When you have had, or mention to someone you’re thinking of having, surgery such as a weight loss procedure, tummy tuck, arm or thigh lift, breast augmentation or any other such procedure you are sure to be bombarded by others’ opinions. Particularly with weight loss surgery, as so many see it as the “lazy person’s way out” or “the easy route”. When it comes to plastics such as procedures to remove excess skin you may be told your being vain or are selfish. With both types of surgery, many people with a negative bias will tell you it’s a bad idea. And where does that leave you? Maybe you’ve gone from a place of hopeful interest, thinking maybe there’s a viable solution for the pain-point you’re suffering, to feeling guilty, stupid for even thinking about it, wasteful. A failure.
The thing with opinions is everyone has one. Not everyone’s matters though. When it comes to this topic, most negative opinions come from a lack of up-to-date knowledge and sometimes, even from a place of jealousy. Now I’m not here to tell you whether you should, or you shouldn’t – that’s a conversation for you and your doctor. What I am going to do though is to give you something to think about if the voices of others are starting to get to you, and you are second guessing yourself.
4 Times when Surgery isn’t lazy, or selfish, or stupid idea:
You’ve done your homework.
You have an idea of what you want, and researched the procedure. You then have had an honest open conversation with your GP. You’ve selected a reputable surgeon and met with them to discuss the best procedure for you, it’s outcomes, complications and costs. You’ve signed up for an appropriate level of health cover and are working through the waiting period. You’ve planned how you will pay for your procedure. You’ve made a list of what you will do when your motivation and spirits are low; when struggling in the early days; when being hampered by complications; when feeling exhausted and weak during recovery. There was no snap decision made here. You know what you’re doing. You know what to expect, you’ve researched well, planned ways to mitigate the tough parts, and had the hard conversations. You’ve not rushed into anything. Be strong with your well-thought out decision.
You’ve tried the “traditional route”. Like, you’ve really, really tried.
Why on earth should you keep trying if all you ever do is fail?! Argh. You can’t remember ever being “not big”. You were overweight as a child. Maybe your parents were too, and then things blew out of control in the teen and young-adult years. Now you’ve got 55kg at least to lose to just be considered “normal”. You eat well and drink lots of water and exercise hard. You’ve lost 9kg, yay! Then within six months you’ve gained 11kg. You couldn’t train with an ankle injury, then there was the flu, plus that big project at work and that thing with the kids and… Life just got in the way. It happens. After a period of moping, you go hard at it for next 3 months and lose 15kg! Hurray for being back in the green. Then after injury, illness and life, within the next three months you’ve regained 7kg. After a year of hardcore trying and discipline and scales-go-up and scales-go-down, you are only down 6kg, still with 49kg to lose. It feels relentless. It feels like you are never going to break free of the emotional and physical burden. It’s not always possible to work out an hour or two a day every day. It’s not always easy to prepare plan and track nutritious foods. There is a big weight on your shoulders (no pun intended) and to accomplish loss at this level means to make it the near-highest priority in life. It’s so much constant work to move forward, and the tiniest thing sets you back at a rate of knots. They say, “calories in vs calories out” and they say what matters is your behaviours the majority of the time is what matters, but your body feels so broken that this just doesn’t seem to ring true for you (and it very well may not! But that’s another blog post). You don’t want to spend every single day of every single year of your life obsessing over weight and trying to lose it when you are doing the right things. You want to feel success. You want to feel normal and have worked hard for that feeling but you always fall short. You don’t want to keep feeling shame and embarrassment when exercising in the gym, or running in the park, or eating in public. You don’t want your kids being teased for being the “fat mum”. You are tired of friends pointing out (trying to be so helpful) that you’re working so hard and doing the right things, “you just need to hang in there and trust the process”. You desperately want a win on the board, and one that lasts. Surgery is a modern solution to a very modern problem, and if you’ve done your research (see point one above), it’s a great option for those with large amounts of weight to lose but feel like despite best efforts all you do is constantly lose the same 10kg. Having a sustainable winning streak when you’re doing all the right things is so important for the spirit. You need to feel the work you’re putting in is paying off. There is nothing lazy, selfish or stupid about this at all.
You’ve worked on your inner-demons.
Be this eating disorders, body image, dysmorphia, or general relationship with self. Mental health is one of the biggest aspects that will underlie your view of a successful surgery outcome. If you have been diagnosed (or suspect you should be so), or if you struggle in any way with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, or poor body image and self-esteem, and you haven’t worked through these concerns then no matter how much you lose or what body part you augment through surgery, you will never find satisfaction. To achieve a successful outcome with surgery and set yourself for long term success you need to do the mindset and emotional resilience work. As a starting point, speak to your GP about your concerns and they can refer you to a counsellor/psychologist to begin to work on this side of things. Then you can consider what success looks like to you and set realistic goals. It’s also important to discuss any feelings around these issues honestly with your surgeon too. You shouldn’t worry about “wasting time” and delays in having your surgery – you need to get in the right headspace first. But if you’ve already fought and are winning the war between your ears then good on you! You’re opting for surgery is an example of you taking control of your body and health the best way possible for you, and there is nothing wrong with that.
The timing is right.
Timing isn’t something you can ever have complete control over, but you can get a rough handle on it. It’s best to ensure that you have no major events like a marriage, legal affairs due, studies and exams or other such things lined up in the calendar around the time of surgery. Post op, you will be adjusting to tiny amounts of calories which is truly a biological trauma on the body. You will feel tired – like completely, soul-crushingly exhausted and weak for a while. Decision making and thinking won’t come easy. Because of this you’ve given your body and mind a 6–8-week period for physical and mental recovery. Then there’s the social factors. Are you having weight-loss surgery in order to have children? So, in the next 12-18months after the procedure are you prepared to be in a place for children (housing, time off work, savings and all those big things needing planning for. Maybe you’re at the opposite end of the scale. You’ve attained then maintained your weight loss goal for 12months or so and are considering a tummy tuck. Are you certain you’re finished having children first? You wouldn’t want a growing (yet beautiful) belly to stretch it all out again undoing all the effort and expense, would you? Or maybe you haven’t quite reached goal yet, do you maybe want to hold off? Not rush into it, remove excess skin just to lose another 15kg odd and have more lose skin again after? If you’ve been honest with yourself around your plans and timing, then there’s no reason not to consider surgery as a smart option for you.
So there is my humble opinion on when it’s not a lazy, selfish or stupid idea.
But you know, sometimes people’s criticisms of our choices come from a place of love and concern (even if poorly worded) and here are three occasions when surgery just probably isn’t the tree you need to be barking up (at least for the moment):
You’re intentionally gaining a lot of weight, to lose a little.
This really happens, and probably one of the main reasons you should keep out of overpopulated, unmoderated social media groups around weight loss surgery. There are people who will purposely gain 15kg plus, to move their BMI (Body Mass Index) up a rating to quality for the surgery when they had less than that amount originally to lose in the first place. Increasing your body fat to make yourself obese so you can qualify for a surgery to make weight loss “easier” when you had less than that amount to begin with is seriously misguided. You are underestimating the impact – both positive and negative – surgery has on your body, and you are unlikely to have the strong, resilient mindset necessary for long term success.
You are looking for a quick, easy fix and haven’t worked to address the habits you need to give yourself the best possible outcome, and long-term success.
Weight loss surgery is a tool. Like any tool, it won’t just do all the work for you – you still need to put in the effort. It’s so necessary to focus on the essential, lifelong habits required if you want to see yourself achieving goals and retaining your success. This includes habits around planning, prepping, and tracking meals; ensuring that meal plans contain adequate protein; exercising daily – both planned activities and incidental movement; drinking 2 to 3l of water daily; and working on building a healthy, positive, science-based resilient mindset. I cannot recommend James Clear’s book Atomic Habits any higher if you want to learn more about building good habits and breaking bad ones! All the surgery in the world won’t help you if you don’t adopt lifestyle behaviours to support them, and the sooner you start with them the better. There are no short cuts here. Doing this too also demonstrates to your surgeon that you’ve tried the “traditional route” in the first instance.
You haven’t done your homework, or really thought through your decision.
Weight loss surgery isn’t a small procedure. It’s a serious surgical intervention that has lifelong impacts, complications to consider, and is hugely expensive even with private health insurance. Firstly, you need to have researched the best surgeon for you. This means so much more than cost! Look at their success rates, reputation and feedback – both positive and negative. Then you need to look at all the different types of procedures, and consider side effects like possible reflux, temporary hair loss, scarring, nerve damage and more. Are you prepared to deal with those? How will you deal with them? You need to have a plan in place for when things are rough. Don’t fall into the trap here of getting bummed out for not qualifying for surgery with a reputable provider, so opting for a low cost, sub standard option overseas. Think clearly with a science-mind, not an emotional mind, and make smart decisions for you, based all qualified information and advice provided even if it means waiting or not proceeding at all. If the latter is the case, discuss what other options are available with your medical team. This is your health and wellbeing at stake, and you need to live with you for a long time – so don’t rush this part of the process.
My journey before weight loss surgery, my reasons, and my planning process are all a key part of my book ‘Running Thoughts’ available here. It also provides a wealth of knowledge for post-op, post-plastics life.
What are your thoughts on the points raised above? Do they resonate with you at all? Is there anything else you felt needed to be on the list? Email me at email@example.com or hit me up on social media with your thoughts!