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Being the fat kid in school was never easy. Gym class was one embarrassment after another, and I always had to make my own costumes for the plays. One of my earliest memories of my school cafeteria is feeling guilty for eating something other than salad. “Fatty, fatty, two-by-four…”
As I grew into middle and high school, the taunts became more discrete, but were equally juvenile. I learned how to stick up for myself, and even more importantly; I learned how to show my peers that there was more to me than the “sad fat girl” exterior. Turns out most people prefer not to challenge their stereotypes of the stupid, lazy fat person. Every argument won, every correct answer in class and every snappy comeback gained the same retort: “fat ass.”
My youthful dreams of a diverse and accepting college experience were quickly squashed when I got to Boulder. Dirty looks when I order food. A whisper as I get on the bus. Laughing when I work out. No matter the lifestyle I lead, Boulderites seem to have a better idea of what I should be doing with my time. “Just diet and exercise.”
Diet and exercise worked well for me. When I starved myself as a freshman at CU, I lost about 30 pounds in one semester. But it all came back once I moved up to two meals per day. By working out twice a day and eating nothing but salads, I lost about 40 pounds over summer. It was back by October. The fact is, when someone has spent enough time considerably overweight, simple diet and exercise don’t do the trick. Some studies have shown that approximately 65 percent of dieters gain all their weight back within a year while about 97 percent gain it all back within five years. Those odds aren’t good for anyone.
Now, I have my body image issues, same as anyone. I feel self-conscious when I cross the street, wondering what the people in their cars think about me. I don’t laugh when a friend makes a fat joke, despaired that they think of me the same way. I won’t leave the “friend” territory with a guy because I’m terrified of rejection. I hide my embarrassment when I sit in a seat that’s too small.
But I’m not self-hating by any means. Even while battling my weight, I still juggle an active social life with a successful work and school life. I’ve found other ways to boost my confidence over the years, and I really think I have a lot of things going for me. I’ve had to fight weight discrimination everywhere I’ve gone, and that experience has made me truly appreciate the things I’ve accomplished.
So I made the decision to have gastric bypass surgery.
I want to hike the Flatirons before leaving Boulder in June and I want to walk across the Macky stage this May looking as confident in my graduation gown as I feel. I want to stop being the “fat friend” so I can be the heroine.
“But gastric bypass is the easy way out.”
The process to get approved for this surgery started nearly a year ago. I visited my doctor and nutritionist monthly, keeping track of my weight, nutrition and exercise. I had appointments with my surgeon and a psychologist, who wanted to make sure I had a healthy motive behind this decision. I even took a five-hour class about post-surgery nutrition. This was all required by my insurance company, because education and preparation are the only way to ensure long-term success.
My transition will come with “dumping syndrome” (which isn’t quite as nice as it sounds) and dehydration. My diet will be incredibly restricted for a long time, and my body will have trouble absorbing vitamins and minerals. And I won’t exactly be bikini-ready by summer, because even at my age I’m still destined to end up with saggy skin. And I haven’t even started about the psychological turmoil that so often plagues gastric bypass patients as they struggle to redefine themselves.
No one should feel social pressure to lose weight. Contrary to the health-obsessed headlines flying at us every day, it is completely possible to be happy and healthy while overweight. I’ve done it. I would never recommend that anyone have this surgery unless they felt it was right for them.
As for me, I’m taking a big step on Feb. 22. It won’t be easy, but rather, just another challenge.
Contact CU Independent Editor-in-Chief Danielle Alberti at Alberti@colorado.edu.
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