We Need to Start Openly Talking About Bariatric Surgery Ourselves and in the Media

If you hadn’t of guessed by the fact that I mention gastric bypass in every blog post and tag almost every Instagram picture on my blog Instagram account with #gastricbypass I have had bariatric surgery. I started this blog with the sole intent of writing about it from my perspective and how I am living with my decision to have gastric bypass surgery and the lifestyle that now requires.

I have lost 70 kilos to bring me to sit at around 62-64 kilos since hitting my highest weight of 132 kilos. I lost 15 of those kilos prior to my surgery, so just under a quarter of my total loss and the remaining 55 kilos in the 9 months after my surgery. My gastric bypass surgery was the tool that enabled me to lose the weight so quickly and helped me drastically reduce my portion sizes because now, if I overeat after surgery, I will be sick.

When asked how I have lost so much weight the first thing I tell people is that I have had gastric bypass surgery. I am not ashamed of this in the slightest and if people ask more questions I am more than happy to divulge how it works and how the tool has helped me achieve such success with my weight loss. I could tell people that I reduced my portion sizes and started exercising regularly which is true but of course, leaves a glaring omission.

The social stigma associated with bariatric surgery is huge and part of me starting my blog was to talk about it in real, open terms to help people who are thinking about or who are going ahead and having surgery with a patients perspective. I also hoped that it would, in some small way, help to educate the general public about the reality of such procedures and the lifestyle change it requires afterwards to maintain it.

The media, in this country especially, love the same old stories of “I was big and fat and lazy, then I started eating healthy and exercising and wow look I lost 5 million kilos”. These people are rightly applauded for their achievements and the implication I get from these articles (especially in the comments section) is that this is what all fat people need to do and they will lose weight. This drives me insane. I do not know a single person who has had bariatric surgery who has not tried every single thing under the sun to lose weight in every which type of way before even beginning to consider the surgical options.

If you have not been morbidly obese, I’m sorry but I don’t think you can pass judgment on the ‘right’ way for someone to lose weight. There are ultimately no medals given out for weight loss, any way you try it is one of the hardest things you will ever do. I applaud the people mentioned in the articles for losing weight but I don’t think that a higher amount of praise and worth should be placed on the way they lost weight.

I’ve also seen comments on Twitter openly stating that the media should be celebrating people who did it through and I quote, “Hard exercise, food and lifestyle changes. Not surgery.” I find this statement so hard to digest and cannot believe someone would say that out loud. For the people who, like I did, reach the end of the line and feel so desperately out of options, they then start considering this as their final chance and comments like that are not helpful. This only reinforces the value of the social currency in there being a ‘right’ way to lose weight.

What I also think the general public lack any awareness of is once you get to the point of being morbidly obese you have less than a 5% chance of losing and successfully maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise alone. (No idea where I read that but it is an often stated statistic.) Research into obesity is building a picture around this and it’s showing things aren’t as straightforward as they seem to be for many people who actively try to lose weight with traditional methods.

Bariatric surgery is not the ‘easy’ way out. People do not roll off the couch, morbidly obese, having never tried another thing and decide to get their physiology permanently changed just in some flimsy pursuit of losing weight. Bariatric surgery should not be something someone should be ashamed to admit to having had and they shouldn’t feel the only way they can justify their weight loss is through telling people they reduced portion sizes and started exercising.

Media, you are not helping anyone with this. Some people, myself included, do not have bodies that work like they should on that basic level and losing weight is just not that easy for us. If it was I would not have ended up morbidly obese requiring the tool of bariatric surgery to help me initially lose weight and maintain it long-term. Omitting to mention this in articles about people who have had bariatric surgery is irresponsible and reckless.

To the person who reads it and thinks, “Hmm, that person just exercised and reduced portion sizes and lost more than half their body weight in a year, I’m so inspired, I can do it too!” Then goes and tries it and fails, for them the feeling of failure is far more damaging to their self-esteem and confidence than you can ever begin to realise. Without building the correct picture of adding in that the person being applauded also had bariatric surgery does not let readers see exactly how much was involved to get such amazing and quick results.

Stop being so careless and omitting to mention the involvement of bariatric surgery when it has been such a crucial point in someones weight loss journey. I will continue shouting from the rooftops that I have had bariatric surgery as it was such a brave (in other people’s words) decision that literally helped me to save my own life.

Do you agree with me or do you think I’m being a bit pedantic. Comment below and let me know I’d love to know what your take on this is.


*Please Note: In the interests of keeping this a safe and respectful place for bariatric patients and potential patients I am going to be very careful with the comments I approve to be seen under this post.

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There are 27 comments for this article
  1. Joye at 6:41 am

    I’m at the stage I just gloss over articles about weightloss these days while I am happy for those that have lost weight with diet and exercise alone I also worry for them and what the future holds not everyone but like you mentioned the satististics for long term success is not that grand and I’ve lost weight in the past through those methods but it crept back to the morbidly obese stage. I too shout from the rooftops about my bariatric surgery , it’s been damn hard work using this tool but something I will never ever regret doing. It’s given me my life back and my self worth. Thanks for posting this Melissa

  2. Trish at 7:21 am

    I totally agree Melissa. Sometimes people ask me how I have lost so much weight and when I tell them I had a DS they go quiet. No one judges me to my face (actually they do occasionally) but I am not embarrassed or ashamed in the slightest. Sometimes however I read the comments section after an article on weight loss or on someone overweight and the only time there are “nice” comments or a “well-done” is when the person has “done it themselves”. It is like people out there think that everyone overweight is a lazy slob and everyone who has surgery is cheating. Little do they know lol. I am not sure that education will ever work. There are always those who love to judge others. I guess it makes them feel better about themselves and to do anonymously where you can say anything you like, well so much the better. People look at me now and I look “normal” and I don’t feel the same judgement I used to – what is normal anyway. Everyone has their battles.

      • Morgan at 5:52 pm

        As a partner who has personally witnessed this journey of bariatric surgery, and the struggle that went into making the decision in the knowledge that all other avenues have failed, I feel that:
        a) Metabolism is a complex subject, and metabolic disorder does not respond well to diet and exercise. This disorder means the metabolic process in the body has a problem, and needs to be reset. There are a number of clinical reasons why this happens and it is not because the person pigs out all the time.
        b) Agreeing to have such major surgery – and it is major surgery, you should see the pages of risks and possible complications – is not the easy way out. It is a courageous decision to save your life and improve the quality of it, same as agreeing to have a heart bypass – do we criticize these people for having heart surgery by reminding them they should not have let their cholestrol get out of control?
        c) In our case the surgeon was not prepared to perform the surgery until he was satisfied that my partner had the discipline to take a handful of pills for the rest of her life, and was committed to the lifestyle changes necessary. Why? Because if post-operative adherence fails the consequences could be fatal.
        d) It is also an emotional journey which is why a candidate’s mental health is also considered, because the patient will need to be strong. A lot of demons come out of hiding, and interestingly enough it is common for the partner of the patient to feel threatened.

        • Melissa Peaks Author at 5:58 pm

          Thank you for your interesting comment Morgan! It really is such a big deal for anyone considering bariatric surgery and like you say there are so many factors that influence even getting surgery in the beginning. Then the work starts and it carries on for the rest of your life. I’m sure your partner’s journey has been made easier from having a supportive and insightful partner to get through the hard stuff with.

  3. Dawn Prangley at 7:30 am

    I love the honesty and integrity that you are putting into all of your posts. You really do put your heart and soul on the line. As you know I lost 33.5kg doing the ‘Sureslim’ programme, which is a healthy, natural (no additives) eating plan combined with moderate exercise. I lost this weight over a twelve month period and vowed and declared I would never go back there again. Well, ten years later I have gained back 23kg, so although not back to square one yet, I am once again not happy with my weight and body image. Unfortunately, I am still in that ‘burying my head in the sand’ stage that you recently mentioned in one of your blogs. I must invest in a decent spade and get digging my way out of the sand and get back to enjoying life to the full again, without my naughty vices. I do not fit into the morbidly obese range and would not qualify for gastric bypass surgery, but I am still obese. I admire your courage to undergo surgery and understand the challenges you faced and ultimately conquered. All of your hard work and commitment has enabled you to live life to the full again and I am enjoying watching you grow and blossom into a beautiful woman both inside and out. I am proud to be your Mother and I Love you with all my heart ???

  4. Christel at 8:04 am

    Omg. THANK YOU. Nothing pisses me off more than reading a weight loss story, only for the information to be incorrect.
    There’s no shame in how someone goes about losing weight, whether they have surgery or are lucky enough to use diet and exercise alone to achieve their goals (which is what I’m currently doing, and it’s veeeerrrrry slowly but surely coming off). All weight loss and hard work should be celebrated, but writing misleading information is never ok – and can quite often do more damage than good, especially if it’s giving people unrealistic hopes about what they can achieve in a short amount of time.
    Thanks again for writing this, personally I think you’re a big inspiration – not only for what you’ve achieved, but because you’re so open and willing to talk about it. oxoxo

  5. Nigel Pearson at 8:34 am

    I agree with much of what you’ve written. I remember many years ago being told by some self-righteous person that my problem was a lack of self-discipline….that I should get going to the gym regularly and eat less. I couldn’t accept that criticism after being disciplined enough to complete a university degree and hold down employment as a teacher for many years. I am on a list waiting for bariatric surgery after trying to get my weight down permanently for nigh on 40 years – and know that this will likely help me stave off diabetes and heart conditions that have effected both my obese parents and obese siblings. Over the last 40 years I have read many news stories about new understandings in the medical profession concerning obesity, however, time and time again, they seldom portrait the real complexity of the issue. Personal stories like yours, Melissa, can help change peoples’ minds and attitudes. Good on you!

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 8:40 am

      Thank you for your awesome comment Nigel. It really isn’t a lack of self discipline and the fact that bias always gets put on articles annoys me to no end. Good on you for taking the brave steps you felt you needed to to claim your health back. I wish you well in your journey and can’t wait to hear how you progress.

  6. Charli at 8:35 am

    The fact that you are unashamed of your surgery and are starting conversations about it through this blog is truly awesome. The media stigmatises a lot of things, and I know your blog will help many people considering surgery realise they shouldn’t listen to those judgemental views; and that what they are doing is a brave and important thing for their health. Keep up the awesome blog posts!! 🙂

  7. Lena at 9:19 am

    I have some interesting feelings about this. There is someone getting a lot of press at the moment who is talking about their lifestyle changes…which includes a gastric surgery, but that’s not often mentioned. I felt quite deceived when I actually found out that they’d had it! People make out as if losing weight is so easy but it really isn’t! I’ve struggled with my weight for years now, and my mum and other relatives have for their entire lives, so seeing people get surgey does seem like the ‘easy way out’ but reading this blog and knowing someone at work who has had it shows it’s hard…but then again another person I know eats like crap and is still skinny post surgery!! It’s really frustrating in all regards, but I think honesty and not judging each other too much is the best way to do it!

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 12:07 pm

      Yes Lena that is part of what brought this about. I think it’s quite misleading for the media to not mention that bit and it’s demonstrated in you felt deceived by that when you found out. We all handle the surgery process and life afterwards differently and I wanted to demonstrate ways of living that will help you continue to be successful afterwards because if you’re not careful you can and up putting all the weight back on again even after surgery. I’m with you there! We all need to be honest about it and the media need to portray these stories properly and if we hang back on the judgment maybe we’ll all learn new things from each other. Thanks for reading my post 😀

      • Lena at 3:11 pm

        It’s misleading by the person too! She’s been very quiet about that, I had to dig deep into her page to find any reference of it. I find your blog very inspirational, as an obese person trying to lose weight, I need to develop some similar habits (not quite as intensely) and I love how organised and thoughtful you are.

  8. Leigh-ann at 12:49 pm

    I think that bariatric surgery is definitely seen as the ‘easy’ way, just as c-sections have been giving the rap of being the ‘easy’ way to give birth. Making the choice to have major surgery is never easy, and there are repercussions. At the end of the day, there’s work involved in losing weight, no matter what method is employed. We should be congratulating people on having the motivation to make change, not suggesting that they are lazy for choosing surgery! Good on you for speaking out 🙂

  9. Kershia at 2:13 pm

    Well done you. No one need ever feel less than anything due to weight and I think it’s very wrong. You went about losing weight in a way that was appropriate for you & it’s inspirational that you share that information without some ‘fad’ diet claim to go with it. The struggle is real. Thank you for point that out. Nothing about losing weight is easy, not even the decision to have surgery, because obviously you have to be really careful after as well. I am currently trying so hard to lose weight and I feel like every single day is a struggle – there is just too much crappy info out there and fad after fad. Thanks for this post. It is something I know so many people will not only appreciate, but relate to. X You’re a gem.

  10. Analesha at 7:11 pm

    I love how honest you are and I love being able to share this journey with you through your blog. Its educating me about the topic and I have recently met two ladies who have been through a gastric bypass before. Nothing about losing weight is easy ! Great article xx

  11. Nicola at 7:44 pm

    Awesome post Melissa. I totally agree with what you say. Weight loss surgery is definitely not the easy, quick fix option that people think it is, and it can have some side effects. Absolutely it’s a fantastic tool for those who benefit from it. You’re right when you say diets don’t work for the majority of people. Something I’m really getting into at the moment and teaching is intuitive eating – makes such sense. Anyway, loved this post and good on you for putting yourself out there to talk openly about bariatric surgery.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 8:14 pm

      I really love the sound of intuitive eating. I have found since my surgery I am much more (freakily so) in tune with my body and what it needs and wants. I’m sure lots of people could benefit from that too! I love how you’re taking such a wide and in a sense holistic (not quite sure if that’s the word I want) approach to food. Thank you for your lovely comments and thanks for reading and commenting I really appreciate it!

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