I’ve made a decision. And it’s time to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. It’s one that I’m expecting people to be divided on and it’s certainly not something I ever really thought I’d do, but it’s time.
I’m going to have weightloss surgery. I haven’t spoken to a doctor. I haven’t booked anything. But I’ve made a decision. I need this.
I’ve been fighting a long time. Since my first diet when I was 10 or 11 years old, I have:
- Joined WeightWatchers 9 times, twice for over a year
- Done the NuTron diet
- Spent a fortune joining Motivation Weight Control Clinics three times
- Been hypnotised twice
- Been treated by an Eating Disorder specialist in a psychiatric hospital
- Had hours of counselling from a variety of therapists
- Meditated on verses of the Bible relevant to weightloss and prayed to be thin
- Counted calories with and without the MyFitnessPal app
- Done various versions of “just trying to eat more healthily”
- Spent months with a personal trainer
- Taken up running and run an 8K race
- Signed up for, and paid for, four different marathons and walked halfway through one of them
- Done one of those silly allergy test diets
- Done the Cambridge Medical Cabbage Soup diet at least twice
- Done a juicing diet, twice
- Joined OverEaters Anonymous twice
- Walked the Camino de Santiago
- Had cold showers for a month (it was meant to stimulate the body to use calories to heat me up and thus burn fat)
- Done the slow-carb diet, also known as the Four Hour Body diet
- Recorded everything I was eating publicly on a Tumblr account
- Photographed all my food
- Recorded my weightloss journey on an Instagram account
- Written this blog, which is mainly about weightloss (though of course it’s also about everything else) for eight years
- Tried not worrying about my weight and just accepting the body I have
- Done SlimFast
- Done the Tony Ferguson diet
- Read books about weightloss, about sugar addiction, about binge eating and food addiction, about diet, about exercise, about fat acceptance
- Watched hours (days?) of YouTube videos about people who have lost weight
- Spent hours on the weightloss pages of StumbleUpon (RIP StumbleUpon) and Reddit
- Tried Paul McKenna’s hypnotic gastric band book/CDs
- Taken up walking, gone to swimming lessons, joined a boxing club, joined a hot yoga studio
- Gone to bed night after night promising myself that next time would be different and hoping against hope that maybe tomorrow I wouldn’t overeat
- Done the Scarsdale Medical Diet, or a version of it
- Done low fat, done high protein, done low carb
- Eaten a weird weightloss yoghurt culture every day that I had to keep alive by complex means that I don’t remember
- Bought exercise bands and a kettlebell
- Started but never finished the 200 sit-ups challenge, the 100 push-ups challenge and the 200 squats challenge
- Taken fat-binding tablets
- Lost three and half stone slowly and sensibly over the course of a year and then gained it back and gained another four stone
- Lost six and a half stone slowly and sensibly over the course of a year and then gained it back and then gained another six stone
- Bought a specialist weighing scales to measure my BMI and the fat percentage in my body
- Bought a heart rate monitor
- Tried making myself vomit and forcing myself to be bulimic but never feeling strong enough to do so for any significant period of time
- Tried living on one meal a day
- Considered veganism, considered trying to live on nothing but juice, considered trying to live on nothing but protein shakes and vitamin tablets.
- Asked doctors for help and being told to “cut back on food and walk more”
- Asked psychologists for help and being told I should just be happy with my body
It’s not working and I need something new. Statistically speaking, attempts at weightloss are likely to fail. The best way to gain weight is to go on a diet. That’s right. Statistically speaking, most people who start a diet end up heavier. Weightloss attempts have a terrible success rate. Even the massive weightloss you see on a show like the Biggest Loser is fake. If you read about the participants now, so many of them have gained their weight back. And a study of these former participants showed that their bodies literally fought to gain the weight back. I have read a variety of statistics, which state that anywhere between 70 and 95% of people who try to lose weight fail.
And I have always foolishly believed that I was special. That I would be in the magical 10% of people who succeed in losing weight naturally, because I believe I’m extraordinary. But 25 years of trying and I can’t keep trying the same things. I’ve driven myself crazy.
Weightloss surgery was never an idea I seriously considered. An old friend once recommended it to me. My sister once mentioned the idea. I kind of dismissed both, thinking that I was “too good for surgery”. I’m not one of those people who has no willpower! I gave up my 30-a-day cigarette habit and haven’t had a single puff in over seven years! Against all the odds, I walked all 708 kilometres of the Camino! I got a PhD! I was a CELTA trainer when I was just 27! People like me didn’t need the lazy route of weightloss surgery. I’m strong and intelligent and proactive and I can lose weight by healthy eating and exercise!
Except I can’t.
And it’s killing me. Literally. My dad was overweight too, at his heaviest in his forties. He got arthritis in his 40s and diabetes in his 50s and they wrecked his body, as he developed more and more health problems, almost all related to the diabetes, until he died from pancreatic cancer. My mother has had bowel cancer. My granny died very young from obesity-related issues. I’m killing myself with food and my own genes are threatening me. I’m only two and a half years from forty. Every time I visit a doctor, they’re surprised I don’t have diabetes. Yet.
And even when my life is good, it’s ruined by my weight. I’ve written about all of this before, but here we go again:
- I have constant joint pain, especially in my ankles, but my knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and even wrists are in constant nagging pain
- I have horrendous digestive problems that you don’t need to know about
- I can’t really touch my feet or the floor. Picking things up off the floor is awful. Sweeping, mopping and hoovering are all massively challenging. I nearly cry every morning while putting on my socks because it is so hard. Cutting my toe nails is sometimes impossible and I never manage all ten of them in one sitting. I have to tie my shoelaces before I put my shoes on because I can’t reach them when they’re on my feet
- Going to the toilet takes acrobatics. Wiping is a challenge. Even pissing is difficult because I can’t see down there and most of my penis is buried in a fat pad and aiming has become very difficult. I’ve wet my clothes quite a few times as a result and try my best to avoid going to the toilet that is anywhere but home. I work hard on hygiene and I do keep clean but it’s a challenge and if I gain any more weight, I would need help.
- I don’t fit anywhere. I have to hold my hands over my head to get through the ticket turnstiles at the Tube. I can’t fit on a seat on the Tube if it has armrests. I need a seatbelt extension when I’m on a plane and I’m not allowed on the seats near an exit as it’s presumed I’ll impede thin people’s exit in an emergency. I’m not making that up. Fat people are not allowed near exits on planes. It’s only a matter of time before I have to book two seats if I want to travel. Seats terrify me in general. I’ve broken quite a few chairs in my time and chairs with arms are my enemy.
- I’m constantly exhausted. I snore loudly and presume I have sleep apnea though I’ve never had it diagnosed. I need to spend at least one day a week lying down in order to function on the other six.
- Children and drunks call me names on the street and I’ve gone through phases of not wanting to leave my house or wanting to be seen.
- I’m always sweaty. Always. Even when I’m shivering with cold there will always be at least one fold of flesh that’s trapped some moisture. I dream of being 100% dry.
Life has been good for the last few weeks. I’ve not been working crazy hours, I’ve been feeling happy, I’ve been exercising again. But I can’t stick to a diet.
Since I moved to London, I have allowed myself to take part in the fat gay world here of “Chubs and Chasers”. And it is very empowering to have a man, a chaser, look at my naked body and drool. And I have begun to see some beauty in my body. But these men disgust me. I can’t stop thinking about what made them this way. How did they become so aroused by fat? And so when I meet these men, I pretend not to drink Diet Coke and order real Coke instead (gross) and I pretend to love being fat because they want me to. And it’s nice for a while. But the idea of being fat as a condition of being with them is just so depressing to me. I feel romantic feelings in the same way I always did. And they’re always directed at men who are not interested in me. Men who like thin men. I never feel romantically attracted to the men who want to have sex with me. Wanting to have sex with me means that I can’t possibly fall in love with them. And I’ve tried. I wanted to fall in love with French Train Station Platform Boy. But I couldn’t. And we both knew we had no future together, even if we did plan holidays and hold hands on the street. I want to be with someone who likes me, and yes finds me physically attractive, but who likes me for my Connor-ness and not for my rolls of flab.
However, the world of Chubs and Chasers has made the idea of weightloss surgery much more real for me. The Geordie kinky bearded man who took me for a date in a park near Victoria Station told me about the man who he’d dated but was no longer attractive because he’d had a gastric bypass and now he couldn’t even eat a whole burrito. Imagine. Not being able to eat a whole burrito! I’ve dreamed of such things but never thought of them as real.
And then there was the Polish ex-priest whose house I stayed over in. He lived there with his ex-boyfriend and his ex’s new boyfriend. Why was he his ex? Well, he’d had weightloss surgery and was now thin and they were no longer compatible. It was my first time meeting someone who’d had weightloss surgery. He looked great. So thin. He moved like a thin person. I was intrigued.
And so, I’ve made my decision. In comparison to diets, and their 90% fail rate, weightloss surgery has a success rate of about 90%. Depressingly, there are people who have weightloss surgery and don’t successfully lose weight, but they’re in the minority.
I’ve spent the weekend watching videos on YouTube by people who’ve had the surgery. And it’s been enlightening. There’s a lot of work and pain involved. But it’s worth it.
I’m happy with my decision so now I have to make it happen. Privately, it would cost around £9000 to get a gastric sleeve operation. I might try getting a loan. I meet the NHS criteria to get it done for free. You have to have a BMI of 40 or more to qualify. My BMI is 58. I’d be happy to get it on the NHS, but I’ve heard horror stories of people trying to be blocked from getting it on the NHS as they’re seen as undeserving and being made spend up to 3 years working with dieticians before being allowed have the surgery. Regardless, I’m going to make an appointment and see a GP this week and take it from there.
This won’t be a short or an easy journey, but I feel very peaceful about it. And excited. I feel excited. Wish me luck.