After years of feeling awful about your weight (and probably being bullied for it), you made the courageous decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery in Mexico. And you’ve succeeded in getting healthy! It should be all roses from here on out, right? Unfortunately, many VSG patients quickly realize that not everyone is thrilled with their success. Worse, those people feel compelled to remark on how you’re now “too thin” and should “stop losing weight.”
Stacey understands this frustration well. “I went to visit my grandma, who I haven’t seen in almost a year; which means she hasn’t seen me since I’ve lost 100 pounds,” she reports. “Instead of greeting me with a hug and a smile, she immediately went straight to telling me how bad I look and that I was too skinny. I told her that I feel so much better and I’m happy, and she says, ‘Well I’m glad you got what you wanted, but you don’t look good.’”
It catches many vertical sleeve gastrectomy patients off guard the first time it happens, especially when it comes from a loved one or, ironically, from those who offered criticism for being overweight. Annoying and downright hurtful? Definitely. But since it’s practically a fact of life post-VSG, let’s delve a little deeper.
What’s the motivation behind the comments?
Identifying the “why” behind hurtful remarks can help you form a response or allow your compassion to kick in. Most patients find there are three main reasons people feel a need to weigh in (so to speak) on their body.
This is the most obvious reason and the one many sleevers blame for the majority of the negative comments they receive. And, often, it’s true. “I have yet to have a healthy person tell me I’m too skinny,” John observes.
Robbin agrees with the jealousy theory, saying that some people are envious of others who are doing things to better their lives. “It’s their own insecurities that they are dealing with,” she says.
Dominique says it seems like some always want to be “better” than others in their social circle, and they make it known that they preferred it when you were the fat friend. She advises pulling the important people in your life into your new lifestyle via invitations to go walking or suggesting healthy places to eat. In sharing the journey, she believes, people are less likely to be jealous and more likely to chase their own goals.
They’re generally negative
People who fall into this category can be most difficult to deal with because you can’t change anyone else’s character. Peggy’s grandmother has always been critical, so she wasn’t surprised when dear old granny got on her case for her slimmed-down appearance. “Some people are only happy when criticizing others,” she sighs.
Michelle says phrases such as “I liked the heavy version of you” are red flags that identify people as negative nellies. If you have one (or more) of these in your life, she suggests that sleevers remember that it’s your opinion that counts—not theirs.
Different from the jealousy issue, this one is about the fact that the “new you” is, in fact, new. And that brings up questions of what that means for your relationship. Belinda, a VSG patient herself, can relate to the discomfort angle. “I remember when my cousin, who had always been big, lost a lot of weight,” she recalls. “I wasn’t jealous. I was uncomfortable. I grew up with him one way, and he looked unrecognizable now. I felt, for some reason, that he was a different person. I missed the old him. The label I put on that was that he looked unhealthy. Now that years have passed, I’ve come to realize he’s still the same guy, just healthier.”
She hit the nail on the head with her observation that many of us (even if we’ve been through the process ourselves!) associate the way we look with who we are. Hence, loved ones may worry that they don’t know you anymore.
How should I respond to the negativity?
Some VSG patients prefer not to respond at all, but if you’re inclined to respond, here are some ideas from sleeve brothers and sisters:
• Funny: John, who says he’s too happy to give any head space to the nay-sayers, likes to channel Gone With the Wind with a “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”
• Sincere: “I’m sorry you can’t be happy for me, but I’m happy for me,” works for Kristi.
• Pointed: Susan’s favorite is, “Didn’t your momma ever teach you if you had nothing nice to say, you don’t say anything at all?” Dee just smiles and tells them that it’s not about them and how they feel.
• Grace: Deneka keeps in mind the Biblical adage that forgiveness is best as they “know not what they do.”
• Southern: “Bless your heart.”
At the end of the day, your journey is just that—your own. If you’re happy and healthy, look in the mirror and give yourself the love you may not be getting from others. And remember that your Endo family is always happy to lift you up!
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