On the benefits of surgery
Chloe Greenlee, a 22-year-old trivia and karaoke host in Columbus, Ohio
Weight pre–surgery in 2015: 322 pounds
Weight today: 192 pounds
I met a friend at Ohio University in my first semester there, and she had had the bariatric sleeve when she was in high school. It worked amazingly well for her. I had been trying to lose weight for about two years by that point, and got the surgery when I was 20.
After the surgery, I went back to the restaurant where I was working and started working there again. It was so much easier to maneuver around. I didn’t feel I was taking so much space. It felt easier to walk around and provide good service. I also went back to the day care where I had been working and noticed a big change in how I could play with the kids.
In the past, I didn’t really date at all. I think it had something to do with my weight. But I can tell you since I lost weight, it’s been a completely different story.
I get asked out often, and I’m not usually the one who instigates anything. I’ve never had that kind of experience before, where I’d be walking down the street and someone would be asking for my number. It’s really weird. Nobody really prepares you for that kind of attention. And I got a lot of it especially now that I’m getting closer to my goal weight.
Before [gastric bypass] surgery, I weighed over 350 pounds. I had Type 2 diabetes, and it was progressing to having to do insulin shots. I was on two kinds of diabetes medications and a blood pressure medicine.
Since my surgery, I’ve had no prescriptions at all.
Surgery was the scariest thing I ever did, but it was easily the best choice I ever made. It’s been embarrassingly easy to adjust. When you go into it, you have all these fears about what you were going to give up. I always tell people I can still eat three bites of just about anything, but I can’t put a whole bag down anymore. It’s remarkable; you’re really not hungry. Both my ability to eat a lot of food and, more importantly, my interest in eating a lot of food has gone away.
Carlos Martinez, a 20-year-old in Fort Worth, Texas
Carlos lost 100 pounds with surgery but did not provide his pre– and post–surgery weights
I had my gastric bypass surgery on June 24, 2016, about a month after college graduation, and it’s going well.
Before the surgery, doctors told me I was pretty healthy but I was on the verge of being prediabetic and having high blood pressure. They attributed that to all the weight I had gained in college.
Once my weight started going down, those issues normalized, and I haven’t had any medical complications.
The likes on Tinder are also exponentially higher. It’s a lot easier — you’re a lot more confident and more willing to go out.
Bypass surgery is the best thing I ever did. I had really bad sleep apnea and severe arthritis in my neck, back, and feet. I got to the point where I couldn’t walk.
Once I had my surgery, I could jog. I climbed up a mountain. I still have pain here and there, but it’s nothing like it used to be.
My legs are not as swollen. My thyroid has leveled out. My sugars are level. My blood pressure is low to normal. My cholesterol is good. The only thing for me is my iron. Because I’m a bypass patient, my iron level is low, so I have to take extra supplements.
On weight stigma
There’s so much stigma [around obesity]. Society wants people to lose weight. When we go through that surgery, it doesn’t please anybody either. I was like that first too: I was a little ashamed to be going through surgery. It’s seen as the easy way out, but it’s not. It’s involved a drastic change in my diet, working out and going to the gym.
I’m so glad [I did the surgery early in life]. My mother is hoping to get the surgery herself soon. She hasn’t told anybody else either because of the stigma.
I wish obesity didn’t really happen for young people or anybody. And I think that with the society we live in, with such fast and accessible ways of getting such unhealthy food — from the corner stores or a McDonald’s passing your house — it seems all this stuff is more accessible than any healthy food. I understand where obesity comes from, that it’s a key problem for youth now. If that’s not going to change, teens will continue to be obese. I feel like surgery should be an option especially if they don’t have any other real way of losing weight and maintaining that weight loss.
I tell people before their surgery to think about this: You have this weight problem, and it’s physical, psychological, and emotional. You’re stigmatized. Now, you have this surgery and phenomenal things happen: The weight goes away; you look good.
All of a sudden, 18 months pass, 24 months pass, and if you haven’t been able to get into new ways of living your life, and you’re back to doing things you were doing before you had the surgery, so is the weight. If that happens, you have a double problem: You had extra weight, lost it, and now you have it again — and you’re going to be doubly stigmatized.