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Fat Lady in a Thin Body: WLS Patients Feel Like Imposters
Every weight loss surgery patient I've met said they at sometime during the weight loss experience felt like a fraud. A fraud is someone who pretends to be what they are not, an imposter. Given this definition, of course we feel like a fraud! Almost overnight we become the exact opposite of what we have been for many years. We are in fact a fat person masquerading in a thin body. Of course we feel like a fraud!
Weight loss following gastric bypass is so fast and consistent; there is no time to pause and become familiar with ourselves as our size diminishes and our health improves. So, while the body adjusts to its new healthy weight, our mind is slow to catch up. It still sees a fat person and this smaller body is alien and unknown. It is an imposter. A disguise. A fraud.
Be assured, this phase of fraud is normal and consistent among people experiencing rapid massive weight loss, it is part of the transformation. Be comforted knowing feelings of fraud will pass. As we become familiar with our down-sized dimensions the haunts from our morbidly obese days will pass. If a bariatric patient after several years of successful weight maintenance rapidly regained the weight they would feel as much a fraud in their new super-sized body as they did in their newly trimmed body. Feelings of fraud are certain to result when a change is as rapid and effective as gastric bypass weight loss.
For many patients, a different feeling of fraud is manifest when others start to notice and comment about the weight loss. In addition to managing our own feelings of change, we must manage feedback from others, much of which is unsolicited. Patients who have kept their surgery private feel fraudulent when they answer "I'm losing weight by eating less, controlling my sugar and fat intake and exercising" all of which is true. Patients who speak openly about their weight loss surgery may be told surgery was easy way out of obesity. They may hear about surgeries gone bad, get the warnings about regaining the weight, and be treated to a host of other myths. This feedback can cause us to feel fraudulent.
One weight loss patient said it best: "what I find both interesting and sad about bariatric patients: we are ashamed when we are fat, and we are ashamed when we do something about it." It is not fraudulent to be medically treated for a disease that is killing you. The weight loss surgery patient who accepts this as fact successfully overcomes feeling like a fraud. That patient celebrates the miracle of modern medicine and a second chance at living.
I used to tell my husband, "I'm nothing but a fat lady masquerading in small clothes." He didn't like me to talk that way about myself and asked, "if your best friend succeeded at losing weight - by whatever means medically available to her - would you talk to her the way you are talking to yourself? If your best friend were treated for a life-threatening disease with the best medical science has to offer would you say she was a fraud for undergoing that treatment to save her life?" He made an excellent point.
I no longer feel like a fraud, but I miss the wonder and awe that was associated with the newness of rapid and massive weight loss. During that time I was shocked to see my own reflection and awed by the little clothes that fit me. I studied in wonder every body part, the way it moved and felt and looked. I counted my ribs and rolled my fingers over my hipbones - I'd never felt that before discovering the miracle of the human skeleton. Nowadays it's all commonplace: this is who I am. It is no longer a surprising shock. I no longer feel like a fraud.
Kaye Bailey is a weight loss surgery success story having maintained her health and goal weight for 5+ years. An award winning journalist, she is the author and webmaster of http://www.LivingAfterWLS.com and http://www.livingafterwls.blogspot.com - Fresh & insightful content is added daily, check in often.
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