"I Hated My Friend for Losing Weight"
Val's Gastric Bypass Surgery
When I was a little girl, my uncle called me "Fatstuff," and I've lived up to the name most of my life. For me, getting fat is a piece of cake (or a bag of Doritos), and I was a classic yo-yoer. As a result, I had always felt a little awkward around thin women; it seemed that they had some insider knowledge I wasn't privy to. For insight and support on this and hundreds of other topics, I relied on my friend Val. Though we lived about an hour apart, we talked nearly every day. We had lots in common -- including the ups and downs of weight loss. Like me, she cycled between thin and chunky, but her weight skyrocketed to 260 pounds after her daughter was born. At five-foot-eight and 185 pounds, I was hardly a slip of a girl. But compared to five-foot-four Val, my own weight concerns seemed insignificant. She was obese; I was merely overweight. She wore plus-size clothes; I could still squeeze into 14s and 16s. As much as I hate to admit it, I took comfort in the fact that, for once, I wasn't "the fat one."
Then, in 2003, the husband of a mutual friend lost 180 pounds with gastric bypass surgery, and Val started to consider the procedure for herself. Outwardly I was supportive. I had watched Val try diet after diet without any success and I knew how much her weight was affecting her energy level and her health. Inside, though, I was worried. Surgery was a scary proposition; nearly three in 200 people who get the operation die. I didn't want to lose my friend -- and I meant that in more ways than one.
All my life -- as a chubby child and an overweight teen and young woman -- I had been overlooked, even in my closest friendships. I was just the fat girl: good-natured, well liked, but unessential and often left out. Several times at school, I had friends who magically moved into the popular crowd and never spoke to me again.
I reminded myself this wasn't high school. Val and I had been friends for years. But the foreboding lingered. When Val got slim, would I become dispensable? The day she went into the hospital, I joked to her anxious mom, "I love Val, but God help her if she becomes a skinny bitch." Her mother was not amused, and unfortunately, I was not really joking.
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