OAC Member Relda Hill
OAC Member Relda Hill

I’ve made the momentous decision to have bariatric surgery. No one ever told me that my life would boil down to making this decision. I started using food in my teenage years to deal with grief, suffering and loss. I was not able to control what I ate because food was the way that I calmed down and a way for me to get comfort.

Old Ways of Thinking

When my doctor kept insisting on bariatric surgery, I was at first very angry and I thought that he was being very cruel. Last year, at his insistence, I went to a group where bariatric surgery was discussed as a weight-loss option. I admit that at first, I was very biased against surgery. I used to think it was an extreme measure and I felt very fearful. At night, I would tremble just thinking about it. To my way of thinking, all I needed was Weight Watchers and willpower. But over the course of the year, I’ve had to rethink my decision. I have come to realize that obesity is a disease and that I need help managing my weight.

Moving to America

To understand the complexity of the issue, let me share some of my background. I come from the British Caribbean and I migrated to the States in 1977 with my family. I was only 12 years old and I did not adjust well into American Society. I was not prepared for what I would find and I experienced culture shock. I found that some of the people in my immediate environment were hostile and mean because I came from a different culture. Therefore, I became fearful, angry and isolated. I was unable to make friends easily as I had in the islands and I missed the tropical weather, island food, and above all, Carnival. But most of all, I missed Mother Nature: the palm trees, beaches filled with turquoise water and white sand, hummingbirds, tropical flora, and fauna. I was grieving and I didn’t know it.

Simply put, I did not know where I belonged in this new American culture. My depression worsened. Food became my best friend and I remember eating tons of chocolate and fast food. I gained a lot of weight and although my parents tried to help me understand the health impacts, nothing could pry me away from my sweetheart – food. Even though I became an intellectual star in high school, I developed low self-esteem. I did not go to the prom and that had a negative effect on me.

My Struggle with Weight

Several years ago, I was over 300 pounds. I was told to lose weight and I did. I ate less and I went swimming at the gym. I went down to 236 pounds and I plateaued there. I allowed myself to become complacent. Then my mother died, and my weight went back up again. I had a difficult relationship with my mother and her loss was devastating to me. I turned to my trusted friend, food, to deal with my complex feelings about her passing.

At my present weight, I have a host of health problems: limited mobility, arthritis in both knees, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and a bad back. I began to ask myself question such as:

“What kind of persona allows themselves to develop obesity and then is stubborn about receiving help when other conventional methods have failed?”

“Am I crazy for refusing surgery, knowing what kind of future will come into being if I don’t act on my own behalf?”

The harsh reality is that I can’t put off this surgery any longer. I should have taken care of my physical health sooner, but it was not a priority. I wanted to die.

New Ways of Thinking

Consequently, I have come to look at the surgery as an opportunity to help me cope with the significant losses that I’ve sustained in my past. Instead of viewing the surgery as something that is destructive to my body, I am consciously choosing to view it as a gateway to a new way of life. In the present moment, I want to live my full life span. I feel that I have something to live for and I am slowly regaining some hope. I see myself as advancing in life instead of cowering in the shadows.

I want readers to understand that obesity is a disease. Bariatric surgery is NOT the “easy way out.” For me, the surgery is becoming about regaining my health both mentally and physically. I believe that a healthy mind and a healthy body are essential components to wellness. I know that the surgery is a risk and that if I don’t implement new habits, any weight lost can be regained. I am choosing to deal with my grief and loss by publishing a book of poems called the Sacred Self. I am going to make myself happy, come what may. Weight loss surgery is now a viable option in my mind. For anyone who is struggling with this momentous decision, I can only suggest that you weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that is best for you, your health and your quality of life.

Relda Hill is an OAC Community Member from New Rochelle, New York. Like Relda, are you interested in speaking up and sharing your personal story? Please email membership@obesityaction.org with your inquiry or upload your story in video format to WeightoftheWorld.com, the OAC’s main story-sharing platform.