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Criticism of Weight Loss Surgery is Vicious Fat Shaming

Why should anyone care if someone else has weight loss surgery? It would not seem to be loaded with the controversial moral implications that complicate other healthcare issues like abortion, birth control, or euthanasia. There aren’t any religious admonitions against losing weight. So why all the scathing blog posts, militant opposition, and vitriolic criticism?

weight loss surgery

“It’s the easy way out.” There’s a lot going on here. Let’s consider the various perspectives.

In general, those who criticize or outright oppose weight loss surgery make the assumption that people who have the procedure expend no effort to lose significant amounts of weight and then to maintain the loss in the long-term. I’m really not sure if people who make this complaint believe that WLSers eat whatever they want after surgery but it has no effect on them anymore? They’re assuming weight loss surgery means you stuff your face with bacon cheeseburgers and you still lose weight, week after week? That’s a possibility people could be that ignorant. A friend suggested it means an assumption is made that WLS eliminates your appetite and you’re able to fast with no effort or discomfort. And people are jealous of that?

The “easy way out” complaint is primarily based on the paradigm that judges the presumed behavior choices of fat people, that they are fat because of a weak character, lack of self-discipline and self-control, ignorance, and willful irresponsibility. I believe these presumed character “flaws” are judged more harshly by our culture than fat. For people who assume that weight management is always within our control, an ugly fat body is assumed to be the justifiable punishment and penalty for “choosing” to be fat because of bad judgment. Therefore, “the easy way out” is believed to be doing the crime without doing the time. Our culture wants fat people to “pay” for their gluttonous sins with suffering and struggle, to “earn” weight loss.

Believing that weight loss surgery is an “easy way out” that takes no effort is the most vicious expression of fat shaming there is. It is an assertion that fat people deserve to suffer and struggle to pay for the perceived weaknesses of character that made them fat.

So why does our culture want fat people to suffer? I believe disgust with fat bodies is deeply internalized, driving the character assassination. Our society is so intensely repulsed by fat bodies that we are willing to believe a person must have some psychological and mental deficiency if they “let” themselves become fat and then don’t do anything about it. Willfully making yourself ugly is the horrific crime that must be paid for. This is more easily understood when we consider the corollary—the degree to which physical attractiveness is valued by our culture. It also explains the widespread assumption that people are fat because they are emotionally and mentally weak and broken.

The fear and sense of powerlessness brought on by the economic downturn has seen a rise in the degree of resentment expressed by Americans. Much of it is directed at people perceived to be deadbeats, freeloaders…”takers” as opposed to “makers.” This viewpoint has manifested itself as an attack on poor and low-income people who receive public assistance benefits. It is assumed that they willfully avoid work, preferring to live off “government handouts.” Under a Republican-led vote, SNAP benefits were recently slashed by Congress, worsening the food insecurity already faced by some 47 million people who are still dealing with the economic downturn that began in 2008.

Those who project this resentment are assuming that their hard-earned tax dollars are being taken by people who are using fraudulent means to get undeserved “handouts.” But how do we explain resentment against fat people who lose weight, if there are those who believe weight loss surgery is somehow an act of fraud that lets them drop big numbers while scarfing the aforementioned bacon cheeseburgers? Do people who oppose WLS believe that something is being unfairly taken from them when someone else loses weight?

First of all, how can having a surgical procedure be interpreted as an act of fraud? Frankly, I don’t even have a theory for that. I also can’t figure out what someone feels might be taken from them when someone else loses weight. My only thought is that resentment is an expression of anger and anger is a response to a feeling of powerlessness. Mix in some envy and jealousy and we may have our answer. People can feel extreme resentment if they believe they would have to work hard for something that someone else got easily. We’re back to the “easy way out” misconception. People who have struggled to lose weight see someone else losing a LOT of weight in a manner they believe is “easy” and it makes them angry that they are powerless to make that happen for themselves. I believe this also explains why fat people can be virulently anti-WLS. If weight loss surgery is not an option for them, because of cost, lack of insurance, fear of surgery, or if WLS would be ineffectual for them because their weight problem is caused by a medical condition, I believe fat people can become filled with resentment against those for whom WLS is a successful solution. This is in response to the intense shame that our culture projects on fat people. People who have WLS are perceived as escaping fat shame while others may see themselves trapped by it. I also believe that on some level, there may be fat people who are simply afraid of the permanent changes that they know weight loss surgery DOES require. That fear manifests as anger and resentment.

A smaller percentage of people claim they oppose weight loss surgery because they believe it is dangerous. These people are uninformed on the statistics; they are simply ignorant. I put them in the same category as people who pass judgment based on religious arguments such as those who insist that gay people or atheists are risking their eternal souls and live a sinful existence.

And finally, a small fringe percentage believes that weight loss surgery is an act of self-hatred, that it is risking one’s life in a desperate attempt to be more attractive. These people are expressing judgment and ignorance on too many levels for me to get into.

Why should anyone begrudge another person the right to make a healthcare choice they feel is in their own best interest? Anger, resentment, and ignorance projected against weight loss surgery is no more justifiable than opposing a woman’s right to make her own choices for her reproductive health. I trust people to make choices for their own lives and their own bodies. “Keep your judgment off my body” applies to weight loss surgery as well.