Appearance, health, or weight

I nervously scanned the people in the conference room at Summa Akron City Hospital on that cold January night in 2008. I was taking my first step towards bariatric surgery by attending a weight loss seminar. I saw a cross-section of obese people who appeared to be equally as uneasy.

I suspect my newer friends and followers may not know I had bariatric surgery. I haven’t written about bariatric surely in several years. It consumed my blogging and life for many years. I have never felt unease in talking about this part of my life.

Bariatric surgery led to a significant change in my life over the past eleven years. Recently this topic came back to life, I started answering questions about weight loss and bariatric surgery on Quora. I now find myself being asked to answer these questions in increasing frequency.

Bariatric surgery questions concentrate on the failure of bariatric surgery. People are consumed by being a failure in life after surgery or feeling that they will fail at weight loss after bariatric surgery. These questions overwhelmingly define failure by a single indicator, weight.

Success was driven by the scale early on my journey. Those numbers had better been dropping with each step on the scale. The bariatric care center reinforced that mindset. The first years after surgery are honeymoon years where the weight tumbles down. My weight seemed to be the perfect indicator.

People view success as being driven by health, appearance, or weight. That has been a constant in my interactions with other bariatric post-ops. They question success when their primary indicator of success begins to falter. That single-minded focus feeds a downward spiral. That is the danger of placing too much emphasis on the scale.

I was driven by my health from day one. I had recovered from a triple coronary bypass three years prior to bariatric surgery. I knew the weight had to go for me to stay alive. I would be lying if I said appearance and weight were not on my mind. I wanted it all. Above all, I wanted to be healthy and be alive.

My response to anyone asking about bariatric surgery is that you need to understand that it has great potential to change your life. This only happens if you can CHANGE. Change your eating habits. Change your activity level. Change your view of yourself. Change the things that led to your obesity.

I have seen little failure in the bariatric people I friended over the past eleven years. I do see people believing they have failed in some manner either by weight, appearance, or health. Each of these people changed their lives in positive ways. They just need to celebrate their successes more.

I usually include one of the following thoughts when responding to questions on Quora about weight loss.

  1. Keeping weight off is a lifelong struggle.
  2. Being active is a critical part of my success and health.
  3. Success is more than BMI and the number on the scale.
  4. People enjoy success in different ways they may not see.
  5. Don’t let weight define who you are and your happiness.
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  1. Old Man with a Trike February 3, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    Tom, as I THINK you may know, overfat has been a struggle for me for 45 years.

    My primary goal is health followed by appearance, and lastly, weight. Funny though, I mostly use weight as an indicator, but only because it is so easy to measure. I learned long ago that in any practical sense, there’s really no such thing as overweight. To wit: I’m 5′ 11″. If I weighed 230 lbs, my BMI would be off the obesity charts. But if I ALSO were sporting a mere 10%, or even 15% body fat, I’d actually be a buff hunk!

    So while I do track weight, I also track percent body fat, waist circumference (the best measure), and fat to muscle ratio, all better measures (IMO) of health (or projected health) than weight.

    1. Tom Bilcze February 6, 2019 at 6:55 am

      Weight is the easiest thing to measure. Society trains us to focus on weight. We see it in the media especially at this time of year. The message is you are overweight and need to drop those excess pounds. That’s what gets people heading out to gyms and in the grocery changing their food choices. Both are good this but not the ultimate answer. It’s the issue of treating the symptoms while ignoring the cause. That cause is difficult, usually psychological and environmental. We must first work on minimizing and weakening the cause of obesity. Thanks for your thoughtful response. We are largely on the same track. It’s even more true for us at this point in our lives and past histories.


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