You Can’t Cut Out the Pain

Photo by Incase via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As part of the Unruly Bodies project she spearheads, Roxane Gay wrote an essay telling the world about the weight-less surgery she underwent in January of this year. Unsurprisingly, especially for anyone who’s read Hunger, the essay is almost punishingly candid in how it forces us to reckon with how the world treats fat bodies — with pity at best, but usually with disgust and scorn — and the options offered to fat people looking to avoid that pain.

The dominant narrative around weight-loss surgery is that it changes your life and makes everything better. It’s a lovely fantasy that, by cutting yourself open and having parts of yourself removed, everything that weighed you down will be lifted. But it is only a fantasy.

People who have weight-loss surgery are more likely to commit suicide. Many married people get divorced after the surgery because their spouses cannot cope with the changes, so much so that “bariatric divorce” is a thing. The psychologist I saw for my presurgical evaluation warned that the first year is really difficult, and many patients end up suffering from depression and regretting the surgery. The second year is better, she said, trying to reassure me after my face fell. And she was right: I am depressed and miserable. I am cold all the time and exhausted because I’m only eating between 1,200 and 1,500 calories. I am filled with regrets because everything has changed, but everything is exactly the same.

Read the essay