The Chairs

According to the weight loss clinic’s flyer, the information session is:

To make sure you have the information you need, we require patients to attend an information session before their first clinic appointment. Sessions are hosted by our surgeons and give you a chance to meet them and ask questions. We’ll guide you through surgery requirements and discuss the risks and benefits of each procedure. You are welcome to bring family or a friend with you.

Looking back, I should have noticed the word: “require.” The weight loss clinic that performed my surgery used the word “require” or “requirement” more than they used the words “gastric sleeve procedure.” I didn’t know, at the time, that the information session would begin the relinquishing of my autonomy to repetitive requirements. I want to believe that someday I will become comfortable enough with my weight loss journey to regain my autonomy.

Anyway, I accepted this hour and a half long “session” at face value: a simple meet and greet with surgeons and a Q&A afterward. However, as I said before, this session began with a heartbreaking bang as I overheard a woman say to her friend, “Wow. You’re not as big as her.”

This comment didn’t shake me right away. Instead, I was more concerned about finding 2 empty chairs next to each other, and NOT in the front row, for my husband and me to sit in. I found two extra-large chairs in the second row.

Looking around, I realized the entire room was full of these extra-large chairs. I don’t understand extra-large chairs. I will admit that a couple reasons on the “pro-surgery” list included eliminating the fear of breaking a chair AND getting on a plane with confidence because I know I only need one seat and no seat belt extender.

However, the only places I have seen extra-large chairs, such as these, have been therapist and doctor’s offices, which already have sturdy regular chairs that I’m not afraid I will break. Plus, when you go back to actually see the doctor or therapist, you are given a couch to sit on by the therapist and an unstable, wobbly plastic chair by the doctor. So, why have these chairs at all?

I think the goal of the chair is to demonstrate that the office which uses them is politically correct and “accepting” of people who are morbidly obese. But, I think it does the opposite. When I am forced to sit in one of these chairs, because it is the last available one in the room, I feel like I have a giant, flashing arrow over my head calling attention to the fat girl, who is so big she needs a giant chair. In a passive aggressive way, the chair is actually fat shaming the person sitting in it. It makes you feel as though you are not “normal” or “good enough” to have a regular chair.

The other issue with the chairs is that they are not engineered to be comfortable in any way. Sitting in the extra-large chair at my heaviest weight, there was still a good 6-8 inches of spare room on the seat, and my husband’s had more. After the verbal fat shaming I received, I wanted to sit close to my husband. The chair had a different idea. The sharp angular wooden arms were at just the right height to bite into my ribs when I leaned over. Even though there was physically more room on the chair, there was less useable room. The structure of the chair confined me, as if my obesity was contagious.

Later on, I would learn that the weight loss clinic had only these types of chairs in their waiting room, in their examination rooms, and this training room that I would return to again and again. I will never avoid these fat shaming prison chairs.

Looking back, the chairs and the “requirements” were the covert dehumanizing treatment that would eventually turn me into only “a super morbidly obese.” The covert dehumanization made traveling from the information session to the surgery to today an act of sheer will and uncovered an unknown fount of resiliency I had no idea I had.