Emily Bell, 43, has made the decision to seek surgical treatment for her obesity.

Today’s post is written by BWH patient Emily Bell, a 43-year-old woman who has made the decision to seek surgical treatment for her obesity. Emily will be blogging about her experience throughout her journey to better health.

A couple of months ago, I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in more than a year. We were once in Weight Watchers together, and neither of us was new to weight loss. We’ve shared the tribulations of “keeping it off” and commiserated over the way we’ve dieted our hearts out and always gained the weight back.

When I saw her recently, I noticed that my friend had lost weight again. “What have you been eating …” I trailed off, realizing that her body wasn’t just smaller. Something was different. I changed my question. “How did this happen?”

She answered in a dramatic stage whisper. “I got the surgery.”

It took me a minute to figure out what she meant. I frowned. “Obesity surgery? Really? But that’s …” In my mind it was like admitting failure. Except my friend isn’t a failure. She’s a highly functional, social, confident, and intelligent woman. I asked, “What procedure did you have?”

“Gastric sleeve,” she said with a wink and a nod.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. For two weeks, I kept coming back to the way my friend looked and felt. I made an appointment with my doctor, who is familiar with a decade of my struggles with weight.

She told me that there was no harm in investigating my options. Two weeks later, I was listening to an information session at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery.

The presentation answered most of the questions on my list, including exactly how the different surgeries work, how to discuss the treatment with my insurance company, and the relationship among the program nutritionists, my surgeon, and me.

The presenters were very clear. Surgery isn’t a shortcut; it’s a tool. You can’t have surgery and eat whatever you want for the rest of your life. The techniques have changed – even for gastric bypass. Many of the surgeries are laparoscopic now, with small incisions to make room for the instruments and camera. And they’ve learned a few things about helping you be fit and healthy for the long term.

I have spent so much of my life yo-yoing up and down, thinking in terms of diets – even when I wasn’t dieting. I have given far too much of myself to worries about weight and weight loss. I’ve come to this point where my body is too big for my skeleton, where I don’t fit in chairs anymore.

I want the rest of my life to be about me and what I have to offer, not about declining health and staying away from social gatherings because I’m afraid I’ll eat (or because I’ve gained weight again). I don’t want to shy away from living a full life because my weight is controlling me.

I’m looking forward to the first day of the rest of my life.

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