When you lose a significant amount of weight, heck when you lose any noticeable amount of weight, people will ask questions. People are not shy about asking personal, probing, and sometimes very silly questions. Many WLS patients are a bit apprehensive about fielding questions – even people who would, on almost any other subject, be an “open book.” The question that drives this fear is probably the most obvious and logical question someone could ask: “How did you lose weight?”
The apprehension comes from the fear that their answer: “I had weight loss surgery,” will be followed by a response of… “Oh, I thought that you did it yourself,” or the dreaded, “Oh, you took the easy way out.”
It may be that people respond with these types of reactions due to an ignorance of WLS, it may be a reflection of some jealousy or resentment they may hold toward the successful WLS patient, or, at worst, it could be a desire to insult or offend.
Regardless of the reason, such a response is hurtful to the WLS patient and is perceived as totally devaluing their efforts… the costs, pains, risks, fears, and hard work that all successful weight loss endeavors require.
I love being asked the question: “Bill, how did you lose all that weight?” But before I explain why, and how I answer, let me first suggest that “weight loss surgery” is an incorrect answer to the question.
A person loses weight one way and one way only… they take in less calories than their body burns. It’s been that way since day one, and will likely be this way till the end of time. Its simple math, addition and subtraction, learned in the first grade – 54 years ago in my case! Add the calories eaten and subtract the calories burned to power bodily functions (heart beating, lungs breathing, body temperature) and calories burned from exercise or other physical activity.
Weight loss surgery is not the reason you lost weight. To believe such passes all of the credit for achieving weight loss to something outside your control. It would indeed be taking the easy way out.
When I am asked the $100,000 question, here is how I answer:
Person: “Wow, Bill, you look great… you’ve lost a lot of weight! How did you do it?
Me: “Well, I lost weight the only way anybody can… I took in less calories than I burned up. To put it simply, on a daily basis, I eat well and I exercise. I eat well to limit the calories that go into my body and I exercise regularly to increase the calories my body burns.
Most of my life I had difficulty eating well, that is, managing my calorie intake, so to assist me with that goal I had gastric bypass, which helps me limit the amount of food I eat at any one time. It doesn’t choose what I eat, so I must be certain to choose highly nutritious foods. It is a lot of work, but well worth it. And of course to burn calories I work out on a daily basis. My gastric bypass doesn’t help me with that… it hasn’t once yet got me up off the couch and sent me to the gym!”
At this point, if the person asking me how I lost weight was not familiar with gastric bypass, they likely want to know more. And if they had any inclination to be less than supportive, they quickly reconsider as my enthusiasm and excitement for what I have achieved is obvious and undeniable. I am a freight train of unrepentant excitement that nobody wants to try and derail.
Gastric bypass, the vertical sleeve, and the lap band are tools. Tools compensate for our limitations.
Fifty-four years of life had taught me that I didn’t have the ability to manage my eating. Try as I did (and I tried all the diets and weight loss plans out there), I simply didn’t have the skill, strength, ability, intestinal fortitude, whatever you want to call it, to manage my food intake. Some people are born with the innate ability to self-manage this aspect of their life. I wasn’t.
Consider a short person trying to paint their ceiling. No matter how hard they call on their internal strengths and intestinal fortitude, someone five foot tall cannot paint their ceiling without the aid of a ladder – a tool that allows them to overcome certain physical limitations they face so that they can unleash their skills and energy to achieve their goals. The ladder doesn’t paint the ceiling for them. It doesn’t select the color or neatly trim the moldings. A ladder, like WLS, is simply a tool that someone can use to accomplish their goal of brightening up their home. The WLS patient simply uses their surgery as their tool to help them lose weight and maintain weight loss for the rest of their life.
Does this conversation make any sense?:
Person 1: “Wow, your room looks nice, you’ve done a great job of painting. I like the style and color of what you did to the ceiling! I really… hey, wait a minute, is that a ladder I see over there in the corner?”
Person 2: “Yes.”
Person 1: “Oh… [sounding less than impressed] I thought you did it yourself. I guess you took the easy way out.”
Be proud of what you have done for yourself. NEVER feel bad about using the correct tool for the job you’ve undertaken. You have accomplished something that very few humans are capable of. You turned your life around and now lead a healthy lifestyle because you were smart enough to select – and utilize – the tool you needed to accomplish a goal you set for yourself. You did that. YOU!
I am often asked for lessons learned. Here are my three running rules:
1) Never, never, ever give up,
2) Remember that you’re doing this for YOU and you’re worth the effort and investment, and
3) You will make mistakes and suffer a setback or two – when this happens refer to #1 and #2 above.
And above all know this:
You are capable of more than you can imagine,
You can do this,
Don’t overcomplicate things,
Eat well and exercise,
Believe in yourself,
Do a little better today than you did yesterday.
It’s the journey that gets you there, not the surgery.
A better life, a new life awaits… GO CLAIM YOURS!!