7 Things NOT To Say To Someone Who Has Had Weight-Loss Surgery

Written by Misty Ralston

After spending the majority of my life obese, I decided to have bariatric surgery. I had surgery on September 22, 2008. I have lost a lot of weight since then, but I still have a lot to lose before I reach a normal BMI.

There was a great deal of preparation prior to the surgery. I had a bunch of appointments and tests done, though none of them prepared me for the experiences that I would have after the surgery.

Having bariatric surgery is a heart-wrenching decision.

No one told me I’d finally follow my dream to go to law school and how that would affect my life. No one told me that the attention and praise of friends and family would bring me happiness, anger, fear, and sadness — all for a variety of reasons.

Here are a few of the things people said, and still say, to me that really get under my skin. Some of the comments are hurtful; some are meant to be compliments but actually aren't.

1. "Weight-loss surgery is 'the easy way out.'"

There is nothing further from the truth. Having bariatric surgery is a heart-wrenching decision to put one’s body in the hands of another person and have your insides rearranged or removed in order to have a chance at a better life. The pain afterward; the opinions of friends and family; the emotions, fears, and loss all weigh heavily on a person going through this procedure. It isn’t easy. In fact, it's incredibly difficult.

2. "Are you gaining?"

I might gain back the weight. It’s not the surgery’s fault. It’s my fault. So stop telling me “Surgery doesn’t work.” Nothing “works” if you don’t follow the instructions.

This same comment goes along with, “You’re getting too skinny. You should stop.” You might not be used to seeing me smaller. You might not be used to me getting close to a normal weight. I’m not used to that either. So, please, let me, my doctor, my nutritionist, and my therapist decide whether or not I’m at a healthy weight.

3. “You look so different now. You're so pretty; you must be so happy."

Please, don’t treat me differently. I’m still the same person. The things that hurt me yesterday hurt me today. But what hurts me even more is when you are nicer to me than you were before. When you say how pretty I look now what I hear is that I wasn’t pretty before. When you hold the door for me or look at me — it can make me uncomfortable because I feel naked without the fat to cover me. I’m still me.

4. “You know, my friend/sister/hairdresser had surgery…”

This is my journey. Your friends and family members have theirs. I’m not a poster child, I’m not their doctor, and I’m not their nutritionist. I had surgery but that surgery does not qualify me to answer the questions of the world. Just like having gallbladder surgery doesn’t make you an expert on that. Stop questioning me.

5. “You’re so moody.”

I am going to be emotional at times. I am going to experience things I never expected. I am going to learn things about myself that I never knew or had bottled up inside. You aren’t the only one who doesn’t understand — I don’t either. I’m not being selfish; I’m trying to figure out who I am and who I am meant to be.

6. “You were never sick like this before you had that surgery.”

Every time I become ill, it is not because I had surgery. Every cold, flu, stomach pain, and complaint doesn’t fall back to my surgery. Yes, there are times I’ll eat the wrong things or eat too quickly. But please stop blaming everything on my surgery. I can still get colds, the flu, and food poisoning like everyone else.

7. “Why can’t you just eat right and exercise more without having the surgery — have you ever really tried?”

Finally, in many ways this is truly the most important journey I will take. I’m scared and excited. I’ll be proud and disappointed. I’ll fall back into my old habits and then start fighting the battle again. It is never-ending and it's mine. Travel with me or don't. But understand this: I refuse to regret my decision because you disagree with it.

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