When your friend jumps on the WLS bandwagon

The last while I’ve been struggling with my own indecision in how to support a former high school classmate and good friend in her recent decision to get weight loss surgery.  I’ve been wanting to post about it for a while now but having read this post over at BFB I finally feel that I don’t even have to question or bandy back and forth how I feel about the situation and my friend and my responses.  I know how I feel:

  • a bit saddened that a friend feels inadequate about her body
  • happy that her surgery yesterday went off smoothly
  • excited that she’s looking forward to a new chapter in her life
  • hopeful that things DO work out the way she envisions
  • concerned about what might happen if they don’t

No where in my thoughts is any sort of hatred for my friend or her thoughts or actions.  Do I support the idea of mutilating one’s digestive system for any reason?  Not really, no.  Does the mean I won’t fully support my friend in her decision to do with her own body as she pleases? Hell no!  Friends don’t stop being your friends just because they have thoughts or do actions you don’t fully agree with.  Diversity of belief and action is part of what makes friendships so dynamic and wonderful.

One of the lines from that BFB post which really struck me and spurred this posting is a strong reminder of what I first started blogging for in the first place:

Fat activists, I think, want to reach people who feel bad about their bodies, so they can reveal the big secret that you aren’t required to hate your body, even a little bit.

As a fat activist I do want people do love their bodies, but I don’t think loving your body is an all or nothing moral quest. And as a fat person, I know a little something about moral imperatives. (From BFB)

This is what I started blogging to promote!  This whole “I AM in shape, ROUND is a shape” venture was begun as my own chance to show the world that hating your body is NOT some sort of life imperative, but neither is it some cut and dry “You are Here! Welcome to Self-Acceptance Land! Never again will you ever feel inadequate or unpopular or self conscious!” sort of mental destination. Loving the body we live in takes many forms; comes in many ranges and will never be the same from one person to the next.

As this reminder came across my Google Reader list this morning I realized that one of the reasons I’ve had even a bit of trouble figuring out how to support my friend is the fear that by supporting her as a friend I was somehow supporting the concept of WLS.  When, in fact, what I do by being there for her and remaining a good friend and supporter is further reinforce the idea of body autonomy.  That is to say, I may not agree with a decision to take on WLS and I may fear that things will not turn out as wonderfully as hoped but I still fully support anyone’s right, certainly my friend’s right, to MAKE that decision for themselves.

Perhaps the hardest part, for me, of being a fat/body activist is knowing that not everyone will end up making the same decisions I would.  However, they (we!) all still maintain the right to do exactly that. THAT is the sort of freedom I’m seeking to promote.

I do still wish diets and WLS were not pushed as a panacea for all that ails (or doesn’t even ail) the growing range of human bodies for which it is prescribed.  Perhaps one day that time will come when doctors offer such options as last resorts done only for personal aesthetic desires and undertaken with the understanding that “success” is limited and poorly defined.

Until such a time, however, the message I wish to give my friend and all others out there struggling along with me (us!) to travel the spectrum of love/acceptance/tolerance/not open revulsion for our own bodies, is that while I might condemn certain options for what they are; I do not and will never condemn those who choose such options.

So if you are dieting or considering/actively taking on WLS I sincerely wish you the best of luck.  Perhaps along the way you will find the path towards the very same self acceptance all of us strive to obtain/maintain. Maybe everything will work out the way you dream and honestly I hope it does and you aren’t disappointed. But it is your choice to make and I support your right.  I will not be joining you in your diet or WLS or even your cheer-leading of “Getting Thinner! For Health!”.  That is MY choice to make.

So, in the end, I think it comes down to this: I may not want to hear about how many calories you ate today and how “good” that makes you; but that is a far cry from not wanting to remain your supportive and loving friend.  It just means we need to find something else to talk about around the water cooler is all.

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6 thoughts on “When your friend jumps on the WLS bandwagon

  1. Thank you for this entry–my husband had WLS several months ago, and my feelings about it are so thorny and tangled but I feel obligated to support him because it’s what he wanted. It’s nice to read in your entry that other people deal with these conflicted feelings too.

  2. Thanks for this. I have a friend who is currently weighing the option of the lap band procedure. His reason? He blew his knee out years ago and needs a replacement. Unfortunately, they don’t make an artificial one that will carry his weight.

    I did suggest that he might want to explore and seriously consider the downside of the surgery before he makes his decision, but I’ve also let him know that I will support him in whatever decision he makes.

    Now if only the medical community would make an artificial knee joint that will work on the body he already has….

    • Twistie I’m inclined to agree with MollyMurr about the existence of strong knee products available for larger people: they are likely out there somewhere; but who knows the cost. Aside from encouraging second opinions I think that letting him know you’re there for him regardless is likely the most helpful thing right now.

  3. You’ve made me really think about this. I know I need to keep loving friends who hate their own bodies, without thinking that because they hate their bodies, they thus hate my body, and must hate me. It just doesn’t work like that.

    Twistie, I’m betting they are lying about not making a joint that will support his weight. Come on, our own joints aren’t made of steel! Your friend is being prejudiced against by the medical industry that doesn’t want to give him a knee because they blame him for his knee troubles. It disgusts me that they can do that.

  4. “I may not want to hear about how many calories you ate today and how “good” that makes you; but that is a far cry from not wanting to remain your supportive and loving friend. It just means we need to find something else to talk about around the water cooler is all.”
    I love this. I have a male friend who is on a crusade to become a “better” person and who now wants to talk about how he’s restricting his food and exercising forever and I told him, this is not something I want to talk about. And he flipped out. But he now he respects that boundary with me and that’s great. I have more trouble with my mom, who had the lap band, and is horribly wrapped up in the good v. bad food as she gains weight back.
    Babysteps 🙂

    • Jackie: baby steps are still movement in the right direction. I have trouble un-warping the relationship with food my mom has so that when I’m around her I don’t fall back into the same destructive behaviors. I consider any movement in that aspect a triumph!

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