Fat, Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Heidi: I Hate WLS — Here’s Why I’m Having It

July 14, 2008: If you’re here from MeFi, you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with the comments policy, and for extra credit, this post.

Note from Kate: I’ve been reading Heidi’s blog for almost a year now. As I said to her in comments way back when, she’s the first person who ever made me believe there are occasional exceptions to the rule that weight loss surgery is always a bad idea.

Heidi changed my mind because she was brave enough to write about the painful reality of increasingly feeling like a prisoner in her own fat body, of losing the ability to be independent, to do basic things the rest of us take for granted. I still wish there were a better option than surgery for her — so does she. But I sure don’t have a better idea at this point.

Heidi is one of the reasons I said again and again that my political stance on dieting is a whole different thing from my personal opinion of individuals who want to lose weight. There are exceptions to every rule. And as you’ll see from this post, Heidi is an exceptional person in every sense of the word. I’m honored that she was willing to share her story with the Shapely Prose crew.

by Heidi

I believe weight loss surgery (WLS) is dangerous, invasive, and overly performed. I hate that something created as a last resort has turned into magical cure-all for everyone over 200 pounds. I hate that it’s become so popular and hyped that people whose information is based solely on what they see on TV have no hesitation in suggesting it to complete strangers. But what if you don’t qualify? Gain weight! Go to Mexico! Find a less strict surgeon! WLS is the quick and easy answer! Because altering your eating and drinking habits for the rest of your life couldn’t possibly be something worth a second thought. I always have been and always will be highly, highly critical of weight loss surgery.

And I’m having mine next month.

It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made because doing something that’s so completely at odds with what you believe in is a massive mind-fuck. I’ve been called a traitor and a sell-out and I guess I can’t really argue with that; I believe strongly in size-acceptance and I’m electing to have my stomach sliced open and my organs rearranged. It’s something I never thought I’d do. Me? Having weight loss surgery? That’s crazy talk…I don’t even believe in dieting, for god’s sake!

Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where what we need isn’t what we want. Where what we need isn’t even something we necessarily believe in. I never wanted to be seen as yet another fat person who really wanted to be thin. Who says fat is great…but not for me. And I know that’s how people see me now. I struggled with that for a long time; reconciling my ideology with my desperate need for a surgery that was my best option. I didn’t have it sooner because I didn’t want to admit I needed it. I was so ashamed of not being healthy, of not being strong, of representing all the stereotypes I despise.

I’ve been blogging for about five years now and I’ve always been commended for my honesty. On one hand it’s accurate because I don’t lie in my blog and I readily admit things that really don’t cast me in the greatest light! But on the other hand… There’s a lot I just don’t say because I’m too ashamed.

And I am so fucking tired of being ashamed. I’m so fucking tired of hiding my reality because it isn’t as pretty as someone else’s. I’m so tired of believing I’m an embarrassment to fat people, as if my very existence is harming the movement. I may be an anomaly but I still exist and I still matter. So I’m going to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m going to tell you what it’s like to live in my body.

I’m 5’6” and I weigh 530 pounds. Well, 529.8 to be exact but I round up. (There, that wasn’t so hard. I can totally do this.)

I have pre-diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, gastroesophageal reflux disease, depression and social anxiety and am on medication for all of it. I take a lot of pills! I’ve had to sleep sitting up for the last several months. I do sleep but not long and not deeply…I miss dreaming. My circulation is horrible and my arms and legs frequently go numb or swell so badly I can’t move and I feel as if the skin is literally going to split open. My poor circulation also causes severe discoloration all over the lower half of my body as well as both forearms. I have some issues with incontinence because I carry all of my weight in my belly and there’s a lot of pressure on my bladder. My lower belly is so large and heavy that having it hang from my body is actually painful. I have a lot of problems with infections between my skin folds and summer really isn’t helping matters. (Okay, that wasn’t too bad either. Let’s go a little deeper.)

I’m in pain every moment of every day. I can’t walk or stand longer than a few seconds and I’m so afraid of my ankles or knees giving out from under me. Walking from my bedroom to the bathroom leaves me gasping for breath and my legs shaking from exertion. Usually I have to stop halfway there and lean on something for a few seconds. Several months ago I had to get a disability placard for my car. God, I was so embarrassed by that. Not was. Am. I can’t stand people seeing me park in the disabled spot. Sometimes…cough…sometimes if people are watching me, I totally fake a limp. Because I hate the idea of people thinking fat = disabled.

At the end of June I had to take a leave of absence from my job because getting out of bed and going to work every day was too painful and difficult. I had pushed myself for so many months, through the pain and exhaustion, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was on the verge of physically and mentally collapsing and I couldn’t bring myself to fake it for one more day. Plus, my seat belt doesn’t fit me any longer and driving on the freeways in LA with no seat belt is a terrifying experience! Even more so when you take into account the fact that I was dozing off at the wheel (due my sleep issues) several times a week. Work was going to kill me one way or another!

There are friends I haven’t seen in years. Good friends who I used to see regularly and who I’ve known for more than half my life. Who used to know everything about me until my reality became a secret. Now I lie to them about why we don’t spend time together. Because I don’t want to say, “I love you but it hurts me too much to walk. I love you and I miss you and it hurts not to see you but the physical pain is so much worse.” So I say something vague about not feeling well which isn’t really a lie but isn’t really true either. Because I can’t bring myself to tell them that every step feels like a thousand and my body is breaking. I’ve always been the strong one and I don’t know how to admit I’m weak. (This is getting too hard. I don’t want to do this anymore.)

I don’t remember when it started. Because I didn’t talk about it and I sure as hell didn’t write about it. Probably a year ago, I’d guess. (I can’t do it. I just can’t. It’s too embarrassing. I don’t want people to see me differently. I don’t want them to be disgusted by me. I don’t want to…please don’t make me say it. It’s too much. I haven’t even written it and I’m already crying…please…) I was no longer able to clean myself after going to the bathroom. Every time I went to the bathroom, I had to take a shower.

While I was at work I would try to hold it. I frequently made myself sick and gave myself painful stomach cramps doing so. I had IBS to begin with and that didn’t help matters. Worse, it didn’t always work. So I’d go to the bathroom and have to spend the rest of the day sitting in my own shit. Sometimes for one hour, sometimes eight. The physical discomfort was awful but nothing in comparison to the shame. Fuck. The shame. Wondering if you smell, wondering if people know, wondering if they talk about it when you’re not in the room. Hoping that no one says anything so you stay as far away from everyone as possible. I felt so disgusting and so embarrassed that I just wanted to die. And I truly felt I would rather die than admit it to anyone. (Oh my god, what are people going to think of me now? I don’t want to do this at all. Please let’s stop Please, it’s too much.)

I can’t stand for more than a few seconds which made the frequent showering very difficult and painful. So, now my mom cleans me. I’m 28 years old and my mom has to wipe my ass. It’s been a few months and I still apologize every time. Every single time even though she keeps telling me to stop. Because I’m just so embarrassed that I can’t take care of myself.

Oh yeah…the whole showering thing. I can’t do that anymore either. I haven’t had a shower in months. Because I can’t stand and because it’s difficult for me to even fit inside the shower these days. My mom brings a bucket of warm water, baby soap, a wash cloth, and towel into my room and washes me. Sometimes I close my eyes and genuinely enjoy the feeling of becoming clean. But a lot of times I cry. I lay on my bed while my mom washes me and I cry.

I do that a lot. Cry. Sometimes I cry because I miss having a life and I want to do so many things but physically can’t. Sometimes I cry because I don’t know how much longer I can handle any of it. Sometimes it’s out of shame. Sometimes it’s from the pain. Sometimes it’s because I can feel my body shutting down and I’m truly afraid I’m going to die very soon. Sometimes it’s because I wish I were already dead.

And sometimes I cry out of sorrow. I place my hands on my belly and I whisper to my body how sorry I am. Sorry that she’s going to have to be cut up; sorry that I couldn’t fix things on my own; sorry that I let things go so far before I asked for help; sorry that she’s hurting so much; sorry that I feel imprisoned by her; sorry that I don’t always love her or treat her the way I should. I cry and I apologize for everything that’s been done to her and for all the things to come. I cry and I thank her for being so strong and putting up with so much; asking her to hold on for just a little while longer and promising her that things will get better. I cry and I ask her to forgive me for what I have to do to her because it’s the only option I have left. Because I know it’s the best decision for me, no matter how hard it was to make.

Do I wish I didn’t have to have weight loss surgery? Yes, of course. I wish I was strong and healthy and could honestly say that my weight isn’t negatively impacting my life. But I can’t, not now. I wish I didn’t have to acknowledge the things I’m most shamed by and I could hide it all, pretending to be functional in order to save that single shred of humility I have left. But should I allow that wish to stop me from having wls when the alternative is becoming completely bed-ridden? Should I not have surgery simply because I don’t want people to think less of me or to incorrectly assume the motivations behind it? Is it worth it?

A few days ago I had to go to the hospital to see a nutritionist. I needed them to bring a wheelchair to the parking structure because I barely made it from my car to the elevator before my legs nearly gave out and I couldn’t breathe. I almost didn’t do it. I almost turned around and left because I was too embarrassed to say that I needed a wheelchair. It was crossing a line I didn’t ever want to cross. But I did it. Because practicality finally won out over pride. And, ultimately, that’s what all of this has been about.

I absolutely believe there are people who weigh 530 pounds and are happy and healthy. I’d never be so myopic as to claim my experience as the norm. I also absolutely still believe that WLS is dangerous, highly invasive and overly performed…if anything the last 16 months have made me even more critical of the entire industry. I’ll never advocate WLS or start proselytizing because “it changed/saved/fixed my life and it could do the same for you!” I will never be that asshole.

But I will be that asshole who claimed to be fat-positive but had weight loss surgery anyway. And I think I’m learning to be okay with that.

200 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Heidi: I Hate WLS — Here’s Why I’m Having It”

  1. Heidi, thank you for sharing your story–you’re an amazing person. I hope everything goes smoothly with the surgery. Peace, Tobey

  2. Heidi, I want to thank you for sharing this. And the next time you think you’re weak? Just remember that you put this out there for the great wide world to see, and that takes more strength and courage than I could ever dream of having. You are doing what’s right for you, and there’s absolutely no shame in that.

    I wish you all the best in your surgery and recovery. And those people that love you? Let them help you. It’s not weakness; it takes great strength to make yourself vulnerable.

  3. Thank you for having the strength to share your story. I don’t think you’re a traitor or anything else bad. You’re doing what you have to do for yourself. Don’t let anyone give you shit for it. Please take good care. I have a co-worker who is three years post-op and doing very well.

    Sending good thoughts to you.

  4. Heidi, i don’t think any less of you. I know this was hard for you, because you outright said it was hard – but also because i know that pain (be it physical or emotional) is a very isolating experience, and initiating the steps to bring yourself out into the open is… scary. Thank you for sharing this with us. I hope the surgery goes well, and i hope to be hearing more from/about you in the future.

  5. Heidi-
    Thank you so much for writing this and being brave and strong enough to tell us how it really is, how it really feels. I hope the surgery goes well, and I hope you are healthy and vibrant no matter how much you weigh because that is what truly matters. I think that anyone in the fat acceptance movement who doesn’t accept you because you got WLS in order to keep on living doesn’t get the whole thing in the first place. Stay strong and please keep writing.

  6. You’re not an asshole! You’re very, very brave. Thank you for sharing this and I wish you the best of luck with your surgery. You will be in my prayers.

  7. You have to make the decisions that are appropriate for your life and your health, not someone elses. While there may be people who weigh the same amount as you who are happy and healthy, you are not. Their situation is completely irrelevant. What is important is that you make whatever choices you have to make yourself happy and healthy.

    I think that it would be wise to differentiate between WLS itself, and the frivolous nature with which it is often used. I think it is wrong of the FA movement to demonize WLS itself. It is just a tool, a tool to remove an obstacle. For while not all fat is bad, it can become a stubling block, or even a barricade for some people, and sometimes the only way for them to move forward is through WLS.

    The reason that, IMHO, WLS has become so demonized is the frivolous nature with which people have and recommend it. (Which was highlighted in the beginning of the post.) I know a girl who had bariatrics recently so she’d look hot for her wedding. This disgusts me, not because they are having WLS, but because they are having it for the wrong reasons. It is frivolous, dangerous, and wasteful. However just because some people use a tool for bad reasons does not mean that tool is always bad.

    Heidi, I really respect your strength and bravery to do go through what you have gone through. I know myself how hard it is to make decisions that you politically may disagree with. I wish you the best of everything.

  8. Heidi, I agree with Megan–the fact that you told your story honestly and put yourself out there like that really is an act of strength. I hope the surgery helps you regain those parts of your life that you are not currently able to experience or enjoy. I wish you as much peace and happiness as possible as you go through this process.

  9. Shinobi, I really don’t want to get into arguing about WLS on this thread — But… this jumped out at me.

    This disgusts me, not because they are having WLS, but because they are having it for the wrong reasons. It is frivolous, dangerous, and wasteful.

    If we refuse to demonize WLS as a rule, yet still make judgments like that, then we’re trading criticism of a dangerous profit-driven industry for criticism of individuals making personal decisions about their bodies. And despite what people may think of me after the dieting throwdown, I am so not okay with that.

    The way I see it is this: there are plenty of surgeries that are useful “tools” for people with extreme health problems, but way too dangerous to use on anyone whose situation is not so extreme. And for the most part, those surgeries would never be marketed to average people. Nobody recommends brain surgery to cure ADD, you know? But WLS is marketed to people who could instead take numerous safe, non-invasive steps toward improving their health.

    In fact, one of the most chilling things I’ve learned from Heidi is that people are denied WLS because they are too big. The people who actually are flat out of other options can’t get the surgery — presumably because doctors don’t want to mess up their success rates, and of course the operation is more dangerous on a bigger person with more pre-existing health issues. But people who aren’t virtually immobilized, who can go to work and care for themselves, who could start exercising gradually and see health improvements over time, are considered prime candidates for the surgery.

    That pisses me RIGHT off. And that anger is directed squarely at the WLS industry, not the people at whom they aim their marketing.

  10. Oh, and here’s my response to Roberta, reposted from her blog:

    It’s really interesting to see your thoughts on all this, Roberta. And your story just makes me wish so much that we had a better understanding of why some people will “barrel through a box of Ring Dings in a heartbeat,” because it seems like there must be a better solution than invasive surgery. But of course, fatphobia gets in the way of really studying the way people eat, because practically every effort to investigate begins with a one-size-fits-all idea of what we should be eating. As long as the focus is on getting people to eat in a certain way — primarily via guilt and shame — instead of asking thoughtful questions about hunger and cravings and compulsions, I don’t have a lot of hope that we’ll come to a full understanding of different eating behaviors any time soon.

  11. Dear Heidi,

    I think you are very strong and courageous to share your story here. Thank you for your honesty. I wish you a safe and effective surgery and a long, healthy, happy life.

  12. Heidi:

    Thank you for your courage in sharing this. You are an amazing woman–I can’t imagine what it took to say what you did, but you got out there and said it. This is one reason why we need the Fat Acceptance movement–so that we can learn to tell when drastic measures are and aren’t appropriate. I needed to have your side of the story in order to see the issue more clearly, and I wish you the absolute best outcome possible.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  13. That story made me cry… thank you for sharing. I really admire the courage it took to post that. I hope the surgery goes well for you and you get your life back.

  14. Heidi, kudos to you for being so brave as to share your story with a bunch of strangers. You are my hero. I bow at your feet! You have me in tears at my desk. I wish you all the best and wish you well in your recovery time – surgery of any kind is never easy to bounce back from. I think it’s safe to say you have a lot of people pulling for you! Your bravery is wicked admirable.

  15. I know this has been said in all the comments, but Heidi, hopefully if you get enough of them it will help you to believe it about yourself: YOU ARE BRAVE AND STRONG. I don’t like the idea of WLS either, but if it helps you to live your life more fully and share more of your gifts with the world, it’s what you have to do. Thank you for sharing your story, and I hope your surgery goes fantastically well.

  16. Heidi –

    Thank you for sharing your story. Just echoing what other people have said, but living in a larger body takes more strength on so many levels than being like most people would prefer. Your affirmation of life by having the surgery despite the things you believe is such a beautiful show of strength. I admire you so much. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping for the best in all things for you.

  17. Wow. I’m glad I was alone when I read that, because I’m now crying like a big baby.

    Heidi — that was an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it. Like others have said, it was a very courageous thing to do.

  18. I think when it comes to telling Heidi how brave and strong she is, and how much we’re pulling for her, there’s no need to worry about redundancy :)

    Heidi? You rock.

  19. Kate, you’re right, the people makeing the frivilous choices are just making decision based on the bad information given to them by the industry.

  20. Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing this. I wish you the safety in the surgery and the best in years to come. I really admire your strength and courage.

  21. Heidi, thank you very much for sharing your story, that was a very brave thing to do. I wish you the very best of luck. I have read some of your blog and think you sound like a wonderful person. I am glad that you are trying to care of yourself the best you know how, and I hope that WLS makes it easier for you to do that.

    I think that in several cases, there is something medically wrong with our bodies, but science just doesn’t know enough yet to either diagnose or fix it. Sadly, fatphobia just slows this research down. For example, some binge eaters might have undiagnosed celiac disease. I found this out after my mother told me that celiac runs in our family, and my thought was, well, obviously I’m too fat to have that problem! It turns out that malabsorption can cause cravings because the body thinks it is starving. I don’t know if this is the case for me yet (I am testing the theory), but here is a link that I found very interesting:


    I am hoping it will help some readers too (those of us who *do* “devour the world” even after we’ve worked on all the rest).

  22. Note from Kate: I’m leaving this comment up, because I think Kell raises some good questions to think about in general, but I’d like to point out that I know Heidi has asked all these questions and answered them for herself.

    First, about being a Butt Wipee — read anything by Harriett McBryde Johnson. We all come into this world as butt wipees, and many of us leave it that way, too. And, some of us are among the enwiped in the middle of our lives, too. We also can’t live without air, or food, or water, or gravity. Being and butt wiper/wipee is just one of those things human beings do.

    OK, that’s done.

    Now, I’ll be the bad guy. [Kate, feel free to delete this. I’m not quite sure what your parameters are on this.]

    If you had already had the surgery, I wouldn’t be asking these questions, because then there’d be no point. But, I honestly think you’re making a mistake, in particular because you talk about WLS as if it were equivalent to long-term “health” or “weight loss.” Since you’re a human being who deserves as much health, mobility and freedom from pain as she can get, and, since you’ve opened this up in a public forum, here goes. I’m not necessarily expecting a public response from you — it’s just, if I didn’t ask these questions, I’d have a hard time holding my head up tomorrow.

    1) What if the surgery doesn’t work? It’s hard to find accurate numbers, but it looks like, perhaps for the majority of people, WLS doesn’t last any longer than any other weight loss method. In other words, after about two years, people regain the weight lost. What will you do then? (Whatever that is, why not do it now, and spare yourself the pain, risks, and permanent damage possible from the surgery.)

    2) What if the surgery makes your health worse? You’ve not mentioned what procedure you’re having done, but even lap bands can have grievous complications. Are you prepared for the possibility of becoming more disabled than you are now?

    3) Have you had the opportunity to talk to bariatricians who are opposed to WLS, or who have offered alternatives? In other words, are you being counseled only by people who assume WLS is the way to go, without even considering other alternatives? Such as, going through a period of controlled intake, perhaps in a hospital; receiving regular in-home physical therapy; reviewing the medications you’re on to make sure they’re not contributing to the edema or causing weight gain; etc. In short, why not do all the things you’d have to do after the surgery anyway?

    4) Is the problem that insurance won’t cover any alternatives, but WLS?

    5) Do you need research or financial help getting information on or access to alternatives? Say the word…

    Wishing you all things good.

  23. The dysfunctional state of your body is not evidence of some supposed depraved state of your soul. In other words, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t know why this happened to you and not to someone else, and I’d be willing to bet that — aside from conditioned assumptions about what supposedly makes people fat — you don’t really either. Accordingly, I’d also be willing to bet that *no one* would be able to avoid what happened to you, given the exact same set of conditions. What I wish for you is that you will be able to step outside of all the judgments and misunderstandings about why you’re in the situation you are, and look at it simply as a practical problem. You are physically suffering. There is apparently only one way left to you to attempt to get you some relief. The only immoral thing in this situation would be to deny yourself that.

  24. You’re not an asshole. Not at all. You’re someone whose back is literally against the wall. You’re not just someone whose knees are getting a little creaky with age and blames her weight for it. You’re not just someone who’s annoyed because even Lane Bryant doesn’t make her size. You are, quite literally, in a state of emergency at a very young age, and those are unbelievably rare, much more rare than hype would have us believe.

    Not that I blame anyone for wanting WLS (or to go on a diet, for that matter) even if their circumstances aren’t as onerous as yours, I blame the marketing machine which, as you duly note, wants all ordinary fatasses with BMI > 30 to go under the knife to spare people the sight of our huge lumbering behinds, because WLS is the Savior of All Fat Humankind, but conversely actually doesn’t want someone whose size and comorbidities might screw up their success rates, someone who is literally out of other options entirely, who is already in more pain and having more problems than the surgery could actually cause, to have it.

    I am very sad that it’s come down to this for you. And I thank you for not globalizing your condition in any way, for not leaning on the “ZOMG 530 POUNDS, of course everyone my size should be getting cut up!” red button too heavily. It’s all too easy for someone my size to say, “Never,” but not having been in your situation, never having lived in a body that’s literally torturing me constantly like yours is you, I don’t know, I can’t know.

  25. Goddamn, Heidi, this was powerful. I really hope surgery can give you what you need. It’s an extreme option, and none of us is comfortable with it — as it should be, I think, since it’s dangerous to be comfortable with extreme options. But I think a lot of my reaction to WLS, personally, is seeing the medical community’s commitment to helping people get distorted into a commitment to helping people recover from problems that are created, in part, by the medical community (i.e. obesity hysteria and medical mistreatment of fat people). When an extreme surgical option is being used to address an extreme medical necessity, though? Well, I might worry, but I certainly can’t judge.

    I really empathize with the feeling of disconnectedness from your body, to the degree where you address “her” as a whole different person. I hope you come back and write again after your surgery — I’m really curious to know whether that feeling stays the same.

  26. I’m totally crying right now. Heidi, if you read this–I am awestruck by your bravery. Awestruck. You deal with a reality that would cause me to shut down entirely.

    I hope and pray the wls will work for you. You deserve a full life.

  27. This made me cry. I feel so much compassion for you, Heidi, I am so sorry that you HAD to make this difficult decision. All the best to you, I hope it goes wonderfully and you can live a full and healthy life!!

  28. Kell, I’m not going to delete your comment unless Heidi asks one of us to, but let me tell everyone why I’m leaving it up: one, in the interest of not deleting non-trolls willy-nilly, and two and more importantly, to give people an illustration of the unbelievably difficult and complicated questions Heidi has undoubtedly been asking herself every day since she started the process of getting surgery. These are, of course, very sensible questions. You can be assured that Heidi has considered them (I’m assuming; sorry to speak for you here Heidi, but I know it’s been a drawn-out process). The fact that getting the surgery involves weighing these sensible questions against a painful reality is what Heidi’s post is getting at, at least as I read it.

  29. Fillyjonk, I just edited Kell’s comment to say basically the same thing, but you said it much better.

    And Kell, it’s nothing against you. They’re important questions to ask. Just not necessarily for Heidi at this point.

  30. Kell is asking some good questions, and I look forward to seeing your (Heidi’s) answers. In the meantime, after re-reading your post, this jumped out at me:

    I carry all of my weight in my belly

    Has anyone actually investigated whether you might have an endocrine dysfunction? Not that I want to diagnose you, but it’s very unusual for a young woman to be built that way even if she’s very large, and there are conditions like Cushing’s syndrome and PCOS that can cause signfiicant abdominal weight gain in women.

    Also, did anyone ever discuss with you the possibility of panniculectomy? It’s likely that if you do lose a lot of weight with WLS you’d be having that as a follow-up anyway, so is there a reason you couldn’t have this surgery, which would be far less invasive, as an alternative? Again, I’m not trying to be presumptive, I’m just curious to know what answers you got, since I assume you did plenty of research.

  31. Heidi, you are one of the bravest, most courageous people I’ve ever seen. What you’re going through has me in tears. I hope you have the best of luck with your surgery, and please, keep writing, you have a lot to contribute to fat acceptance.

  32. Heidi, you know I think you are wonderful. *HUG* And I know how hard it was for you to post this. I hope you are feeling less shame – sometimes saying it, getting it outside of your own head, is the biggest step.

  33. Meowser, yes, same thing applies. Basically, I think these are great questions for the general readership to have a look at, but I want to make it clear that I don’t think Heidi should be expected to answer any of them here.

    If she wants to, that’s great, but I know she has done her research like a madwoman and made, as the post attests, an incredibly difficult decision. So I don’t want her to feel any pressure to defend that here.

  34. Part of where I’m coming from is my experience being whirlwinded into having a myomectomy (surgical removal of uterine fibroids — short verions, I had surgery that I didn’t need to have and I am the worse for it. I’ve learned to always ask about alternatives…

    Would it be possible to have a link to Heidi’s blog, so we can read some background on this?


  35. Oh Heidi… you are beautiful and brave.

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are not an asshole; you’re taking care of yourself. You have listened to your body and have made the best decision you can for your health. You have nothing to apologize for; nothing to be ashamed of.

    I wish you all the best.

  36. Asshole: No. Not at all.

    It’s your own personal choice. What matters is your perception of the group that you may move away from, and the way you reflect upon yourself. The fact that you wish to change does not counter your views (As you so deeply expressed). If you keep in mind that you accept those who want to change, those that do, and those that do not: You’re ok.

    That’s really the big issue with all of this:
    It’s that people want to change so quickly, for the wrong reasons (I.e. non health-related instances that usually have some aesthetic basis), and some have the wrong reasoning behind it (i.e. “I’ll do anything to be thin,” “No food tastes as good as thin feels”). WLS isn’t very safe, but you’ve analyzed it similar to the analysis that people should consider in the world of Pharmaceuticals: The medication taken is likely to have side effects, but you have to decide for yourself if you want to deal with the side effects, or deal with not treating your ailment. It’s a compensation. Nothing is perfect, and no body type is innocuous: None at all.

    I personally don’t think your attempt at change in itself is bad. I hope things get better, and that when you are able to exercise, and do things regularly: That it becomes habit. It’s true that the surgery doesn’t teach you that, but it’s definitely a good idea. Some of those failed surgeries come because some people simply expect the weight to come off, and they don’t change a thing with their lives.

    I have two aunts that had the surgery. They were both about 350 lbs or so, but now they’re about….. I’d say 170ish? One of them is a little taller than me, and the other one is just slightly shorter (I’m 5’11”).
    -One of them exercised, and ate a well-balanced diet her entire time down the scale. I’m still more fit (As in ability) than she is, but if I wanted to go run a couple miles: She could tag along with me.
    -My other aunt, however, did not exercise on her way down (Though her eating did improve some). Now, she is somewhat better than where she was before (Which is probably attributed to her eating habits), but she still gets winded easily. I definitely don’t hate her for getting the surgery, but I sometimes reflect back on this story, so people understand that as many of you said: It’s not some cure-all.

    And to those that gave her negative feedback: You constantly outline that negative feedback doesn’t help someone to lose weight, but you dare attack her, when you’re trying to promote a movement that is based around Size Equality? Well gee… I’ve been thin all of this time: What the hell do you think of me? Am I not worthy of defending people of all sizes (Thin included)?

    Thanks Heidi, and thanks Kate.

  37. Jon, who on this thread attacked her? I think all Kell and I did was ask a few questions, which will probably be answered for me when I read her blog (which I’ll have to do later since LJ is blocked at my workplace), and if not, I’ll just have to assume every possible avenue for her was exhausted before she made what was obviously an agonizing decision.

    And yes, of course we “allow” (if there’s really any such thing) thin people to be FA/SA activists. Where would we be, after all, without Glenn Gaesser and Paul Campos and J. Eric Oliver and Linda Bacon and Sandy Szwarc and others who have advocated on our behalf?

  38. Heidi, it sounds like your mind, body and spirit are almost at their limit right now. Please don’t take on any more negative feelings, or scold yourself or think you’re weak or disgusting. You’re not; you’re so strong and brave just to talk about your experiences in your body. I wish I could give you a hug; you sound like an incredibly thoughtful, sensitive woman.

    I think that for you, WLS is a form of self-care. And that’s one of the most intimate aspects of the size-acceptance movement: taking care of ourselves and, most importantly, loving ourselves enough to do it. Rather than rejecting or altering your body, you’re doing what you can to *take care* of your body so you can have a long, enjoyable life.

    I wish you the best.

  39. Yeah, Jon B, I appreciate your wanting to defend Heidi, but I don’t think Kell or Meowser attacked her at all; I wouldn’t have left up the comments if they had.

    And boy do I NOT want to have the “Are thin people allowed in the movement?” convo again. You were there for the last one, dude. You know the answer to that, and Meowser’s already given it to you again.

  40. Oh Heidi. I want nothing more than to hug you right now. You are no kind of asshole. You are strong, and so very, very brave. Clint Eastwood wishes he had the kind of grit you’ve got, lady. It’s easy to gun down bad guys – it’s the hardest thing in the world to face a choice like this and not flinch. And harder still to bare yourself to the potential cruelties of the internet.

    Thank you for not only sharing your story, but also for sharing with us how hard it was for you to write it down.

    I wish you all the best.

  41. As someone who has had the surgery, I can only echo what Heidi has so elequently expressed, that it is a very personal decision that each individual must make for themselves. It probably took me two years to research and decide if this is what I wanted to do. Was it too drastic? Did I want to make permanant changes in my internal plumbing? What it came down to for me was that it was the right decision for me, and I haven’t looked back. From Heidi’s blog above I can see that she has gone through a similar process in make the decision she has made for herself.

    Whatever an individual might decide, I feel that they have to own it. When I made the decision to have surgery, I told myself this was it for me, my chance to make changes and improve my health. Its worked, I’ve lost 169 pounds so far, and I’d still like to lose another 50. (I’m 2 years post op).

    Thanks Heidi for sharing and best of luck to you. I’ll reach out to you on your livejournal as I am also in LA and happy to share any info or provide support.

  42. Thank you for telling us all this, Heidi.

    Fat is not morally bad. Fat can often be great. Fat does not necessarily cause problems. There is no good reason for most fat people to try and lose their fat. BUT, if your fat is causing you problems, serious problems, then choosing to get rid of it – even if that loss were temporary – is not wrong. I hate that you feel bad about this. You have made a perfectly good, perfectly valid, and very strong decision. Please don’t feel ashamed of it.

    This is what WLS should be for. Not chumps like me who just want more shopping options or more privilege. People for whom fat has become a true hindrance. There are many things we can and should accept. But you don’t have to accept a life as held back as this unless you truly have no options left. You have one, and you’re taking it.

  43. Oh…wow. Just WOW. Thank you all so very much for your kindness, understanding, and support. It really means, like, EVERYTHING to me. I’m all weepy and I seriously wish I could hug each and every one of you right now! Look at me, being all emotional!

    Because of your reactions, I went ahead and emailed the link to my two closest friends. Which, of course, was way harder than letting strangers in but, damn it, I did it anyway!

    Kell: I absolutely don’t mind your questions. As both Kate and fillyjonk said, they’re good and sensible questions that anyone considering wls should ask themselves.

    1. I do know that quite a few people gain back some or all of the weight they lost. My goal is not to become thin or even not-fat. So I don’t plan to force my body down to a size 2 and then freak out when I go back up to a size 12/14/whatever…if I stabilize at 350 but am healthy and happy, I’d consider myself a success, regardless of what research would say. For me, I’m not expecting surgery to be a cure. As cliché as it is, I am viewing it as a tool that will a) give me a quick initial loss that will (hopefully) allow me to begin moving and functioning with less pain and b) control my appetite while I continue working on dealing with my issues with food and emotional eating (my therapist also happens to be an addictions counselor so that’s a plus!)

    From what I’ve read (on blogs and in communities), people have gained back their weight after surgery because they stopped exercising (or never started) and never dealt with their emotional relationship with food.

    I want to learn how to listen to my body and give it the things it needs and wants in order to be happy and healthy. I’m going to continue seeing my therapist and am even looking into seeing a second therapist who specializes in food issues among bariatric patients. And I’m really looking forward to becoming physically active. I fantasize about things like participating in a marathon; surfing and snowboarding with the kids I work with; kickboxing classes; yoga; golf… I feel that, once I’m able to, I’m going to enjoy being active.

    It’s still possible that I’ll gain back every pound I lose; I’m going to say it’s absolutely 100% not going to happen. But I think I’m going into this with a good plan, a strong support system, a lot of information, and a pretty good attitude. So I think I have a pretty good shot at reaching and staying at a weight that’s right for my body.

    2. I have absolutely considered this and have decided that the risk is worth it.

    3. I’ve worked with my doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist to try to get a handle on this without surgery. My doctor only supports wls in extreme cases and never once brought it up until she saw that I was barely able to walk to the exam room. I’ve been trying to get surgery for 16 months and spent over a year prior to that trying to find another way that worked with no success. This has been a very long process with a whole lot of things considered. I have looked into hospitals where my food would be monitored, etc. But they also have a high rebound rate once patients are released. And at this point, my health and quality of life are suffering so badly that I’m desperate and I need something with a quick initial loss.

    4 & 5. For me, in my situation, surgery is my best option. It took me a long time to come to that decision but I’m comfortable with it and hopeful that it will help to improve the quality of my life while I work to become healthy, happy, and strong.

    I’m so long-winded!

  44. Heidi — I know this is a trite thing to say, but the people who would call you names for making the decision you’ve made are saying things that just don’t matter. The only thing that matters is whether you are comfortable with the decision that you’ve made. And it sounds like you are.

    But if you need some strength or support or comfort, come back here and see how much people who hate WLS as much as you do want only one thing for you: to be happy and healthy.

    May your decision bring you that health and happiness. You deserve both.

  45. A very moving post, Heidi, and I wish you the best of luck.

    I have to say, after reading this, I much prefer the notion of “Health at Every Size” to “Fat Acceptance”, because clearly, what you’re describing is a specific health problem and treatment. Fat Acceptance is great, but a pyrrhic victory if it discourages people from being healthy just to maintain fat cred.

    Good surgery, quick recovery, good health to you.

  46. Heidi, I wish you well with your surgery and I hope you see improvements in your health. You helped a lot of people understand how it feels and you were very brave and honest to put it out there. I’m being redundant but you are a fantastic writer as well as a very courageous woman.

  47. To Kaethe,

    WLS has not been demonstrated, by anyone, to be reasonable safe or effective, even if your only criterion for measuring health is the BMI. It is by anyone’s definition a set of experimental procedures, and the patients who undergo it are the guinea pigs.

    My concerns, and the concerns of most others opposed to WLS is not that it will make people lose weight (thereby losing “cred”), but that it won’t make any difference in someone’s weight, and will therefore leave someone already dealing with health issues even worse off than how they started. And, even if someone “loses” (for whatever period of time) weight, for many people, perhaps most, the surgery causes malnutrition, osteoperosis, kidney and liver problems, and other life-threatening ailments.

    This has nothing to do with “fat cred” or any other bit of politics. The closest analogy I have for it is playing the lottery. You might be one of the tiny minority who “win,” or, like most people, you could lose, perhaps everything.

    In this case, we can hope that Heidi will be one of the few “winners,” but that doesn’t change the fact that most people are harmed by the surgery more than they are helped.

  48. Heidi —

    I have no idea what to say, but I feel it’s vital that I say something. I can’t let something this raw and heartfelt go past without acknowledging the act of tremendous courage it took to put it out there. It has value, great value, and I am grateful to you for writing it, and humbled by your honesty.

    I hope that your surgery goes well, and that you find the relief you so desperately need.

    However lamentable and unpleasant your circumstances may be, _you_ are not disgusting. That word is for pony-stabbers and baby-twisters and people who talk on the phone in the movie theater. In other words, it’s for _real_ assholes. But the core of what _you_ are is brave, and beautiful, and worthy of respect. (Unless you are secretly a baby-twisting pony-stabber, in which case I am still in awe, but I can’t back you on your choice of recreation.)

    I will be thinking of you with hope, and I trust that Kate will make a note letting everyone know how you are doing.

    Much love.

  49. Heidi,

    I’d really want to know how you’re doing after the surgery. Obviously, immediately following it, you probably won’t be up to blogging. But when you feel better, I hope that you’ll update us. I don’t know for sure if this will work for you, but I truly hope it does because you are a very giving person and you deserve the chance to function in your every day life without pain, and even dance when the music moves you to. I think your chances for success will be better with a supportive community behind you. We’re here for you 100%!

  50. I wanted to chime in with everyone to thank you for your very brave post and to wish you the very best with your surgery and your recovery. I am very glad this was posted as difficult as it must have been for you. I hope we get to hear more.

  51. Heidi, thanks for sending me a recommendation for the fat friendly health professionals list the other day. I hope that the surgery helps you regain your mobility.

    When I read your story, I am aware of how my privilege allows me to avoid WLS. I am financially able to work at home as a freelancer, which means I don’t have to worry about walking around a workplace, or having to go to the bathroom at work. Not everyone is that fortunate.

  52. Heilele, I really don’t have anything to add that hasn’t already been stated more eloquently by others; however, I don’t think that it can be said too many times that this is not your fault and that you have nothing to be ashamed of.

    I took care of the bodily hygeine of both my grandmother (for several years, she suffered from dementia) and my mother during the last few months of her life. I can say from experience that I was happy and grateful to be able to be there for those I loved. I wasn’t always the best daughter, but when my mother was dying, I realized how much I would miss her. If I had to take care of her hygeine for the rest of my life and could have her here, I would. Please don’t feel too bad about your mother. She loves you.

  53. Heidi, I wish you every good fortune with your surgery and recovery. You are a brave woman to share this story, and you have many good wishes going with you as you head into that operating room.

  54. Your story makes me cry. So brave of you to speak out, so brave of you to have this surgery. I wish you the best, and a swift recovery.

  55. {{{{{Heidi}}}}}

    Your post was so honest and moving … it has me in a pool of tears. My heart, my thoughts, my prayers go out to you. You are very brave, and you do not need to be ashamed about anything. I pray all goes well in your surgery, and that this solution will work for you to get you out of the pain you are in right now. I’m going to search out your blog and bookmark it, so I can read how you’re doing. Please know you have me and a ton of other people out here wishing you nothing but the best!

    Good luck to you!

  56. Heidi,

    You are wonderful.

    It saddens me that we could confuse the idea that we can be healthy at any weight with the idea that you can’t be unhealthy at any weight.

    You’ve spoken eloquently and honestly on a tough topic to a tough audience.

    Be well.

  57. It saddens me that we could confuse the idea that we can be healthy at any weight with the idea that you can’t be unhealthy at any weight.

    Wow, I tried to express this idea like five times and deleted every one because I couldn’t figure out how to put it in words. This is exactly right.

  58. Wow, I tried to express this idea like five times and deleted every one because I couldn’t figure out how to put it in words. This is exactly right.

    And now you beat me (again) to saying that! Dammit!

    Laura, that is just perfect.

  59. heidi, this is a very awesome awesome post you’ve written up. i know it’s very easy for a lot of FA’s to walk around spouting off about how terrible WLS is, and while it’s important to know the very real negative aspects of WLS and the machine that supports it, the privilege it takes to spout off is probably not always taken into consideration. and so my point is, please don’t feel ashamed. i think it’s incredibly important to stand up to the people that you believe in and believe with and tell them, “hey, this situation is not always black & white!”

    but yes, i think you are really amazing and i have nothing but good vibes & hope for you. <333

  60. -I wasn’t picking names by the way. I actually wasn’t aware of who did what, BUT I hear stories about this lovely feedback (The higly negative snap judgments [Not these… that’s just an example I hate]) all the time. That’s what annoys me, and that’s what I think is ruining the movement.

    -It has been about four years now for both of them if anyone is wondering. One had it about six months before the other one. They are both around the same weight now, but as I said: They are at dramatically different fitness levels.

    Sorry for the confusion: I wasn’t trying to butt heads, and I’m perfeclty fine with people commenting on these situations with tact, but I can’t stand for the merciless ones.

  61. Look at all these comments!

    We’ve got your back, Heidi. You take care of you. You deserve to be happy and healthy and you deserve to do that whichever way you feel is best for you. Be strong!

  62. Kell Brigan:
    “If you had already had the surgery, I wouldn’t be asking these questions, because then there’d be no point. But, I honestly think you’re making a mistake, in particular because you talk about WLS as if it were equivalent to long-term ‘health’ or ‘weight loss.’ Since you’re a human being who deserves as much health, mobility and freedom from pain as she can get, and, since you’ve opened this up in a public forum, here goes. I’m not necessarily expecting a public response from you — it’s just, if I didn’t ask these questions, I’d have a hard time holding my head up tomorrow. ”

    Thank you, Kell, for saying what I wanted to but didn’t know how. Heidi, good luck to you no matter what you choose.

  63. Laura Collins:
    “It saddens me that we could confuse the idea that we can be healthy at any weight with the idea that you can’t be unhealthy at any weight. ”

    I didn’t take what anyone’s said as an implication that it’s not possible to be unhealthy at any weight. I’m just seeing some concern about the tool chosen to deal with it.

    I don’t know. I’m relatively new to the movement and all these concepts, and the issues raised by Heidi’s post are difficult to wrap my head around. Feeling a bit lost here…

  64. P.S. I understand why you hate WLS, and I can’t imagine how afraid you must be. I am glad that you know all of the risks and what to expect, though, because knowing what can go wrong will prepare you to get help when you see the signs of it. I’ve heard of so many people who just didn’t know enough to advocate proper treatment when they had bleeding or infection.

  65. Heidi,

    I’m reading this at work and trying not to tear up. I don’t know you, and I’ll probably never meet you, but I’ll be thinking of you and rooting for you. You just made a perfect stranger care about you, so you must be a beautiful person.

  66. Heidi, thank you so much for writing this. And Kate thank you so much for hosting this.

    Honestly, what good are we if we can’t embrace Heidi and be there for her in her suffering and in making whatever decision she feels is best for herself?

    Size acceptance for me is about body autonomy – and that means deciding for ourselves about our own bodies. Without having to bow to or be befuddled by irrelevant social pressures or ideologies.

    That’s what you’re doing Heidi, and you shouldn’t have one scintilla of shame about it.

  67. “I didn’t take what anyone’s said as an implication that it’s not possible to be unhealthy at any weight. I’m just seeing some concern about the tool chosen to deal with it.

    I don’t know. I’m relatively new to the movement and all these concepts, and the issues raised by Heidi’s post are difficult to wrap my head around. Feeling a bit lost here…”

    To me, it means that, while it is good to advocate Health At Every Size, it doesn’t mean that there are instances like Heidi’s where too much adipose tissue is disabling. What it does mean, in my opinion, is that in cases like hers, it is way too common for a doctor to make losing weight the priority, without checking to see if the patient has thyroid problems, PCOS, Celiac disease, or other problems that are causing weight gain.

    As a disabled person, I also believe that HAES refers to working with what you have to be as functional as you can. There are things that I will never be able to do because of my disability, but there are other things that will be within my reach to do if I am as healthy as is possible for me to be. If I’m not taking a certain medication, I can’t leave the house without an anxiety meltdown, even if I weighed 115lbs. I have mornings (especially rainy ones) that getting out of bed is agony unless I get a pain pill and wait for it to kick in. If I’m well-rested, medicated, have a cane or walking stick, and am properly clothed, however, I can go on a nature hike every so often.

  68. I don’t have anything really useful to add – I just think you’re incredibly brave, and I wish you well in the surgery and after. I’m glad that you trust yourself enough to make such big decisions, and I trust that you’re smart enough and informed enough to know what will work for you.

  69. Heidi, I just need to tag along to all these other (much more articulate than I) commenters and say that I feel honored and moved that you shared this. Thank you. You’re a courageous and talented writer. You’re a courageous woman. I wish you all the best with your surgery.

  70. Heidi, your courage and honesty are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for your post. My thoughts and prayers are with you and also with your mother. I hope the surgery and your recovery go well. Whatever happens, I believe you will deal with it with grace.

  71. My heart goes out to you, Heidi, and I wish you all the best with surgery, post-op recovery, and general awesomeness and bad-assitude. I’m really glad you shared this story with us.

  72. “it is way too common for a doctor to make losing weight the priority, without checking to see if the patient has thyroid problems, PCOS, Celiac disease, or other problems that are causing weight gain.”

    I totally agree. But surely we all need and deserve that regardless of our weight, no?

    I’m assuming Heidi has looked at all her options and health issues with the same honesty and deliberation that she uses to write!

  73. Heidi, thank you so much for writing this and for making it part of Shapely Prose. I’m struck by your courage both in advocating for yourself and for taking on the intimate, difficult task of showing what it’s like to live in your body.

    Along with everyone, I’m wishing you the absolute best for your surgery and beyond. My thoughts are with you and your mom.

  74. Heidi,

    You are so brave. I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said, but I didn’t feel right reading your powerful and moving story and then moving on without thanking you for it.

    Thank you,
    dahlia and balu

  75. Heidi, I hope your surgery goes well and you have the best possible outcome for you.

    The thing I hate the most about the WLS industry is that it’s pushed as a This Will Solve All Your Problems! happy fun surgery easy as pie, and that a lot of the surgeons seem like they’d be really excited to have it compulsory for everyone over 200lbs – when it’s still quite experimental, there are no guaranteed outcomes, should be an absolute last resort and thus pretty damned rare. There shouldn’t even be a bariatric surgery industry.

    Seems like Heidi’s asked herself the hard questions as posted by other commenters and is one of those rare birds that’s genuinely in need of this treatment. So good luck, Heidi!

  76. I’d like to add my voice to all those raised in admiration and gratitude: Thanks, Heidi. This was an incredibly moving and informative post, and I wish you the best of luck. I hope that we’ll hear how you’re doing as you work up to and recover from surgery, and how things work out after that, too.

  77. Dearest Heidi,

    I’ve commented on your LiveJournal at length about how your plan to have WLS is absolutely no one else’s business but your own. However, I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much I admire your courage to be open about such personal domain as your own body, or how much I admire your willingness to share your lifestyle and your reasons for WLS for the (certain!) good of us all. You’ll never have any idea how much I respect you for writing through the tears, for railing against every instinct that’s begging you to keep all the secrets and shame to yourself. I’ve never been able to push through my shame enough to share my life as openly as you have. Although I suspect that this has afforded me, personally, an extra strength of sorts – or militance, perhaps? – which enables me to espouse my political beliefs re personal boundaries, and the stridency I (unfortunately?) need to get naysayers (of whom I’ve encountered none, incidentally) off my back, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever written with such vulnerability or poignancy before as you write routinely. You’re a lesson to me, you are! You’re a great example of what good can come from opening your soul, of baring your secrets, and of risking disrespect from others. Is it merely ironic that people respect you all the more? I don’t think so. I think it’s well-earned, and I think you are a star. Finally, if this article is not copyrighted to this website, I sincerely recommend you approach mainstream publications and publishing houses. You have the literary chops already, you have the heart, and you have the bravery to give them the honesty and dignity they would require from such an article or – dare I say it – book. Alternatively, if you found an agent, I think you’d get a book deal imminently. You probably don’t want the pressure right now. I understand that wholeheartedly. I just wish I could do it, I guess, and the easier option is to recommend you do! (Cheeky!) What a boon to a mainstream audience your writing would be though. I think the general public is often underestimated, but then, there are also a lot of assholes out there who don’t hesitate to flame about things they don’t even understand, so what am I even saying? Still, I’ll leave it in so you know how important and worthy I, for one, find your essay/article.

    And, for what it’s worth, I absolutely believe you when you say you fear risking death if you don’t find a way to drop the initial amount of weight your constitution needs. I believe you that your skin might lesion because it can no longer resist breaking down against the strain. I agree (not that it’s even my place to do so) that the post-op risks are risks sadly worth taking. Your quality of life has suffered well beyond what anybody of 28 should be able to expect. Oh, I can’t wait till I get to hear that you’ve had your first night’s restful sleep lying down again! Cannot wait.

    Apologies for such a long comment. I wish I could send this mail by snail, in fact, but we’ve never swapped addresses. Never mind.

    Take good care of yourself pre-op too, won’t you? I know you will post-op. :)

    Much love from Philippa
    (Sydney, Australia)

  78. Dear Heidi,

    Thank you for voicing what I am too frightened, too ashamed, to say even in the privacy of my own head half the time. Over the past couple of years it has become increasingly harder to clean myself after using the toilet, and I’m terrified – flat on the ground heart pounding even writing this TERRIFIED – of the day when I can’t reach at all. As it is I’m convinced my carpal tunnel issues began with the strain I’m putting on my arm and wrist to reach and wipe where they really don’t comfortably reach. And that scares me to death.

    Thank you for being brave for yourself and for all of us who are at home not brave enough yet to speak out as fat, fat-positive people who are scared to death of the consequences of our own fat and unhealthy bodies.

    With love and support,
    A grateful reader.

  79. Anonymous and anyone else in the same situation, Living XL sells all sorts of useful products for fat people, including devices that can help you reach to clean yourself.

    I’m a little bitter that the front page is a big promotion for scales right now (*headdesk*), but they’ve got some great stuff.

  80. I say this with love and lots of hugs…it takes a very brave person to be this honest with themselves, let alone with the world…It’s one thing to have these feelings inside of you but it is on a “hero” level to write them down and share them with others…you have no idea how many souls you have touched with your story…I know you have touched mine!

    Many Blessings to you,


  81. Heidi, I so deeply hope the surgery goes beautifully and you get the results you want. Please keep us posted. And thank you for your inspiring honesty.

  82. I followed a link from someone’s LJ to this page, and wasn’t really even sure why I was reading it. However once I started I couldn’t stop, and by the end I was struggling not to cry.

    I can only add what everyone else has already said. I’m sure it was very difficult for you to write all this.

    Good Luck and all the best in the future.

  83. I think the comment I left earlier ended up in the last of Lost Left Socks or something…


    Your story made me cry and the sniffles last until well after I was done reading.

    My heart hurts for you and all you’ve been through. Good luck with the surgery!

    I wish I could give you a hug.

  84. Heidi, I wish you all the very best for your surgery and an excellent recovery; I wish you all that you wish for yourself and more. You have made a courageous and difficult decision and deserve nothing but respect and support. For what it’s worth you’ve certainly got mine.

  85. Sweetie, you’re not an asshole- you’re doing what’s best for you, working with your doctors, and taking this as a last resort so that you’re not in pain anymore. That doesn’t make you an asshole- that makes you a very wise, admirable woman.

    You’re in my thoughts, and I’m wishing you a safe procedure and a quick recovery.

  86. The older I get, the more I admire people who stick their neck out. You, my friend, have stuck your neck out with this post. I will pray for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery.

  87. Heidi:

    Congratulations on having the courage to make the best decision for you. I am on my own weight loss walk and needed a paradigm shift; a way to see my fat and my struggle with becoming healthy as more than a chore or just something to do in order for me to be happy. You know the old saying, “I’ll be happy when…” Well I have been letting that guide me, until today.

    It has been a privilege to read your post and I thank you for saving my life. Although I will not have WLS, I will take your words and the steps necessary to do what I know I must do to lose the fat that’s killing me and get healthy.

    Be well, CF

  88. Alternatively, if you found an agent, I think you’d get a book deal imminently.

    Yeah, I’d been thinking something similar. Worth thinking about, Heidi. Though there’s some question of whether they would let you get away without a “getting thin totally changed my life!!eleven!!” angle. And of course “I never wanted to be thin, but here’s how I made the difficult decision to do something for my health that I do not support personally or politically” isn’t quite as much of a hook. I really think that the right publisher would snap you up, though.

  89. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I’m new to the whole FA thing, partially bc I’ve been mostly comfortable with my own weight for awhile, and partially bc I’m just not an activist personality. Most folks seem to talk about “Health at Every Size”. The important part of that expression is health – your health comes first. For me, that means a lifelong change of diet (in the sense of what I eat), so that I can back off from the edge of pre-diabetes and lower my choloesterol. The side effect is that I’m losing weight. Regardless of what others may or may not say, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe others can be healthy at my current weight – it means *I* am not, and as I make health changes, my body is self-adjusting. As you have said, you are not healthy at your weight either. It is affecting your health, and worse, your quality of life. If WLS is the best option for you, it’s the best option for YOU. And at the end of the day, YOU are the one who is most important. Take care of yourself. You’re worth putting first, you’re worth taking care of. I wish you good luck in your journey.

  90. Heidi,

    I can’t think of anything else to add that everyone else here hasn’t already said, except that I really admire you for what must have been so hard to write, and for making this decision despite your own disdain of WLS. It must be very hard, but I hope you know by now that you’ve got a lot of support behind you.

    I wish you the very best!

  91. Heidi, thank you for sharing. *hugs* You are so amazingly honest and I feel for you so much. WLS is hard to go through and you’ve been through so much. I hope it works out for you and I really wish you the best.

  92. I can’t begin to understand what you must be going through, but I wish you the best in getting the surgery. As a bunch of other people said, you are so brave.

    And you are definitely not disgusting or weak or anything else like that. I hope to be as brave as you’ve been if I ever were to face a decision like this.

    Anyhow, best of luck with the surgery! I hope that it helps you, and that you will be able to enjoy life without pain and immobility.

  93. Heidi, shame is hard to fight, especially when you are size accepting and feel ashamed of being ashamed. I’ve been going through similar but not so serious health issues, and I understand completely HATING to have people see you as a stereotype. I blogged about it at my site. The url is:


    Check out “Haunted And Ashamed” and “Formerly Hidden Symptoms.” Those were possibly the hardest posts I’ve ever written, and your blows them away in both content and style. You are not alone in your shame. (( ((Heidi)))) But sunlight is the best thing for festering secrets, and you are incredibly courageous for writing what you did!

    You are in my prayers,and I wish you the best of luck with your surgery and recovery. I’m adding another plea foryou to keep us updated.

  94. Wow, Heidi. This certainly has me thinking about how glib we (I) must sometimes sound when talking about how possible it is to be happy and healthy at any size, yadda yadda, how most health problems can be solved without intentional weight loss, etc etc…and for that, I am extremely sorry. These happy ideas may be true for many, many people, but sometimes we lose sight of the fact that they might just not work for others.

    I can’t live in another person’s body, so I certainly can’t judge them for the decisions they make regarding that body. And Heidi, as against WLS as I am, I certainly wouldn’t judge you for having it. If anything, *your* situation is exactly what this type of surgery should be intended for, if it has to be performed at all. You have no reason to be ashamed.

    In fact, I think you are an extremely courageous example of a largely unexplored facet of size acceptance, one that needs to be examined and discussed much more thoroughly. I think we need to stop marginalizing members of our own group simply because we, in some way, believe in the stereotypes foisted on us by our oppressors.

    It isn’t that the stereotypes may be based on some coincidental grain of truth (as in, yes, some fat people may be unhealthy and/or not physically fit) that makes them so destructive, it’s that those stereotypes have been invested with the power to shame and marginalize. But you know what? A person whose body does not function perfectly has no reason to be ashamed. It’s not a matter of moral uprightness. It has nothing to do with one’s value as a human. As Kate says herself in her intro,

    “7. Human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Fat people are human beings.

    8. Even fat people who are unhealthy still deserve dignity and respect. Still human beings. See how that works?”

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Heidi. You’re obviously a hell of a human being.

  95. I have been thinking lately about how I want to change the world, and I worry that I never will. You make me believe again that a single individual can do that. You have shared your raw existence and it has changed, I imagine, everyone who has read it. It has touched me more deeply than I can say, and I will never forget your bravery and honesty and monumental strength. And then to share this with your close friends and take it one step further…I don’t know what to say, but I can only hope they well up in support the way the rest of us have.

    I will be sending you *good vibes* all the way. I hope the very best for you.

  96. Raising my hand as someone who doesn’t have half the courage you do, though I still consider myself very much on the side of fat acceptance, even though I personally had WLS 19 months ago. It kind of bothers me that I’ve felt the need to be relatively anonymous about it, I tend to go by my middle name at support group meetings, and can’t even use my usual online handle, much less my real name or actual nickname, on the off chance that someone I knew back in the day might decide to google me to see what I’m up to, and I wouldn’t want them to stumble upon that and have all sorts of negative preconceptions about me. I didn’t tell people at work exactly WHAT kind of surgery I was taking off work for, though I described it as having a big chunk of my stomach removed (I had the duodenal switch, which actually involves the removal of part of the stomach, unlike most of the more common types, as I can’t chew the way that people who have the gastric bypass or lap band need to, and my problem was rarely overeating), I’d make it sound like it was due to my history of GERD and ulcers. Some people (namely, those who had family members who’d had WLS) figured it out, no idea if the rest did or not, it was not the typical nosy workplace. Nine months later, I lost my job, by which point I’d lost enough weight to have thin priviledge, so when I moved to a new city, I didn’t tell anyone. My fiance accidentally mentioned it to one of his coworkers when they were editing a video piece about WLS, though. I didn’t really care, it’s something that I had to do, I don’t feel bad about my decision in any way, but I feel no need to invite extra judgement into my life. And there is sooooooo much judgement to be found on the subject, both the traditional anti-fat stuff (what kind of horrible person lets themself get to the place where they need WLS?) and the anti-WLS stuff (how dare you take the “easy way out,” which seriously, reminds me of people who think of pregnancy as a punishment for sex, if you don’t suffer enough for them…..)

    Enough on my own story, I just wanted to thank you, like everyone else, for speaking so honestly about your situation. I was “only” 360-odd at 5′ 9.5″, my mobility wasn’t ever that restricted (other than sometimes (it’d flare up sometimes) crippling arthritis, which irony of ironies, developed on the low end of my last yo-yo, guess it was the redistribution or something, though of course new doctors I consulted about it would try to tell me to lose weight to improve it, though it was the weight loss that had started it, and since it was due to a genetic bone defect, I’d known it would happen at some point since I was a teen, but again, I digress), I’d even mall walk a couple times a week with some post-ops from my support group, and was even the only pre-op in a 5K the group did. I had a bunch of other issues (sleep apnea, DVTs with a pulmonary embolism, etc.) but nothing that I really COULDN’T do b/c of my weight. Lots of things I WOULDN’T do, of course, but we’ve (almost) all been there.

    As someone so wise and experienced in this matter (I say with tongue firmly in cheek, since I’ve done it all of once, and my experience was easier than most, and with a more rare surgery type), my only piece of advice is to make sure that you go to lots of support group meetings. And there’s a LOT of them. Shop around for a couple, they’re all free, and most of them have online message boards, so you can get a feel for what they’re like w/o having to actually get out and go to them to find out if you don’t like the people or their attitude towards it. Some of them have some of the “want to look hawt for their wedding” types, but most don’t (that type generally doesn’t clue in that yes, it’s life-altering and you WILL have issues that you need help with), and most of them ARE focused on the health issues. They can be pretty rah-rah on WLS, for obvious reasons, but there’s so many weird things that you will experience, esp. in the early days, that you really need to hear the experiences of others who’ve gone through it. Also, they’re good sources of information on the ways that people manage to “eat around” their surgeries, so you can look out for behaviors to avoid, as well.

    In so many posts here lately, people talk about how difficult it is to actually LISTEN to our bodies. Well, after WLS, in some ways your body will begin speaking a weird sort of creole – some people get totally new signals of hunger or satiety, such as hiccups. If you know ahead of time what to look out for, you’ll save yourself a lot of bad experiences. The main one, though, is to not push yourself too hard, esp. in the early weeks (a single bite can make a world of difference b/t being satisfied and being miserable). I didn’t have any problems with tolerating any foods (though I developed mild lactose intolerance about a year out, which is very odd, as it’s supposed to develop in nearly everyone immediately post-op with the DS), but most people have at least ONE food that they just can’t handle, for whatever reason.

    But, definitely go to support group meetings, and listen to people who’ve done it, and they can be a good source of information for things where you’re not sure if you should call your surgeon or not. There’s a lot of things that are pretty universal among post-ops, like that your tastes will change, so things you like pre-op may taste totally unappetizing to you post-op. I didn’t have that, to any noticable extent at least, but one of the most common things said at meetings is that “everyone’s different” – I realize that this sounds contradictory, but there’s a group of experiences that are similar or common, it’s just the exact combination that ends up being different from person to person.

    Oh, and the group I used to go to in Atlanta always gave gift bags to pre-ops at their last meeting before their surgeries which always included wooden spoons, as most everyone is unable to deal with personal hygiene issues immediately post-op, though I’m sure there’s many people who need them pre-op as well. Just wrap toilet paper or wipes around the spoon end. Just might be something you already have around the house that you no longer need.

    And to echo everyone on here, best of luck to you. And don’t feel that you have to say that you hate something that you feel you need – you (and most everyone with any sort of real empathy for others, including myself, who don’t think that the mere existence of fat means you need to chop yourself up) may think that there’s a lot of people who get WLS without thinking it through, or on a lark, or whatever, but the same could be said of any major life-changing experience. Hell, people have KIDS for vanity reasons, and everyone knows (or should I put scare quotes around that phrase?) that they’re tons of work and supremely expensive and will drive you crazy. If you feel this is right for you, then the existence of a few idiots who happen to have the same procedure shouldn’t make you have to hate something that you honestly felt was vital to your health. Now, the hating on the vanity types and those who think that it’s a magic cure where they don’t have to do any work afterwards (are there really people who have major surgery, that you have to go through tons of hoops to get, without googling what they’re having done? What planet are they from?) is one thing, but their mere existence is no reflection on you, or me, or anyone else.

    I’ll shut up now, I just had a lot to say, as I didn’t discover the fatosphere until AFTER I’d had my surgery, and there’s (obviously) a lot of hating on “stomach amputations” on these blogs. I still love them (and never get the feeling that anyone here, other than a troll or two, is saying that I’m a bad person for having had it, so no worries to anyone who’s used that particular phrase, it’s accurate, though actually only for my surgery, and a couple others that are relatively rare, not the standard types of WLS), but haven’t ever felt like I could mention that I’d done it on them, or any other public forum where I use my usual names.

    I hope it goes well, and I hope you remember to take care of your mental health in the rest of your time pre-op, and for a good time afterwards. A lot of people completely forget to look after their mental health. Fear and anxiety are normal (I couldn’t hear “Girlfriend in a Coma” without sobbing in the months prior to mine, as I just KNEW I’d end up in one, to leave all my loved ones sitting around feeling helpless.) Some of your relationships with people WILL change, which bothers a lot of people, being treated differently when they feel they’re still the same person and all that.

    Good luck!

  97. Oh, and support groups are also great sources of clothes when you’re in the rapid weight loss months. Trust me, there will be people who have clothes in all sorts of sizes and styles, and it’s not like anyone can really afford to buy a whole new wardrobe every couple weeks, you know? You can get great hand-me-ups that have barely been worn for free from other members in many support groups. Just a thought!

  98. Oh Heidi,

    I’m so glad you made the choice to live. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ll be thinking of you now forever and sending you silent cheers of love and support. Your story has touched me in ways I can’t even express.

    Thank you.

  99. Heidi, I just have the same things to say as everyone else. You’re an astonishing, honest, and fascinating person. I feel like you’ve flown me to a mountain top and shown me a whole new world.

    You, and everybody else here is absolutely right about what’s wrong with WLS. It’s not goddamn cosmetic surgery. But it is a medical procedure, and when it’s medically necessary, go for it. Your type of situation is exactly what it was invented for.

    As for fault, there’s more and more information coming out about whose fault it is: genetics. There’s every indication that appetite set point is largely genetically controlled. Very recently, they’ve found that fat deposition is genetically controlled too. In other words, in some people, food turns to fat very quickly, and then they have to eat more just to keep breathing. The food could go to fat so quickly, that there’s not enough around for ordinary body functions.

    Somebody whose genetics pushes them right to the edge should definitely use medicine to mend matters! Not using medicine in that case would be like not taking insulin for juvenile diabetes.

    You have absolutely nothing to feel bad about. Not your weight, and not the surgery.

    And it sure looks like you have heaps to feel good about. You’re brave beyond words. And you have writing skillz I’d kill for.

  100. You’ve done a great service to a lot of us by sharing your struggles. Thank you. I never share with people some of the hardest parts of being my size (like wiping) and I just want you to know that it felt so comforting to know that I’m not alone. Good luck with your surgery.

  101. I would like to echo the good wishes for Heidi and hope that she gets only positives from this.

    I would also like to say that I remain against WLS and no amount of emotional blackmail, name calling and pretence that being against it is somehow equal to not recognising continued weight gain can itself cause health problems, is going to change that.

    There are so many good reasons to be against it, and virtually none in it’s favour, any that seem to are only an indictment of the way fatness has been handled by the medical establishment and society in general.

    By what sort of twisted logic can being against it make you wrong?

    Exploring and getting over the mental block FA seems to have with those of a more substantial weight, I am all in favour of. But if this requires me to pretend that WLS is OK by me that I simply will not do. I don’t and will not apologise for this in anyway, anymore than I would expect those that have had WLs to feel bad either.

    As Kate mentioned, if Heidi weighed some pounds more than she did, she would be denied the op. by the very same surgical healers, she could just go swing.

    So let’s try to remember who has helped most to dig this hole for the v.fat to fall into.

  102. This is another one of those ethically-motivated posts, i.e. can’t get it out of my head.

    I’ve seen nowhere on Heidi’s blog any mention of having read any of the fat acceptance canon, i.e. The Dieters Dilemma, The Obesity Myth, Rethinking Thin, Big Fat Lies, etc. She’s nowhere said the word “setpoint.” She apparently believes “emotional” eating or compulsive overeating can make someone fat, and may even believe her weighing over 500 pounds is the result of a food addiction.

    No one anywhere has ever shown that fat people eat more than thinner people. I do not believe, no matter how out of control she may feel, that Heidi’s been eating well over 10,000 calories a day, every day, all over her life — that’s what it would take if the “food addiction” theory to be of any value.

    I do not believe having WLS is going to result in her losing 40% of her current body weight, i.e. getting her into the 300 lb. range.

    Her statement that WLS fails its victims is because they are “eating emotionally” or “not exercising” is valid. She offers no support for this statement other than having read it online in blogs. This sort of anecdotal, wishful thinking is not enough of an endorsement to warrant risking ones life in a grotesquely mysterious, experimental, drastic procedure.

    WLS fails because its victims, like ALL people who lose weight below their setpoint, are overwhelming compelled to find ways to restore their normal weight, i.e. “eat around” the surgery.

    WLS’ failure has nothing to do with exercise. Exercise has almost no impact on body weight, i.e. no more than about a five pound weight loss (proven by U.S. Davis, Leeds University, the Cooper Institute, corroberated by the CDC.) NOONE has ever proven any connection between exercise and weight loss beyong 5 pounds. That Heidi believes “not exercise” can cause WLS victims to “fail” tells me, along with all of the above, that her research has been solely to listen to people who believe in “food addiction” mythologies, and who are overwhelming in favor of WLS.

    Heidi, you’re lying to yourself. You’re making an incredible mistake.

    Most importantly, you have not made your case. Where is your HARD EVIDENCE that WLS will not kill you? WIll not leave you at almost exactly the weight you are now (i.e. no lower than maybe 450? Or, if you live, at 550 or 600 in about four years.) Will not result in multiple organ failure, and further disability?

    Blogs don’t count. The knee-jerk platitiudes from “counselors” who have no idea who Ancel Keys is don’t count. (And, my dear, if YOU have no idea who Ancel Keys is, you are not yet intellectually qualified to make this decision — you’re throwing dice in response to your emotions.)

    As the saying goes in the fat acceptance movement, Show Me the Data. You have not yet done so.

  103. Sorry — Typing too fast.

    Fifth paragraph should read “is NOT valid”. WLS fails because it is a bad, useless, therapy. Not because of mythological beliefs about exercise or “addictions.”

  104. Heidi — I appreciate that you put this out there, and I’m terribly ashamed of all the people launching their own personal diatribes against you. There are people out there (like me) that understand that this is a very painful, heartwrenching decision that you wouldn’t be making if you felt you didn’t have to. I know people who have had WLS and have kept the weight off, changed their eating habits and feel great about themselves. That’s what I think most people aren’t getting. It’s not so much your weight/fat that you hate, you hate the limitations it puts on living. IMHO, that’s a healthy opinion — because that could be the same motivation for people getting LASIK surgery, or getting a hip replaced, and the people getting those surgeries aren’t derided as having useless operations. The bottom line is this — you’re taking a risk to regain your life. We should be supportive of you before, during and after the surgery because it really does take a whole support system to change someone’s life.

  105. Heidi,

    Your post moved me to tears. Sometimes, during my years in the FA movement, I’ve felt resentful or angry about the body privilege that many others in the movement seemed to have. How could they, I wondered, have any real idea of what fat meant of what it felt like to move through the world with that kind of judgement directed at you. My disordered eating – huge binges that left me feeling sick – seemed even more embarassing among groups of people who constantly insisted that fat people didn’t eat more. For a long while I blamed myself, then I realized that the movement needed to expand, that if it couldn’t deal with a fat woman who *did* eat much more than she needed, who was abusing her body with food, then it would always be incomplete. I do think, especially with the focus on HAES and the increase in the internet FA community that things have gotten better on that front.

    Now your post and a few others in the whole diet saga of last week have me convinced that we absolutely need a way to really include people like you. Right now what do we have for you? Many people in the movement may hate WLS, but honestly I haven’t seen any of them offer anything other than platitudes or shame (this time shame for ‘giving in’ rather than being fat) that has the ability to improve your life like this might. I hate WLS surgery, but as I was going out for a run last night, I realized that as someone who has that ability to move freely throught the world, how the hell can I pretend to know what I would do or what is best for someone in a body that can’t do the same.

    And as someone who has read the FA canon and also makes it a point to read the ‘other side’s’ papers and books, I think the truth about fat is complex and still not close to fully understood and in the here and now we have to do the best we can for ourselves.

    I hope the surgery goes well for you.

    And as an aside, my uncle had WLS back in 1999, it didn’t turn him into a thin person, but it did give him back his mobility and so far he’s still healthy and kicking.

  106. Robby, I don’t believe anyone here has been unsupportive of Heidi. We all wish her the very best. And I’m not sure what you’re talking about with regard to “most people,” since the overwhelming majority of people here are saying pretty much what you’re saying.

    For the record, I left Kell’s last comment up, even though it made me cringe a bit, because she has done a LOT of research about WLS, and she has good reasons to feel it’s important to say all these things. I don’t like that it’s directed so personally at Heidi — who I know has done a lot of the reading Kell suggests, if nothing else — but I understand where Kell is coming from. She is coming from the position that saying these things now might literally save Heidi’s life.

    Heidi has also done a LOT of research, and has decided this is the best decision for herself, made in terribly painful circumstances, with very few options. I respect her decision.

    But Heidi’s not the only reader of this thread, and I think Kell’s voice is important here, because this is what a decision about WLS should look like — a lot of hard, hard questions in response to extreme health problems. Kell is not attacking or criticizing Heidi. She’s expressing a well-founded concern that, even for someone like Heidi, WLS might cause more problems than it solves.

    All of us — and I am quite sure this includes Kell — respect Heidi’s right to make this decision for herself and wish her nothing but health, happiness and love. But Kell is frightened for her, and she’s not necessarily wrong to be. I fully believe Heidi knows that — she’s just decided the risks are worth it.

    I want this surgery to go well for Heidi. I want her to lose enough weight to be physically active, and keep it off. I want her to get her life back. I want those things for her SO MUCH, I can hardly see straight. I really, really hope the potential problems Kell’s bringing up will never affect her. I want to keep a totally positive attitude and send nothing but good energy Heidi’s way. I want to offer her all the support in the world.

    But for anyone else who’s looking into WLS, Kell’s concerns are hugely important considerations.

    And btw, if anyone responds to this with arguments for why WLS is not as bad as all that, I’m going to delete it. There are 85 gajillion websites that will tell you how awesome WLS is. This one, including Heidi’s post, is about showing the other side.

  107. Just to be clear, I don’t want to make Kell out to be some kind of…villian or something or sound like I’m chastising people who aren’t 100% rah rah about
    Heidi’s surgery.

    My observation is less about individuals and more about the movement. Now I know that any movement can’t be everything to everyone which is why I agree about having an anti-dieting stance in FA blogs and spaces. But sometimes I think that we’ve been guilty of ignoring people’s reality or only offering the same advice to everyone regardless of whether or not it could have any real effect of their quality of life. And that this is done in the name of ‘averages’ or ‘most people’ or what not, but it can feel like silencing and shaming when you’re on the other side of it. And I think this leads to people leaving the movement. I know that while I was struggling with my food issues that I often felt that no matter where I turned I was simply going to be disbelieved and shamed. Society refused to believe that I *didn’t* eat 4k calories a day and many in the FA acceptance insisted that I didn’t eat more than I needed and that I was buying into what a fat-hating society was telling me – either way I wasn’t trusted to know what I was doing and that feels awful.

    I do think that Kell’s questions are important, but I also get the feeling that she’s not really looking for an answer. That, her belief, and the belief of many in the FA movement is that nobody could read the same literature, look at the same studies and *not* come to the exact same conclusions and I think that is dangerous thinking. Especially since there is so much information, so many studies (both good and bad) and so many statistics out there, even beyond what Campos, Gaesser, Wann etc… write about.

    Gah, I really don’t mean to sound like a diet/surgery apologist here. I don’t think diets work and I think WLS is dangerous, over done, and often doesn’t work – especially if your goal is trying to turn a fat person into a thin person – but I also think that the FA movement doesn’t address the real life needs of some of our members and that we rely on the same research over and over again and that, in some cases, ignore results that don’t agree with our ideas. I think we have a tendency to fall into a ‘one size fits all’ trap with FA when we should know from looking at diet/thin-obsessed society that this simply doesn’t work.

  108. Heidi, you know what’s best for your body, and you are making an informed decision. I hadn’t responded earlier to your post, because i didn’t even know what to say; you moved me to tears, and i think you are incredibly courageous and beautiful. You’ve been on my mind for days.
    I think Attrice’s post is an important one. Especially because to me it acts as a foil to what Kel is saying. Not all fat people are fat because that’s their natural set point. YES, a lof of them are, but there are also some of us who are fat because we do binge eat, or, as attrice put it so well, ‘abuse our bodies with food’. The FA movement’s party line seems to be that one is fat because of genetics (at least it seems so TO ME) and never due to personal responsibility. For those of who do have a bit of personal responsibility tied up in our size, it is a shaming factor. I’m so glad you brought this up, Attrice. I’m not sure I agree that the FA community has become accepting of that school of thought, however.

  109. Madge, there may be less “personal responsibility” involved in compulsive eating than we currently believe. That’s what Quixote (who knows from medicine) is talking about, too — studies showing that people have genetic controls for both hunger and fat storage that might turn some people into compulsive eaters, and make some people so fat it ruins their quality of life. For them, it actually is natural. Doesn’t make it any easier to live with, which is the problem.

    This thinking might be too new to help Heidi with her urgent problems, but it’s important stuff to consider. I’ve certainly never said that fat is NEVER due to personal responsibility — though I suspect it’s very rarely totally, or even mostly, due to that — but as Kell said, compulsive and binge eaters may eat a lot more than a “normal” fat person, and they may be much fatter than many, but it’s highly unlikely that someone like Heidi is eating enough calories to make her weigh 530 lbs. according to the calories in/calories out theory. And that fucking theory is still pushed upon us as the end-all and be-all. The new gene studies are promising, but until the medical community gets it through its thick collective skull that fat does not simply equal “too much food, too little movement,” REAL help for the very fat and for compulsive/binge eaters is a hell of a long way off.

    I don’t want you or any compulsive eater to feel shame for your eating. (One of the people I love most in the world is a compulsive eater.) I want you to be healthy. And I don’t know that the theories of food addiction and emotional eating — which place the responsibility all on your choices, ultimately — are really that useful. It might not be a psychologically- based eating disorder at all. Your body might really, truly be a LOT hungrier than mine; the studies Quixote’s talking about point in that direction. If that’s the case, then there should be no shame, no feeling that the way you eat is unnatural for you — but the question then becomes, what do you do, since it’s still impinging on your health and quality of life? Ditto anyone whose body stores fat to an abnormal extent. What is a REAL solution to the problem of looming (or existing) disability for a person who’s genetically predisposed to store more and more and more fat?

    We don’t know that yet. We don’t have any real answers yet, because all anyone’s tried to do is get compulsive eaters to just quit eating so much. That breaks my fucking heart. The last thing I want to do is shame you or Heidi or anyone. But I also haven’t seen much genuine, useful help coming from the school of thought that compulsive/binge eating is a totally psychological problem, and the solution is to fix your emotions and eat less. I’m highly skeptical of it at this point.

    If that school of thought helps you, than please, ignore me, ignore Kell, do whatever works for you. But the reason I fight so hard to get the emphasis off of personal responsibility is that A) I think that CAUSES shame, and B) I think it’s barking up the wrong tree.

  110. Madge, I’m not sure who you’re talking about. I’ve never heard anyone say no fat person could possibly have a binge-eating disorder or that it didn’t matter if they did. I think all anyone has said is that 1) binge eating is actually quite rare among fat people, much rarer than the average person has been led to believe, 2) many fat people (especially women) have been led to believe they were binge eaters simply because they were fat when in fact their intake was perfectly normal; 3) even if a fat person does binge eat, binge eating alone isn’t what made them fat, the biological setup has to be there (due to genetics, dieting, medications, whatever) in order for the person to gain a lot of weight. Believe me, I’ve met skinny binge-eaters too, people you’d never in a million years suspect had a problem, and some who were even vegan.

  111. Okay, I have to get the hell out of here, but I just had one more thought…

    Madge, your comment made me understand a little more why Kell argues for separating people with eating disorders (including compusive and binge eaters, so long as we don’t have a better category for you) from the “normal-fat” acceptance movement. (STAY WITH ME. :) )

    I don’t like that idea because wanting acceptance for ALL fat people, and less shame about food for ALL people, period, is the main reason I do this shit. But what I see in your comment is potential for the same slippery slope that gives diet talk the power to sabotage fat acceptance. Basically, if you’re saying, “Some of us need to take more responsibility and learn to eat less,” you’re opening the door for people who don’t have disorders to ask themselves if they fit in that category. And because we’ve all grown up in a fat hating culture, hearing that we all must be eating too much to be this fat, it’s VERY easy to go through that door, whether you have an eating disorder or not.

    Which means you then have a bunch of ostensible fat acceptance activists, who eat normally and are healthy, distracted by wondering if they do eat too much, if they are out of control, if they could be thinner … i.e., asking all the questions society wants us to ask of ourselves (with a heaping dose of shame), instead of asking why society still has such a fucking problem with fat people, regardless of how much any of us eat.

    [ran out of space; more comment to follow]

  112. [cont.]

    I definitely don’t want to exclude compulsive and binge eaters from the movement. But I also don’t want to spend much time talking about personal responsibility among fat people when I could be talking about society’s responsibility to treat everyone fairly. Personal responsibility is something to be worked out…. personally.

    And while I absolutely want to make space for people who struggle with eating behaviors I don’t share (not to any great extent, anyway), I think the fact that most fat people do not overeat, relative to most thin people still needs to be a message at the forefront of the movement, because there is this HUGE myth working against us all. People don’t think they have any reason to accept fat people, because they think we choose to be fat. And they think we all have a personal responsibility to get thin.

    Of course, there would be NO REASON ON EARTH to discriminate against someone who did choose to be fat, were such a person to exist. But if that logic worked, we wouldn’t need a movement. Getting the message out that as a group, we did not do this to ourselves — even if a few of us are in more of a grey area there than others — is the first step toward changing minds. Meanwhile, we should be actively advocating for the civil rights of all fat people, of any size, with any eating and exercise habits. But even a slight focus on “personal responsibility” distracts from the message, which is that it is NOT our responsibility to be thin for you; it is NOT our responsibility to meet your definition of “health”; and it is DEFINITELY not our responsibility to feel ashamed about the way our bodies are made.

  113. Kate, I think that dynamic is also made worse by the fact that there are a lot of myths/misunderstandings out there about what eating disorders are and how they’re caused; even anorexia, which is so well known, has tons of misunderstandings about it (e.g., girls just want to be skinny, they could just start eating any time, etc). I’ve said it before in comments, and I’ll say it again: mental health is a part of health. But there’s a HUGE stigma against mental/psychological disorders of any kind, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the general public hears”compulsive eating” and thinks “sad girl eats a pint of haagen dazs after a breakup.” Sometimes, trying to be precise with your terms in front of the general public doesn’t really help your cause, sad to say.

  114. Personally, I don’t think personal responsibility is a concept that should have anything to do with any eating disorders. Society’s fucked up standards, their insistence on ‘bad’ food and ‘good’ food categories, their obsession with the female body coupled with my personal history of being put on diets constantly as a kid, of having my food monitored, of having food hidden from me etc… was behind my disordered eating. The reasons were psychological and biological certainly, but I don’t see dealing with them as taking any sort of personal responsibility. What I did was heal the damage done to me by a society that told me I was disgusting while giving me ‘fixes’ that were doomed to fail and then convincing me that the failure of these ‘fixes’ was simply more proof of my weak and horrible nature.

    The reason I would be against separating those people with eating disorders from the rest of the FA movement is that I think a lot of women are on the disordered eating spectrum, even if they never get as far as having a full blown compulsive or binge eating disorder (so I don’t think you could even do a clean ‘break’) and I think the ‘cure’ is FA and HAES. I know that one of the biggest barriers to my healing was the feeling that hey, if I was one of those fat people who ate until they felt sick, then maybe I was one of the few who could be thin when I ate normally. And the FA movement and the reading I did finally helped me understand that letting go of that idea would be the best thing I could do for my health.

    And I agree that we should absolutely point out all the studies that show that fat people aren’t eating the damn world and I think we also need to point out that even in those studies that show fat people eating ‘a lot’ of calories that it is still almost never enough to maintain their current weight if a lot of medical authorities are to be believed.

    I don’t think any movement should or needs to focus on the extremes or the exceptions, but I do think it should acknowledge that they both exist and that in these cases, sometimes the movement doesn’t always have good answers or a lot to offer, if that makes sense.

    IOW, Heidi’s life has a chance of being improved with this surgery. That doesn’t mean we ignore all the possible problems or that we get behind this surgery for anyone over 200lbs, only that, if we are a movement of averages and ‘most people’ then we have to accept that we don’t really have any good answers for some of the people on the extreme ends of things.

  115. Kate, please delete that post, i’m too afraid it’s going to start a firestorm of hateposts against me. i was only trying to talk about my OWN personal responsibility with my OWN body, but i realize it probably comes across as me painting with the big brush. sorry to all who read it.

  116. Madge, I don’t think you “chose” to “be that way.” I just think you are “that way,” for whatever reason, at least for right now. That’s not to say that won’t ever change or that you shouldn’t get the help you need.

    And not to minimize the pain that an ED can cause because it sucks for everyone, no matter what they weigh, but I’d encourage you not to compound the problem with guilt and shame over it. Really, if “eating too much” is the worst thing you ever do, that’s not so bad, compared to being a hit man or a child molester or a vice president who plunders the U.S. Treasury without a hint of conscience. As long as you’re not stealing anyone else’s food, it’s really not a matter of morality, as far as I’m concerned.

  117. Thanks, Meowser.

    And Heidi? i didn’t mean to hijack your post to make this about me. How horribly self centered of me. My apologies.

  118. For those who believe they “made themselves fat”:

    Where is your proof? Not bunsen-burner 3,500/lbs. calorie voodoo. Where are the studies? Where is the evidence that more than a tiny percentage of people can change their bodies that much? How do you explain Ancel Keys results? Why were the thin guys unable to gain weight? Why has there never, anywhere, been shown a cause & effect relationship between intake and body weight?


    I’m sorry, Kate, but I see no evidence of Heidi’s having done adequate research. She’s not mentioned setpoint a single time. She believes and , I suspect, fantasizes about the surgery resulting in a 40% weight loss, when, even among survivors who do not experience death or further disability, this is still extremely rare. (Look at the 2-year and 4-year data, not the 6-month results.) She talks about “emotional eating” making her weigh 500 pounds, when that’s absolutely ridiculous. She made statements that show she still believes exercise has some magical way of inducing weight loss, when that’s been proved to be false over and over.

    I’ve seen nothing in her arguments or logic that shows she understands even the tiniest truth of what’s known — or not known — about fatness. If she’s read the books, why doesn’t she remember anything she’s read? Why are the only factors in her reasoning process the same old mythologies?

    And, I wonder if the answer to those last questions is that, in truth, having this surgery is Heidi’s way of commiting suicide. That’s why she’s ignoring hard evidence, and letting herself be convinced with lies, junk science and myth. If this is the case, then this post would be her call for help.

    OK, I’m trying to help. I’m saying don’t kill yourself. I don’t know what more we can do.

  119. Oh man. I’m really of two minds about this.

    I do share Kell’s concerns about WLS, needless to say. I’ve watched in horror as millions of fat people line up for this surgery hoping, hoping, hoping for a better life, hoping for an end to the oppression, the pain, the disrespect, hoping at least to get fair medical treatment for once in their frigging lives, and seeing person after person get a giant shit sandwich in return for all their money and trouble. I hate it.

    Although I try to go easy on the Nazi-speak, it’s hard for me not to see it as a modern-day Holocaust of sorts, only one where the “Jews” voluntarily turn themselves in for their innate badness and greed, no Kristallnacht necessary. I see the “WLS for all” writing on the wall, I see it in other countries where people over a certain BMI or with certain “comos” are more or less required to have the surgery if they want any future medical care, and it really, truly gives me the willies.

    I also think it’s far too simplistic to blame all WLS failures on people “overeating” (shit, who can blame them when they’ve been starving on 400 calories a day for years?) or not exercising (um, could medical complications from the surgery have to do with people slowing down physically, just maybe?). Every single person who has this surgery thinks, “I’ll do it right, I won’t be one of those people who gives up.” And so very, very many of them are so tragically wrong, it’s disgusting. I fecking HATE HATE HATE people who coerce or market this surgery to fat people willy-nilly, who see it as a cash cow. I hate them with the passion of a million exploding planets. I hate them.

    Now, that having been said, I also don’t have any idea what it’s like to be in the kind of daily five-alarm agony experienced by Heidi. Almost no one does. It’s all well and good to say that if you have terminal cancer you won’t just swallow the black capsule, you’ll wait it out until the bitter end so all the grandkids who live in Alaska can make it down to Florida to see you, but until you experience that kind of nonstop pain and suffering, how do you know? You don’t. You only think you know. Until that bear really is standing in front of you intending to eat you, all your ideas about holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” with it are mere speculation.

    If Heidi really wanted to “commit suicide” she’d just go ahead and do it. There are easier and cheaper ways to do that than paying $20,000 (at least) to have someone rearrange your digestive tract and waiting for something inside you to implode. Is it possible she’s whitewashing some of the potential complications? Yeah. Do I wish there was something else she could do instead? Yeah. Do I know what that is? No. If I was in that kind of pain, even a couple of hours under general anesthesia would probably sound like sweet relief. Hell, even the possibility of death might not bother me all that much. Or maybe it would. I’ll let you know, if I ever am in a situation where I manage to get a hungry bear to sing along with me.

  120. {{attrice}} I know exactly what you mean by this: “And I think this leads to people leaving the movement. I know that while I was struggling with my food issues that I often felt that no matter where I turned I was simply going to be disbelieved and shamed. Society refused to believe that I *didn’t* eat 4k calories a day and many in the FA acceptance insisted that I didn’t eat more than I needed and that I was buying into what a fat-hating society was telling me – either way I wasn’t trusted to know what I was doing and that feels awful.”

    I have similar doubts and concerns. It leads me to worry that I don’t know my own mind, and to feel terrible about myself (“Most fat people aren’t like me, what kind of horrible person am I for bingeing on M&M’s and then whining about people making rude comments at me, when other fat women are getting the same comments and eating 1,500 calories a day of only fresh whole foods and running marathons.”) I may not be the kind of person (and lucky for me, and I realize that) who can restrict and restrict and be unable to lose weight, but shouldn’t I be allowed to let go of the pressure to diet too, even though I’m going to end up eating a lot more chocolate and doughnuts and cheese enchiladas than the “well-adjusted” HAES practitioner? I can tell you that I tried to practice intuitive-type eating for quite a long time, and never got to that stage where I “really just wanted broccoli,” no matter how hard I listened to my body. It is really scary, like I’m “broken.” And at the same time, dieting (even a “reasonable, healthy” diet–I’ve never had the willpower to try extreme diets) makes me so miserable that I don’t think it’s fair I should have to do that either. It’s like there is no good option for me.

    And there are so many parallels to dieting in some ways… feeling in some circles that I need to provide evidence that I did IE “right” before I can get absolution for not doing it, smacks of thin people who don’t believe you when you say you already eat healthy, or are positive that you must be sneaking food that you’re not writing down and that’s why you’re fat. Some incarnations of IE seem as rigid and rule-oriented as dieting. Or if I say IE didn’t work for me, even though I am well-read on the subject (as in I ate like a bottomless pit, gained 75 pounds, and was more depressed than ever) and others say “Oh, it works for everyone, try it again but do it this way” or “Just keep trying”… isn’t that kind of similar to people who refuse to believe that diets don’t work? Isn’t it possible that IE just doesn’t work well for some people either, maybe for some of the physiological reasons that have been brought forward on this thread? In some ways I hate to type these things because I feel like a thorn in everyone’s side. But they’re the thoughts that come up from the deepest part of my heart and continue to nag at me, so here they are.

    I can understand how this kind of discussion is not germane to the political fat acceptance movement (where discussion of facts on average, and dispelling myths about fat people, are much more appropriate than people taking up their energy trying to address my own personal screwed up behavior) so I do try to keep it to myself. But it worries me on a personal level quite a bit–I don’t fit into mainstream society (though at my weight I am certainly much more “body privileged” than many) and my compulsive eating (or what I see as such) and lack of success with intuitive eating, mean that I don’t really fit into the fat community either.

    Two things I worry about (and I’m not talking about this blog in particular, and of course nobody is required to take my “advice” anyway) are: 1) That we don’t get into a competition with one another… I know we say on the one hand that people don’t owe it to others to be healthy, or to eat healthy, but it still seems like a lot of discussions on fat blogs end up going the way of “I eat a normal amount of healthy food and I’m still fat!” “Well, I eat 1,200 calories a day and haven’t had refined sugar since 1993 and I’m still fat!” Not that I don’t feel for all of you who have these experiences–the prospect of living in such an ascetic manner and still having people judge and stereotype you is frankly terrifying–but it’s like a race to the top where only people who are basically existing on a diet, whether they call it that or not, have “earned” the right to be fat or to be the face of fat people to the world. Where does that leave me? I’m not perfect and there is a lot of guilt there since it seems that I don’t eat as well as other fat people. I suspect that it’s actually true in my case that if I ate perfectly, I’d end up acceptably thin. But I can’t seem to stick to an eating plan so in a practical sense “diets don’t work” for me either, even though my life is much easier than the person’s who sticks to a diet religiously and still can’t lose.

    2) That we don’t end up whitewashing facts to keep the message consistent. Pretending fat compulsive eaters don’t exist seems like a step on a slippery slope to ignoring information that doesn’t suit the message. Meowser’s point is well-taken, though, that you still have to have the genetic capacity to get fat. Looking back on how my mom fed me when I was little (all healthy food all the time) I can’t imagine I really was eating any more than the other little kids. And still I was always “a little chubby” which of course is what leads many of us on the path of diet, lose some, regain more, lose some more, regain even more, until you weigh much more than you might have otherwise, and which probably led to my current disordered eating habits. So maybe for me the truth is, genetics made me chubby, but dieting/society made me fat. Anyway, I guess the most important point here still is not to lose sight of the goal, i.e. fighting for fat people’s rights not to be discriminated against, and a lot of the information that many people don’t know, about how fat people don’t eat more than thin people and such, is so important to get out there. It just seems like such a difficult tightrope to walk–sticking to this message without deliberately excluding information that may arise that doesn’t fit the message, thus discrediting the movement because people think you are obfuscating or refusing to admit the “facts.”

    This is largely just a personal vent… I just know that there might be other “confused” people like me out there, who may at least derive some measure of comfort from knowing they’re not alone. Also this isn’t my blog so I’ll leave the subject alone now, but I wanted to speak up because these are some of the themes in FA that make me personally uncomfortable. Mainly I just want to not have to feel guilty about everything I do that relates to food, whether that is in the context of dieting, or the context of feeling bad because I have it “better” than other fat people because at least my body will release weight if I force it to, so therefore I feel I have a responsibility to force it to regardless of how much mental torment it causes me. And that really is a personal issue, not an FA issue.

  121. spacedcowgirl, your comment is definitely thought-provoking, and I don’t have an answer to most of it right now. However, this jumped out at me:

    Mainly I just want to not have to feel guilty about everything I do that relates to food, whether that is in the context of dieting, or the context of feeling bad because I have it “better” than other fat people because at least my body will release weight if I force it to, so therefore I feel I have a responsibility to force it to regardless of how much mental torment it causes me. And that really is a personal issue, not an FA issue.

    Remember that mental health is a part of health. That’s one of the reasons dieting is so insidious; it harms your mental well-being by causing obsession with food and weight, even as it (usually) harms your body by fucking with your metabolism and nutrition. Anyway, I guess the point I’m making is that you don’t owe it to anyone to become a thin person even if you think it’s possible for you–and you are totally right that you shouldn’t have to trade your mental well-being for someone else’s idea of the right kind of eating.

  122. Just to clarify, my point was never that ‘some people eat too much and that’s why they’re fat’ or anything. I think I’m fat because of genetics and while it’s possible that my history of dieting and binge eating has raised my setpoint, I don’t think that had I been raised in a size-neutral world, I would be wearing a size 6 or anything. I was just trying to express how people outside ‘normal’ behavior and sizes in the FA movement can sometimes feel like the movement is purposely ignoring their experience.


    I’m not sure what experiment you mean. If you’re talking about the starvation experiment, then, from what I’ve read, the volunteers all lost about 25% of their weight. And while most of them, after the study, exhibited a lot of binge eating symtoms, they almost all eventually settled at their original weight.

    Now, I know that some people have used this study to argue for the inefficacy of WLD, but I don’t think that’s good science. Especially since there have been some other studies that suggest that the problem might have also been the kind of calories the men were eating. Yudkin (I can’t remember the first name) did some sort of low-carb experiment with the same number of calories and the people didn’t report hunger or any of the mood problems that the participants in Keys’ experiment had.

    However, iirc Yudkin ‘treats’ obesity so maybe that’s a factor in his results and I’m no fan of low-carb diets, but I don’t think that Keys results are that cut and dried as to be perfectly applicable to situations like Heidi’s.

  123. sm, thank you very much for the support and for making that point. I firmly agree that mental health is an important component of health but sometimes it is tough to cut yourself the same “slack” in that regard. In many ways it is astounding the amount of pressure and pain our minds and spirits can handle. But I imagine keeping oneself under the kind of psychological stress that dieting can cause (to say nothing of the more significant mental traumas that people suffer at others’ or their own hands) can definitely cause its own long-term health consequences.

  124. Pingback: Fat Acceptance?
  125. Hi Heidi

    Even though I would not have WLS, I am not totally against it for people who have taken time to weigh the variables before hand and are doing it medical reasons.

    Sometimes in these conversations I wish the people who are absolutely against WLS would also post their weight, height and current health levels.

    I am 5’7″ and about 300 lbs and I do not have to to deal with what you do at 530 lbs. I walk in the park several times a week and run around at work all day, what I am saying is that I am mobile and only have to deal with the normal flack that fat people get from society.

    Good Luck


  126. Sometimes in these conversations I wish the people who are absolutely against WLS would also post their weight, height and current health levels.

    This is totally unacceptable to me. People’s opinions aren’t magically invalidated just because they’re fat or unhealthy. By the exact same token, the opinions of the people you would consider not fat enough or not unhealthy enough to object to WLS? You got it: their opinions are valid too. You absolutely cannot require, even in jest, that someone publicize their vital statistics before they can argue their position.

  127. I have read Heidi’s blog for years and I have seen her go from incredibly joyful to depressed, fearful, and isolated as her weight increased. I was so happy when she decided to have the WLS because she’s able to take a step towards getting her life back. I was infuriated to read the posts from Kell that state that Heidi is a) not part of the FA movement and b) hadn’t done her research and is basically killing herself by having WLS. How dare she? How dare anyone question Heidi’s decision? IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! We’re applauding Heidi’s bravery not because she’s going to undergo WLS (and she’s very aware that this surgery has a high morbidity rate – but what quality of life does she have now?) but because she was honest enough to speak about her guilt and shame and unhappiness.

    To be clear, I am also going to be having the surgery in December – LapBand – and I fully admit that I’m having it purely out of vanity and ego. And that is FINE. That’s for ME. I fully support Fat Acceptance and I fully support the need for WLS. Unless I’m mistaken, Fat Acceptance is – as it sounds – about acceptance of self. Heidi cannot accept herself right now because to do so means more pain and more disability. Heidi and I are both very clear that we will never be thin (I’m 280 and my goal is 150, but I’m happy wherever I end up) – we want to be healthy.

    I’m fat from genetics, from my addictive personality, and from the fact that like Heidi, I turn to food for comfort. Instead of one McDonald’s meal, I’ll eat two. Because of my insane schedule and less-than-spacious NYC apartment, I eat almost every meal out. I am fat because I made me fat. WLS, for both of us, is just a tool in our toolbox to changing our unhealthy habits – not a cure-all.

    Like I said, we will still be considered fat after our surgeries. But now, we’ll both have the ability and strength to kick the ass of anyone who puts us down for being so.

  128. We’re applauding Heidi’s bravery not because she’s going to undergo WLS (and she’s very aware that this surgery has a high morbidity rate – but what quality of life does she have now?) but because she was honest enough to speak about her guilt and shame and unhappiness.

    I think this is a really important distinction to make. Abby, I disagree with some parts of your post — particularly, while I am in favor of body autonomy, I think that the autonomy argument for dieting and WLS is undermined by the fact that nobody makes the decision in a vacuum. The people who oppose the decision are not opposing your right to make choices about your body, but rather supporting your right to not have those decisions essentially made for you by a fatphobic society. As Kate made perfectly clear, we are unequivocally AGAINST WLS here. Shit, Heidi herself is against WLS. B U T we are not against people who have WLS (though we may be saddened or concerned, and at a certain stage we may certainly want to talk them out of it).

    So nobody’s giving Heidi kudos for having WLS, or for “finally taking control of her problem” or “fixing her lifestyle” or any other euphemism. We are praising Heidi for being Heidi, and for speaking unashamedly about being Heidi, and for getting blood-and-guts personal about some really raw and difficult emotions. It is, again, the difference between the decision, which I do not support ideologically, and the person making the decision.

  129. Hi

    It is easy for a person in the 200-250 weight range and/or is in a healthy condition to denounce the decision of a 500+ pound person who may not be in such great health. I would still try to persuade them not to have the procedure, but if they did have it I would not treat them as if they committed a crime.


  130. Heidi, I know I’m commenting rather late in all of this, but I just wanted to wish you well. I don’t think I could have written something this… raw and exposed and I just can’t come up with anything else to say. Thank you for writing it, and for allowing me to read it.

    I wish you the best of health, happiness and a long fullfilling live, regardless of your choices.

  131. Damn typos! Long fullfulling L-I-F-E, not live.

    As a friend of mine once put it, “me stupid on computer too much”

  132. And I clearly expressed, repeatedly, that I was not cool with her putting that shit on Heidi right now, though I think her points are important in general. And now Kell’s gone from here, so let’s just get back to wishing Heidi all the best.

  133. I’m not sure how one can answer who do you think you are, who are you, how dare you type questions, who would we have to think we are to be able to comment? Oh yes someone in the correct weight range that’s right, because there are lower standards the higher up you go, of course.

    I and others are against WLS, I don’t throw people out, I prefere to leave if I don’t like the party. I feel that being for it is against the principles of fat acceptance, not because I worship the adipose cell and believe that it must have it’s way at all costs, but because it validates the ideal that anorexia is the cure for fat people and the pain of this is deserved punishment for fatness. It is not WLS that saves, it is the ideals of WLS that allow fat to get to any level it feels like, where that is is the luck of the draw.
    What happens if WLS becomes ineffectual because practise reduces the trauma to the body, which seems to be happening, lower mortality =lower weight loss, what will be the last resort then. Also I repeat if Heidi was ‘too big’ they would deny her the op, what would happen then?

    Always up to be blamed for something, now it’s the fact that someone has got very fat, that’s the fault of people that are 200-250 Ibs, or people that object to ‘surgery’ that violates the above all do NO harm.Why not after being blamed for the decline and fall of civilisation as we know it, why not just make a list of what we are not at fault for if there is anything.

    Now we cannot disagree unless we are above a certain weight because that is more offensive than the fact that fat peoples healthy organs are being permanently damaged to ‘save their lives’. There is no specialist physiotherapy to help keep them mobile, no services built around their every need, no studies to see the what can be acheived with a fat body of any size. No maintenance of their morale specialist support worth a damn to keep them on as even a keel as possible.

    That’s OK with you. But when people object to someone’s body just being allowed to get to the point of no return without every stop being pulled out, that is offensive, that is the abuse is it? OK count me out!

    Full speed ahead for cutting your stomach into the shape of anorexia. You know it’s only what you deserve, fat haters told you so, they rule.

  134. I had my gastric bypass in December of 2001. I so clearly remember those months leading up to my surgery, the innumerable doctor’s visits, feeling like a piece of shit because I was nineteen years old, undergoing a huge surgery. I can remember waking up crying on more than one occassion. I remember having to pull over, sobbing because I felt so bad.

    What I hate now, six years later, wearing a size less than half of the size I was wearing then, is how much nicer the world is to me. It’s shocking and it’s painful, and I hate it. Because I’m the same now as I was then. I’m funny and I’m smart and I’m compassionate at a size 12, but I was all of those things at a size 28. I wish I had been able to be kinder to myself when I was heavier. I wish I had been able to develop the confidence that I have now.

    Heidi, I wish you the very, very best. This was the best decision for me. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to.

  135. Sometimes we have to do what’s best for us mentally and physically, Heidi.

    You’re not a traitor. Not in the slightest – and I’m sure coming to this conclusion and braving WLS was hard enough as is. It was one of those options I had to weight because of having spondylothesis – do I get WLS or do I brave that dreaded word “diet”?

    It’s hard to be positive, especially with the demons in your head conspiring with what’s drummed into us on a daily basis about being “THIN” and stick like.

    But, like I said… in the end, it’s what makes you better, physically and mentally. No two people are alike, and your choice is your own. It’s your life, not anyone else’s.

    I wish you all the best.

  136. Heidi, thank you for your honesty; I wish you the best possible results from your surgery, and a return to joyful blogging.

  137. Heidi, you’re such an inspiration. I sned my good thoughts to you, and apologize that I hadn’t gotten t know your story and background before.

    I could never make myself that vulnerable in public, and on the Internet. My personality forbids it.

    But let me just tell you, reading your post, I got a damned sight closer to understanding altruistic empathy and compassion for my fellow human being.

    Also, you definitely ARE a magnificent writer, and I think it would be wonderful to see a book out there some time!

  138. Heidi, I’m a little late to this discussion, but I have never read anything as brutally honest and brave as I have in your piece here.

    You are a beautiful human being who, in a great deal of physical and mental pain, has made the decision that feels right for you at this time, and I don’t believe anyone who’s not living your life, in your body, has the right to judge you for that. I hope it all goes well for you.

  139. wow, having read your post and all the response to it, I’m more confused than ever but feel more connected somehow because of your honesty and out and out ‘guts’ so to speak.. I cried, and I thank you for turning me on to the heart of the matter..

  140. Heidi I just want you to know that you’re the bravest, most incredible woman in the world. God bless you.

  141. Rock on Heidi.

    The “shit” part of your story got me thinking about my grandmother. My mother took care of her during her later years when she was incontinent and it wasn’t “fun” for anybody involved. Many of us, when we get older, will undergo very similar experiences and possibly shame as well. Life is like this. Wise or prudent readers will take heed…and refrain from thinking that something like this won’t happen to us as well.

    Thank you so much for sharing that Heidi. There’s always something interesting…something deep to learn from life’s most painful moments. Hopefully I will be able to bear similar difficulties too.

  142. Heidi, as a 126 pound male, I’m probably as far as I could be away from you.

    And yet your story touched me so deeply. Thank you so much for your courage.

    The very, very best of luck with the surgery. Much love.

  143. I’m a 53 yr old guy. I have flown helicopters and fought fires on an offshore oil rig. I have two kids, buried parents and siblings and had to deal with all sorts of things that others call “character building”.

    And you know what?

    I don’t have near the balls you do.

    I hope your surgery goes well. I also hope you recover from your emotional pain also.

  144. Heidi – I think that this is exactly, to me, what the movement should be about. We should all be able to make the decisions for our bodies that we feel to be right. I am so, so sorry that the decision that is right for your body now is one that feels very at odds with things you strongly believe. I am sorry that it is such a drastic and difficult step. But I am so impressed with you and proud for you that you could make that call. Congratulations on your incredible spirit – thank you for sharing it with us. And, with many others here, I am wishing you the very best possible.

  145. You are so brave, and I’m a better person for having read your story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Best of luck, and here’s to your health.

  146. Heidi, you are very brave person. I admire your honesty and wish you to get well. And don´t feel ashamed for yourself.

  147. Heidi, you are a totally amazing person! I never used to think WLS was justified… until I read this. I hope you never look back on the surgery with regret. You’re clearly NOT an asshole; you’re an admirable human being who understands what she needs. Stay strong! Your honesty really touched me. :)

  148. Hi Heidi!
    It’s been terrific to read your blog and be with you on your incredible journey. Remember you have a whole ARMY of friends and supporters–even though you’ll never meet many of us, we’re thinking of you, keeping in touch and cheering you all the way…It’s wonderful to see you making your dreams come true!

  149. My wife initially read this blog and showed it to me. My heart both went out to Heidi and broke at the obvious pain, shame and humiliation expressed in it. Kudos to her for both her honesty and the way she seemed to face her dilemma and handle it.

    I was just curious to know if there was any follow up to this entry and how Heidi is doing these days.

  150. I’m coming to this post a year and a half after it was made, and I hope that everything has worked out well for you, and that you’re happy. I really just hope you’re happy, because you deserve it.

  151. I was almost forced to get WLS, but I honestly respect your decision. I can tell you’ve thought a lot about it and it’s not some magic cure-all for you. I still have concerns but I wish you the best of luck, and I still consider you a valid member of the fat acceptance movement. I’m really, really critical of WLS, because I see it sometimes as glorified anorexic behavior. I don’t think it’s really for people under 400 pounds. I can tell that you’re getting the surgery out of a healthy motivation. While I DON’T support WLS in most cases, this is one where I do believe the weight loss it will bring will improve your life. You have my support.

  152. What ever happened to Heidi? Did everything workout okay? Are you close to where you want to be?

  153. Is there any chance of getting a follow-up to Heidi’s WLS? There is so much out there about regain following bypss, that it would be educational, and interesting, to see follow-ups as to how beneficial or frustrating or whatever her journey has been.

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