Excerpt: Khaliah Ali's 'Fighting Weight'

I suffered countless indignities because of society's accusing ?nger, compounding the physical and emotional misery my weight caused -- poor treatment and withering stares from salespeople, askance looks from physicians in examining rooms, a smug unwillingness of people to hold open an elevator door, all adding to the severe depression and social isolation. When I ?nally did opt for surgery, a lot of people blamed me once again, for going the route of a quick ?x rather than doing the hard work. It was like I was trying to get out of my "punishment." I was damned for not being able to lose weight without medical intervention and then damned again for availing myself of the tool that allowed me to achieve what the entire world said I should have been achieving my whole life. But even the National Institutes of Health have gone on record saying that for morbidly obese people, surgery is the only hope. The American College of Surgeons and other health-promoting organizations support obesity surgery, too. Medicare, the health insurance program for older people, now pays for it (and private health insurers often follow Medicare's lead, which means there's a good chance that more and more health insurance companies will begin to reimburse for the procedure).

Besides, it's not a quick ?x. After obesity surgery, you still have to eat healthfully. You still have to exercise. You still have to pay attention to your body's signals every single day. The difference is that the surgery creates a level playing ?eld. It ?nally gives very large people the tool that everyone else takes for granted -- the ability to not feel hungry every minute of every day so that they can once and for all get their eating under control.

In other words, if you do choose gastric banding, you're not ducking responsibility. You're not surrendering, and you're not weak. You're ?nally taking charge by making use of a device that can help you. You're claiming the life that everybody else kept telling you how to live.

That's what I want to talk to you about -- claiming, or enrolling in, your own life. Think about the fruitless battles you can do with your body over years, over decades, then making a choice for allowing your body to cooperate with you so that all your thwarted dreams can become your reality. That's a choice I ?nally made, not in surrender and weakness but in ?erce, levelheaded determination, and it has not damned me. It sustains me. I've never been happier than I am now.

It goes way beyond the frivolous things, like being able to wear whatever I want, although I take great pleasure in details like that. But what I also love is being able to walk into a room and not get snickered at. I love having the energy to play catch with my son, to take him trick-or-treating on Halloween and not feel self-conscious, to present a business idea to a team of investors without feeling that my weight is more convincing of the idea's failure than my words of its success. I love getting to live many years more than I might very well have been destined to live as a morbidly obese person. Most of all, I love being at peace with myself.

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