How I Discussed Bariatric Surgery With My Child

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Author and daughter on Mother’s Day after having bariatric surgery.
Courtesy of the author

  • I had gastric bypass surgery in November 2022 and lost 85 pounds.
  • Before the surgery, I talked with my daughter about the surgery and what to expect.
  • I wanted her to understand that I was doing it for my health, not for cosmetic reasons.

The first time I told my daughter I was considering bariatric surgery was over the weekend at a sports bar with my family enjoying dinner. It was December 2020, and I had already seen a doctor who would perform surgery later. But I was afraid to move forward. The process seemed overwhelming.

With tears in my eyes, I looked into my then 10-year-old daughter’s eyes and said, “I want you to know that if you’re doing this because your body hurts and you feel unhealthy, not because you think there’s something wrong with being fat.” . At the time, I was 5’4″ tall and weighed over 220 pounds, and by the time I decided to have surgery almost two years later, I had gained another 15 pounds.

I refused to continue the cycle of body shaming that was inherited from my mother.

The author was in the hospital the day her daughter was born.
Courtesy of the author

I’ve struggled with my weight all my life, and my relationship with food and diet has always been insecure. As a child, I remember crying at the dinner table telling my parents stories of how the kids made fun of my weight on the playground.

As a teen in the 1990s, whenever my jeans felt too tight, my mom would enroll me in Jenny Craig or take me to the store to buy some Dexatrim. By the time I became a mother myself, I had tried everything from phentermine to P90X, and my weight would only come off and back on by 50 pounds.

My daughter was my second child and when she was born, I was looking forward to having a little girl in the house and sharing my love for pink dresses and pedicures. But at the same time, I was also terrified. How do you deal with your own body image issues (many of which you inherited from your mother) without destroying your little girl’s sense of self?

I embraced body positivity and focused on moving and eating healthy foods. I decided not to speak negatively about my appearance around her daughter.

And in many ways, my focus on body positivity helped. I stopped tracking everything I put into my mouth and instead focused on eating whole foods like lean protein and fresh vegetables. Instead of punishing myself at the gym, I increased my physical activity by finding fun ways to move my body, such as spin classes and long walks. Knowing I was doing everything “right” and caring for my body with love boosted my confidence.

My daughter was raised in a home where, even when discussing weight, it was only said that body fat was normal and that all bodies deserved to be loved. I watched her eat dinner with unabashed enthusiasm. Her food was not her enemy. Through her family’s walks, bouncing on trampolines, and attending dance classes, she developed a love for her body.

Despite having a healthier relationship with my body and improving my mental health, I continued to gain weight. By the time I was 41, I weighed 235 pounds and was feeling the effects of weight on my health. I had chronic pain in my back, legs and feet. I also have severe ulcers and woke up with painful acid reflux most nights.

I told my daughter that my choice was for my health.

Author and daughter at Disney theme park.
Courtesy of the author

I decided to have bariatric surgery in May 2022, 15 months after my initial consultation with my surgeon. Health insurance approval can take months, so I immediately began the process of blood tests, therapist appointments, and nutritionist visits.

Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who specializes in teens and parenting, said the first step when talking about weight loss surgery with teen girls is to be honest. “Talk to your kids before that happens,” says Greenberg. “My teenage daughter knows something is going on. The worst thing is to avoid it.” After making a decision, I brought this up again with my daughter.

“I think this surgery will change my life,” I said to my daughter, who was nearly 12 years old at the time. “But I want you to understand that this is not what I consider unattractive.”

Greenberg also says that when talking to children, “make sure they understand that it’s not about looking good, it’s about their health, and how their weight affects their health.” Please be specific and tell me that a healthy weight is different for everyone.” Notice that what’s healthy for one person isn’t necessarily healthy for another, and how your weight can feel unhealthy to you. “

I told her that my feet and legs often hurt. I had to make her understand that it wasn’t about how I looked. “She’s doing it so she can move her body more, exercise more, and one day be able to chase the kids around the yard,” I said.

Cool and calm, as always, she took my word for it. Over the next six months, we talked more about the surgery here and there. I tried to be honest with her about the things that scared me, such as the pain she would experience in the days and weeks after surgery and whether the surgery would work for me. We discussed how long the recovery process would take and what it would look like. From where I cut her belly to how much she could see me reeling around in pain.

The author and her daughter months before undergoing bariatric surgery in June 2022.
Courtesy of the author

Dr. Greenberg said you should explain the steps you have taken to lose weight, and if your child has concerns about the surgery or its risks, invite them to a meeting with the surgeon to ask questions. suggested to do so.

When I spoke with my daughter, we also discussed how my life would change as a result of this surgery. Granted, I have a small stomach so I can’t sit down and eat that much, but there will be more. I told her that she would be tired for a few months until her body adjusted, that she needed to cut back on things like caffeine and sugar, and that my diet was better because I focused on: I explained that it changed a little. A high-protein diet after surgery.

I also told them that as a side effect of bariatric surgery, hair loss due to changes in nutritional intake and rapid weight loss can be considered. She explained that she and I have kept the same long blonde hairstyle for years and plan to cut her hair into a short blonde bob until her hair loss subsides. Losing her mother and her twin may have saddened her the most, but I promised her I’d grow her hair long again someday.

Whether or not to have weight loss surgery was a personal decision and it was the right choice for me.

Author and daughter after undergoing bariatric surgery.
Courtesy of the author

I had gastric bypass surgery on November 1st. After that, it was hard for my two children to see me suffer, but as I healed and continued to lose weight, they saw me happy for the first time in years. rice field. The pain in my feet, back, and feet that I’ve been experiencing on a daily basis is gone, and I’m able to put more energy into everything from family beach days to keeping the house clean. Surgery healed the ulcer and helped me rest better as the nightly battle with reflux was over. In the end, I was pain free, well, and free to be their mother the way I always wanted to be. To date I’ve lost 85 pounds and the biggest comment I’ve gotten from other people is “You look radiant”.

And, I. Today I am telling her daughter how glad I made the decision to have her weight loss surgery. While the concept of BMI was denied and people of any weight can be healthy, bariatric surgery was a personal decision and the right choice for me.

It was a choice made based on how I wanted to feel, not how I wanted to look. Obese patients are often criticized, from naysayers who call the surgery “the easy way out” to well-meaning commentators who say it’s “beautiful” at either weight.

The author and her daughter after surgery.
Courtesy of the author

“Explain that you’ll have more energy and be able to live a longer, healthier lifestyle,” says Greenberg. “But by all means, don’t avoid talking about it. They’ll see your weight loss.”

My life today is completely different than it was a year ago. I have more energy to exercise, so I am able to manage my stress and anxiety and spend more time with my kids throughout the day. My kids won’t see me staggering from the living room to the kitchen with sore feet, or taking ibuprofen for back pain. Instead, we go for long walks with the dog, run a marathon day at the theme park, run a 5km race together, and hit the pool most evenings because we’re not tired all day long. For me, bariatric surgery was a way to give my children healthy mothers.

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