Last Wednesday night I cried my way through TLC’s new docudrama – Skin Deep.
It’s a companion show to their long running My 600 Pound Life series, which I also watch.
While 600 Pound Life chronicles the journeys of Dr. Nowzaradan's weight loss surgery patients, Skin Deep focuses on what happens after an extreme amount of weight loss has occurred. I wanted to watch it because the question of what that kind of physical change does to a human body both fascinates and seriously frightens me.
In the pilot episode, one subject had lost weight via surgery, dietary changes, and exercise while the other had lost weight via dietary changes and exercise alone. Both of them had lost in excess of 130 pounds, and both of them wound up at the end of this incredibly difficult and dedicated journey extremely unhappy with the way they looked – almost more so than their unhappiness at being obese.
Watching them made me cry both because I can empathize (in a very small part) with what they were going through already and also because I’m so scared of what my end result will be once I get where I’m finally going. There was such horrible familiarity in the way the woman on the show sat in a restaurant with her husband hunched in on herself, arms crossed and hands trying to cover the flesh of her upper arms. I watched the way she shied away from the person in her life lovingly touching the parts of her body that she despised and cast a guilty glance at Ted.
It takes an unbelievable amount of work and dedication to take off so much weight, and when finished one can expect a lifetime of struggling and vigilance to keep the weight off since bodies which have been obese show a markedly lower metabolic rate than bodies which haven’t. And after all that work, you wind up terrified of public beaches and bathing suits because you look like you melted.
Essentially, there’s a certain size range that you simply can’t come back from, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been over the limit. In fact, more than once I have responded to encouraging remarks about the benefits of toning exercises with the comment, “you can’t come back from where I’ve been.”
For example when the stomach collapses over itself into an “apron” shape such as mine has, I learned last night that the muscles connecting the tissue to the abdominal wall actually detach – and then have to be re-attached surgically to repair the damage that occurs.
In the end both patients were very satisfied with their end results, and although their bodies were left with a road map of scars to show where they’d come from they did look fantastic and happy. However, looking ahead to the possibility of my future containing dangerous five and six hour long surgeries, drains protruding from my flesh, and weeks of agony and swelling - or resigning myself to loose, floppy, saggy skin for life… I honestly don’t know right now which is the best of those bad choices. The only way out is to go back in time and somehow prevent my obesity from occurring in the first place, and thus far Doc Brown has yet to show up with his DeLorean to make that happen. Living in a society that is accepting of damaged bodies would also fix the problem, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon either.
All this is assuming I’m even capable of joining the elite 1-5% of people who are able to win this battle at all, and then can obtain the vast financial resources necessary for a surgical repair.
Right now I’m feeling very daunted. Maybe I shouldn’t watch these shows.