Gabourey Sidibe got very real about her decision to get laparoscopic surgery in a recent interview with People magazine, and everything she said is, in a phrase, the damn truth. Bariatric, or weight loss, surgery has been swirling around in pop culture lately, with mixed messages that range from realistic (like Kate in This Is Us) to questionable (like Mama June's new reality show) — but Sidibe just gets it.
The big point Sidibe makes is that weight loss surgery is not a cop-out. "The surgery wasn’t the easy way out," she says. "I wasn’t cheating by getting it done. I wouldn’t have been able to lose as much as I’ve lost without it." When people get weight loss surgery, it's because weight loss through diet and exercise is physically impossible for their body. So assigning blame for their weight or assuming that they didn't try isn't just wrong, it's condescending.
Sidibe says that after she and her older brother were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, she was worried about the side effects (like losing her toes). Studies suggest that bariatric surgery causes long-term remission for people with Type 2 diabetes, and many people turn to surgery to prevent other obesity-related conditions, like high blood pressure and heart disease. One study found that people who got bariatric surgery were 89% less likely to die in a five-year time period than people who didn't, so it can be lifesaving.
While bariatric surgery can flip a switch for someone's risk of these types of illnesses, it still requires a ton of work before and after surgery. "My surgeon said they’d cut my stomach in half. This would limit my hunger and capacity to eat," Sidibe writes in her upcoming memoir, This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare, which comes out in May. "My brain chemistry would change and I’d want to eat healthier. I’ll take it! My lifelong relationship with food had to change,” she says. Some insurance companies make you go through nutritional counseling pre-op, to make sure you know what you're in for, and there's also usually an analysis with a psychologist and psychiatrist because it can be a mentally taxing process. And once you change your diet, you still have to exercise to maintain muscle mass.
For many people like Sidibe, the motivation for surgery is not about looking smaller; it's about just being able to do more. “I did not get this surgery to be beautiful," she says. "I did it so I can walk around comfortably in heels. I want to do a cartwheel. I want not to be in pain every time I walk up a flight of stairs." Sidibe says that she's still kind of nervous to see her new body. "I know I’m beautiful in my current face and my current body," she says. "What I don’t know about is the next body... Will I still be beautiful then? Shit. Probably."
She says she has a mental goal for her weight loss, but it's going to keep changing and it's nobody's business but her own. "If too many people are involved, I’ll shut down," she told People. Experts say you'll have more success if you focus on a goal that doesn't involve numbers — like being able to live to see your grandkids or ride a bike again — just like Sidibe. No matter how her body changes, one thing is certain: "My beauty doesn’t come from a mirror," she says. "It never will.”