surgery because at the size I got to I felt like shit, my body was overworked and every other solution had failed me. And, yes, also for vanity.

Janine said...

Hi there

I have just stumbled across your blog. I am a 35 yr old female living in New Zealand and I am almost 11 weeks post op.

Struggling a bit with solid food.

Tonya said...

By no means am I diminishing the accomplishment of an 85-pound weight loss -- and by the looks of the woman in question, I'm sure on some chart somewhere, she technically was 100 pounds overweight. What shocked me was the fact that she was so open about it.