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"I went from 152 kgs to 82 kgs. Here's what no one told me about extreme weight loss."

We all love a before and after weight loss pic. The perception is that you lose a massive amount of weight and your life is now perfect. Because fat is ‘bad’ and slim is ‘good’, right?

Wrong! There’s so much that comes with extreme weight loss that no tells you about.

I had bariatric surgery ten months ago and have so far lost 67kg. The ‘sleeve’ also known as a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) is where 80 percent of the stomach is removed through keyhole surgery and leaves you with a stomach the size of a banana. I like to call mine ‘sleevie wonder’.

The health benefits have been significant. I no longer wake up in the night gasping for breath, I walk a lot more instead of taking the car, move faster, and don’t get puffed out when walking up stairs. From a health perspective, it’s been a standout success, but there’s a personal side to extreme weight loss too that you can’t see in a before and after pic.

What I’m about to say isn’t to put you off surgery (I’m 100 percent glad I did it and based on my non-medical personal experience have recommended it). I want to let you know what I’ve been through, learned, and what I wish someone had told me so I’d be better prepared for what has been a life-changing year:

1. You may feel guilt.

I stopped posting on my blog Big Curvy Love as I felt as though I had betrayed the plus size community and needed to banish myself in order to avoid a public backlash. It felt as though I had betrayed the community I’d spent more than five years building. My message was (and is) to love yourself as you are ‘right now’ regardless of your weight.

However, in the plus size community, weight loss is sometimes seen in opposition to body positivity and a form of betrayal so there is a lot of disapproval. As a result, I felt guilt and shame about my decision. It’s really taken a long time to work through it. I didn’t feel as though I was allowed to be happy or proud of my achievement. That guilt is lessening each day and I no longer feel as though I’m disrespecting my former self. I was happy at 152kg and I am happy now at 82kg.

So even though my guilt will be different to yours, it’s something you might have to face and will more than likely revolve around the closest people in your life including partners, family members, colleagues and friends. Some people in your life will take your choice to change your body as a comment on their own body. Just know that it’s not. You do you and let them do them.

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2. Compliments can feel like insults.

I’ve heard so many variations of this in the past ten months.

“Wow, you look so much better! You know you were SOOOO big. I mean really, really huge before. Now you look good. I’m so proud of you.”

People think they are giving compliments but sometimes it just seems like an insult. You know, in the same way that after a breakup everyone comes out of the woodwork telling you what they really thought of your ex.

Be prepared for people to speak to you about you and your weight right to your face in a gossipy way like it’s not actually you. I’ve had people flat out ask how much you weigh ‘now’ and say, “Oh, you’ll even be smaller than ME soon!” with the insinuation: ‘Oh, crap! The fat girl is going to weigh less than me.’

3. You’ll have to defend your weight loss.

“Surgery is the ‘easy way out.’ It’s lazy.”

Is it?

This is mostly said by people who have never had a weight issue or tell me they are concerned about their weight but are doing nothing about it.

After more than thirty years on the weight loss treadmill losing 20-30kg at a time and doing everything from working out three hours a day, 800 calorie diets, and calorie controlled meals I feel as though I deserve to explore further options. Even if you deem it the ‘easy way out.’

Personally, I could lose weight (and did so many times) but just could not keep it off and as a result, the more I lost the fatter I got until I was 152 kg.

I chose surgery.

You may find yourself explaining why you chose surgery, why it’s not ‘easy’ and rattling off your full weight loss resume for the past few decades in order to justify your choice to others.

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4. You’ll lose friends (and maybe even relationships).

My circle of friends has decreased along with my waistline. I’ve chosen to cut the fat when it comes to non-supporters in my life and I don’t for one second feel bad about it. No more time and energy will be spent on naysayers. I’ve found that by getting rid of certain people, my life is a lot more positive and really great things have happened in the past few months.

Some people will want to keep you where they think you belong in their social hierarchy. If you were the ‘fat and funny’ friend in the group and that changes – then where do you fit? What does that mean for your group dynamic and relationship? Know that people may feel threatened, jealous, or just uncomfortable with such a big change.

For me, as the number on the scale plummeted, so did the social invites. Be prepared that you may become persona non grata when it comes to family and friends for a while. People will stop asking you to places because you can’t partake in the social aspect of eating or drinking and they just don’t know what to do. You’ll have to learn to renegotiate how you fit into these social situations.

You may be thought of as being no longer ‘one of us’ especially if every time you met your socialization was based around sitting around and eating for hours.

5. You’ll encounter ‘feeders’ or might even become one.

“Just have one,” she says holding a box of Cadbury Favorites under my nose. “You can have just one it won’t hurt.”

“It will hurt!” I say. “I can’t. I can’t even have one. I’m a junkie for food. Please stop offering it to me. I actually want to eat the entire box right now.” This had happened quite a few times and I finally cracked, “Would you offer someone who has quit smoking a cigarette?”

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You’ll have feeders around you. Some with intentions of sabotage and others who just don’t get it and want you to feel included. They might think that now you’ve lost weight you can suddenly eat anything in moderation. For me, I don’t eat chocolate at all.

The reverse is also an option and you might become a feeder. My happiness was food. Now I can’t eat for happiness and need to find it in other ways so I cook for others. I get to partake in the whole process up until the eating part and I’m okay with that, but I’ve learned that others aren’t and have become annoyed with me and see it as force feeding so I need to be careful.

I guess it’s the only real involvement I have with food that’s positive and makes me feel included. I’ve turned what was the feeling of missing out into participation and giving.

6. Side effects.

I was at the monthly Mamamia all staff meeting when I felt a pain on the right side of my abdomen. I knew it was serious and managed to walk myself to the doctor surgery. When I arrived I couldn’t speak coherently, was dry-retching and sweating from the pain. I ended up in the hospital and it took 12 hours in the waiting room before they finally diagnosed kidney stones and gave me pain relief. It was agony. The worst pain of my life.

Turns out I hadn’t been drinking enough water and that caused the kidney stones. I knew why too. I’d had a couple of cases of dumping syndrome and it scared me so much that I drank less as I didn’t want to have an accident.

Oh, and my hair has been falling out by the handful, which is really common post-surgery. I know other people who have become lactose intolerant, or experienced reflux, gallbladder issues. I’m sure there’s more but the big one yet to come is loose skin. I know all about it, but am in no way looking forward to it.

7. You might look ‘worse’ as a thin person than you did as a fat person.

“She looked better when she was fat.” Huh? The ‘fat is ugly, thin is beautiful’ theory is debunked yet again. Sometimes you just can’t win. I’ve read this comment hundreds of times since my post about how it was easier to date when I was 152kg than at 84kg went viral.

The other grenade people like to toss is the comment is that I look ten years older. Yeah, I probably agree with that one. What can you do? When I was bigger they said I was ‘pretty for a fat girl’ and now I’ve lost weight, I was better-looking fat?

What did no one tell you about extreme weight loss? Have you experienced any of the above?

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