Things not to say to a Weight Loss Surgery Patient

Things not to say to a Weight Loss Surgery Patient

I have had lots of well intentioned things said to me, especially when I was going through the rapid weight loss phase after my gastric bypass surgery. Most of these were nice and of course there were only good intentions behind them. I did however get tired of hearing some of the more slightly offensive things over and over again.

This post has also been inspired by the whole notion of body shaming. Body shaming is essentially passing judgement on someone because of a physical trait such as ‘thinness’ or ‘fatness’. When I was big people had no worries telling me I was overweight and that I should deal with it. Now that I’m a healthy weight the judgement hasn’t stopped but now it’s from the other end of the scale. I don’t want to believe any of these things have been said to me with the intention of upsetting me but sometimes you can’t help but take things a different way to how they were intended. Here’s my list of things not to say to a weight loss surgery patient.

“Don’t lose any more weight.”

All I heard when I got this comment was, “Woah you’re doing too well, don’t make me look bad.” I liked to think of this as a backhanded compliment. I think what people are trying to say is that you look great but I started getting this 15-20 kg away from my goal. And did people honestly think I could just stop my body in it’s tracks? It wasn’t possible so please don’t make seemingly nice but ultimately pointless comments like this.

“Oh, is that all you’re eating?”

In my head my reply is, “Why yes I had surgery TO SHRINK THE SIZE OF MY STOMACH!!!” Let’s expand on that and and say don’t comment on everything a bariatric patient eats, what they eat and any of their other eating habits. It gets old pretty fast having to explain yourself and stick up for each and every thing you do with and around food so let’s not go there. If you don’t know someone has had weight loss surgery fair enough but if you do constantly fawning over what they eat gets old to the bariatric person very quickly.

“I should do what you’re doing.”

Because I have lost a lot of weight some people ask me incessantly for diet advice. I try and give general diet and healthy living advice when I’m asked. More annoying is the, “I’ll copy exactly what you eat,” or, “I’ll do what you’re doing,” because I think with a normal sized tummy you would really struggle.

“You must be so happy to have finally sorted your weight issue.”

Yes I’m happy with the decision I’ve made and the healthy weight I have got to but you have to be a bit naïve to think that I don’t have any issues with my body anymore. And please don’t think the journey is over, yes I’ve reached the normal BMI category but I will still need to pay attention to and manage my weight for the rest of my life. I wrote a post a while ago about Happiness after my gastric bypass and how it hasn’t really changed anything on an everyday basis for me.

“You’re too thin.” Or, “Are you okay you look a bit sick.”

This coupled with the, “Don’t lose anymore weight,” really used to get to me because my goal weight was between myself and my surgical team. If the surgical team were worried about how low my weight was getting they would have done something about it so please don’t worry about it for them. I had this said to me last week and honestly it just makes me sigh. Thanks for telling me you think I’m too skinny. *Insert massive eye roll here* This is just out and out skinny shaming.

“I wish I could have surgery to lose weight.” Also good friends with, “You took the easy way out.”

I know the few times I’ve had this comment the maker of said comment hasn’t truly meant it in the way it comes across. Reaching the point of gastric bypass being a suitable option for me because of how heavy I was was actually mortifying when I realised it. Making such a throw away comment isn’t funny and while I do kind of get it this just helps to reinforce the point I always try to make of weight loss surgery not being the easy way out. If there was literally any other option for me to get on top of my weight without having my body physically modified I would have taken it.

I think the main point I’m getting to is please don’t make assumptions and/or judgements about the diet, journey, amount of weight someone has to lose or habits they have to adopt after surgery. If you’re interested sure, ask a couple of questions but please don’t do it over and over again and if they are giving you short answers and you’re not getting much out of them you could be forgiven for thinking they don’t want to talk about it at that point in time.

Now I guess some people could argue that by deciding to do this and having such a rapid, noticeable change to your outward appearance you’re inviting comments but I disagree. There’s never a right moment to judge someone elses body. Ultimately I did this for me and my health not to be more physically pleasing to someone who can’t accept all shapes and sizes.

If you know someone who has had bariatric surgery and want to simply give them a compliment how about, “You look great/vibrant/healthy/glowing, how’s everything going?” This leaves it up to them to tell them what they feel like sharing and you can part with them reassured that you’re being an awesome friend. It will be pretty obvious how happy they are to talk about it so if they’re looking uncomfortable move on to another subject!

I never get bored of talking about my surgery but these are some of the things that made/make me roll my eyes when people say them to me. What’s been the most stand out not very well though out comment you’ve had after bariatric surgery? Comment below I’d love to know what your top thing not to say to a weight loss surgery patient is.

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There are 23 comments for this article
  1. anabels at 12:42 pm

    The “easy way out” comment strikes me as all kinds of rude! My (now-ex) husband lost over 100kg on OptiFast and people told him he was taking the easy way out! To start with – have you tasted that stuff?! He had a year where he basically had nothing but OptiFast because it was the only way to get enough nutrients in while cutting calories enough. It was so hard on him and I am still so proud of him for sticking with it. I can’t imagine that bariatric surgery is any less challenging!

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 4:49 pm

      I’m so glad you can see the absolute ridiculousness of the statement! I had to do Optifast for two weeks before and for a few months after and man I was over it by then. I couldn’t imagine having basically only that for a year, he did so well!

  2. Michelle at 6:58 pm

    I had the same thing recently a good friend said your taking the easy way out but you always do I was devastated she said that a few weeks later I bought it up she said oh I didn’t mean it like that .
    Another one is you don’t need weight loss surgery are you crazy your beautiful the way you are hmmm well my BMI may disagree with your comment and also my GP who is constantly ha trading me at appointments about my weight but has never ever ever offered any help eg dietician or tablets or anything

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 7:02 pm

      Oh my gosh I’m sorry she said that but I’m glad you sorted it out with her. I know that used to drive me nuts too. Being morbidly obese isn’t healthy and if you decide it’s what you need to do to ensure your health then of course you should.

  3. Gemma at 6:59 pm

    This one is not so well-intentioned, but has anyone ever asked you what the surgery cost and in any way implied it was their tax dollars that paid for it? I see this in comments on news stories sometimes and find it upsetting.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 7:03 pm

      I haven’t had any negative comments about the fact that my surgery was done on the public system. I see those comments too but do those people honestly not realise how much money that it’s saving the health system long term in terms of diabetes medications and things like that.

      • Maggie at 9:52 pm

        In reply to this – simply tell the by having the surgery you are actually saving the tacpayer -which is why it is reimbursed by the system. The long term cost of managing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease etc is far more expensive than funding the operation.

  4. Maria | Happy Mum Happy Child at 7:49 pm

    Oh man, I never in a million years would have thought major surgery was the easy way out – and reading your journey, especially at the beginning, it has taught me it is most definitely not easy!

  5. Michelle at 8:24 pm

    I was a self pay and I’ve been asked abit how much it costs by the people I have told my mum nearly fainted but got onboard it’s not her money my sister actually found out from my friend how much it cost (the same friend that said I take the easy way out) well she told my sister how much I was spending and my sister went home and asked my mum why she was letting me spend close to 20k on surgery my mum said its none of her business and I’m 37 I can do what I like. I’ve had someone say what a waste of money but no if you have everything else in your life and you are happy EXCEPT for one thing one thing that makes you sad ashamed self conscience why would you not change that if you could well I could so I did ? I think it’s amazing that people who for the criteria can get help through the public system it’s a long journey and I take my hat off to them I wish they could do more as I feel in NZ obesity is a huge issue that not much is being done about that’s when it costs the tax payer to support obese people as they age it’s sad really

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 10:53 pm

      If I could have paid for it myself I would have. I thought I was so lucky that I had the option of being apply to apply to get it done on the public system. You should be proud of the investment you have made in yourself and your health of course you would change it any way you can! I’m sure the health system will have to do more in this way to tackle obesity in the future. It’s one of the best longterm solutions in terms of outcomes.

    • Emma at 10:03 pm

      It is never a waste if money if it’s giving someone a new lease on life, one they can adore and have fun with. Especially if you’re a mother and wife – it gives your family a life too! Now that’s not saying men shouldn’t have the opportunity too but as a wife and mother, well the ‘keeping up’ and energy impact is huge. You lovelies who go through this process have already tried everything else X The cost factor, whether yours or the system is a saving long run.
      Im between a rock n a hard place – don’t fit the criteria and don’t have the money haha Melissa gave me the inspiration to look into though.

  6. Gemma at 8:57 pm

    I think it takes huge effort to get surgery through the public system. I took 3 years to be genuinely ready, know I wasn’t going to be a liability and fail at it and had to jump through so many hoops to prove it. Doing it privately is the same in another way, if you are up for spending the money yourself then that’s a massive commitment right there. Only thing I’ve noticed (and that’s only anecdotally) is that there’s possibly more follow up and dietician support in the public system.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 10:55 pm

      I think it really depends on the health board and the surgeon if you go private as to what support you get. It would be great to see psychological support be a given anyway you went but I think that’s a wee bit off if it ever happens. I would be really interested to see the results of a study showing the differences in outcome between private and publicly funded operations.

  7. Michelle at 10:12 pm

    Yes 100% true possibly Gemma I never had any pre counselling sessions or anything like that meet the surgeon the nutritionally phoned me went over pre Opp diet as I live away from where they are based I made a decision 3 months later had the surgery I see them one month out and who knows but from what I’ve found on the website I follow public system comes with lots and lots of hoops.

  8. Nigel Pearson at 12:35 pm

    I have had quite a few people asking “When will you be able to eat like a normal person again?”
    They are usually stunned when I tell them NEVER……as they just don’t realise that my old stomach has been sacrificed….and that I’m adjusting to different eating habits.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 12:41 pm

      Hi Nigel, yes that’s a good one! I didn’t think about it until now but I’ve had a few people ask when I’m going to get my stomach put back to normal which is essentially the same kind of question. It’s funny how people can’t believe you have sacrificed (often in their opinion not your own) so much for the rest of your life isn’t it.

  9. Michelle at 5:23 pm

    This is a really good post of such vital things that may seem well intentioned, but are definitely not. In summary: it’s their body, not yours, don’t body shame. One thing I really despise is how my weight seems to be a public opinion topic where anyone feels they have the right to comment on it or what I’m eating. Very sad to see that it happens at the other end of the spectrum for you and other post-surgery people! Especially considering the amount of constant change, uncertainty, and relearning your body that you’re having to deal with already.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 6:06 pm

      Thanks Michelle you have summed it up really well. I was a bit taken aback when I realised that basically no matter what people are always going to have an opinion on your body. And you’re right there’s a huge amount of relearning and when you’re trying to work through all of that it’s not cool getting silly comments.

  10. Gemma at 7:17 am

    Here’s another one that happened to me just yesterday. I walk into my GP’s room and she says ‘oh you’re looking skinny!’. I’m not. I’m 152kg, I’ve lost 30kg and only 6 of those are since my surgery. I understand what she’s trying to say, but it’s not a statement of fact, nor would it ever be a compliment if it were true!
    Luckily we have a great relationship and I put her in her place kindly but firmly.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 1:22 pm

      That’s exactly the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes! People think they are being helpful by saying these ‘compliments’ but they aren’t. I’m glad you have a good enough relationship with her to be able to talk to her about her use of words.

      • Gemma at 6:13 pm

        My GP says she always feels like she’s ‘putting her foot in it’ with me, but really appreciates that I at least tell her rather than go away feeling resentful or upset. These sorts of things can happen with all sorts of people though and it’s often not easy to reply because it’s frequently a social situation and being blunt is a bit harder in front of more than one person. I expect my doctor however, to stick to the facts, my health and she’s actually the only person who’s allowed to comment on my health because I gave her that job!

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