I love the way the curve of my hips allows me to perch my arms authoritatively.
I love the soft skin on my wrists that I rub to soothe me when I’m anxious.
I love the strength in my bum and thighs that helps me lift heavy things at the gym.
I love the shape of my cupid’s bow, “Rihanna-like” in its readiness for a bright lipstick.*
I love my body. Which is why I have made the decision to have surgery that will fundamentally alter it.
I am booked to have a sleeve gastrectomy (aka a ‘gastric sleeve’) on 21 November 2018.
Essentially, during this procedure, a surgeon will remove the vast majority of my stomach, turning what is currently ‘bag’ shaped into little more than a sleeve. The surgery supports weight loss by making it nearly impossible to eat large quantities, and by removing the bit of the stomach that produces hungry hormones.
How did I get here? It’s a question I often ask myself, and usually when I am feeling particularly self-blaming.
For over ten years, I have engaged in disordered eating. At times, I could eat huge quantities of food, compelled by an emotional compulsion to eat. I’ve written before that I have few solid memories, but some of my clearest relate to points in time when I binged.
I binged when I knew it was ‘wrong’ to. I look back and think I could have made different decisions. My depression – and I’m sure I’m not unique in this – is characterised by extreme loneliness, and the times I see most clearly in my memories are times when I ate to comfort myself through those feelings. And then I had established a pattern. My brain became hardwired to seek out food whenever I felt emotions – and I think this blog has established, I feel a lot of emotions!
That’s not to say I abrogate all responsibility. Ultimately, I could have made different decisions. But I didn’t. I need to try not to hate myself for that, though that is easier said than done. Now, I’m choosing what is hopefully a different path for myself — one where my healthy body supports the lifestyle I want, and my lifestyle supports the healthy body I want.
I’ve made many of those changes already. I love exercising – a sentence teenage me could not even dream of writing. I enjoy cooking and eating healthy meals. My eating is not perfect, but it is very rare for me to binge these days, and I no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for Binge Eating Disorder. Eating is no longer compulsive or shameful.
For now, I have a body that constantly reminds me of my struggles with food. Every time I board a tram and think about which seat I will uncomfortably sit in and who will be forced to squash up against me. Every time my joints ache at the gym. Every time I get a nasty glance in the street.
Despite all this, I have a body I love; I feel confident in myself. I don’t see this surgery as a silver bullet, because I don’t see myself as having a problem I must fix or all else. I see this surgery as the next step in the long journey of hard work that is my recovery. As with all things ‘recovery’, that means it’s scary, but it also means it’s exciting.
Everyone should read this article by Roxane Gay on having this surgery.
*Quote from a make-up artist – almost certainly the only part of me that will ever resemble anything close to Rihanna.