Bariatric Surgery: A Therapist’s Perspective as a Patient

| July 1, 2022

by Timisha Malone, LCSW, LMSW, MSW

Ms. Malone is Owner & Therapist for Time for a Change Wellness, LLC in Epping, New Hampshire.

Funding: No funding was provided for this article.

Disclosures: The author reports no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this article.

Bariatric Times. 2022;19(7):9.


Is our society setting us up for failure? A study collected in 2016 reports that patients with internalized stigma and general experiences of weight-related stigma before surgery were predicted to correlate with worse dietary adherence, even with weight loss surgery. Are we revealing a correlation between society’s views on our worth and a self-fulfilling prophecy? If so, how do we empower our clients to break the toxic mindset spiral while they are faced with fighting an addiction society encourages? I can speak from a patient-provider standpoint and give you insight into my journey as I navigate my way through rediscovering who I am in a society with all eyes on me.

Hi Bill,1 it’s nice to meet you. My name is Timisha, and I’m also an addict. Together, we are addicted to the most difficult substance to comply with, as our bodies need it to stay alive. Unfortunately, we are addicted to a substance that is encouraged and stigmatized by our society. Fortunately for us, there is a tool to help us on our journey, but it comes with the cost of navigating through society’s stigmas and profound headwork. But together, I know we can push through.

I have been a therapist for over half a decade, specializing in all aspects of our profession, before finding a home in bariatrics. They say you become a therapist because you are personally drawn to an injustice that you hope to correct throughout your career. Unfortunately, I was unable to find mine until I was called a “fat (fill in the blanks)” by a man I had never met before while walking down the streets of Boston after a nice dinner with my girlfriends. That moment remains etched in my mind as the first time society discredited me as a person; I was stripped of my individuality and categorized in a stigmatized group based on my appearance. At that moment, I found my identity as a therapist. I knew the injustice I was meant to fight to eliminate, and I haven’t stopped since that day. 

Growing up, I was a stereotypical child pageant queen, winning titles as exclusive as Little Miss Hawaiian Tropic, Little Miss Massachusetts, and many more across the nation. I was the poster child of beauty and health until I began to gain weight. Surprisingly, it never stopped, until I reached my highest medically recorded weight of 302 pounds. I was raised with a caring set of parents whose love language was food. My brother and I were both born with cleft lips, resulting in multiple facial surgeries requiring on and off dietary restrictions. Some of my happiest memories are ordering takeout with my family and binge eating until midnight the night before surgery. Anything we could have ever craved would be at our doorstep at a moment’s notice. Reflecting from a provider standpoint, I can see the compensation for guilt and fear in my parent’s actions. They comforted us in the best way they knew how: with food. These moments resulted in a learned behavior to associate food with comfort and love.

Flash forward to high school, I had met the love of my life, who would become my husband in the years to come. We bonded over what we knew best, our shared love for food. At graduation, my weight crept up to 260 pounds and rising. Throughout my undergraduate career, I gained the “Freshman 15” and topped that in my graduate program with the “First-year 30.” I eventually maintained my weight at just over 300 pounds. My husband and I married, and we welcomed our son into the world. At this point in my life, weight had never been an issue or a topic of concern.

My family always had obesity—that was just my way of life. I never felt out of place or less than; we were just the “big-boned family.” Having obesity became part of my identity. I was always the triple F—the Funny, Fat Friend, and that’s all I needed in life. I was already on the path to breaking the stigma of obesity, and I felt empowered in the body I was in. That is, until the day my two-year-old son wanted to crawl through a play structure requiring adult supervision, and I couldn’t fit. At that moment, I stopped justifying being OK with my unhealthy lifestyle, as my son was now missing out on life opportunities because of my actions. The shield of resiliency I had once worn as a badge of honor was starting to crumble. I was forced to look at my addiction in the face and interpret communities’ views on my weight from a person-centered perspective. I was no longer clouded with dismissing these harsh and toxic views on the stigmas I faced as a defense mechanism. I finally found enough courage to ask for help. 

I enrolled in the local bariatric program and adhered to every plan of action to the highest level. I lost about 60 pounds throughout my preoperative journey and underwent a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass four months after my initial consult. I stand today at a 135-pound weight loss and dropping. But I also stand broken, trying to reidentify who I am outside of the stigma that society placed upon me. Per a study collected in 2016,2 societies’ stigmas correlate with worse dietary adherence. Is our society setting us up for failure? I was always so great at blending in and feeling empowered with the stigmatized box society put me in, but now society sees me as a person—and not just my body mass index (BMI)—and to be honest, it’s terrifying. I no longer have these “guidelines” from society shaping who I’m supposed to be. I am now just Timisha. It’s a daily struggle not to succumb to my addictive behavior because I knew who society wanted me to be back then. Looking back, I was trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy of internalized stigmas and barriers of self-doubt.

If I could go back, I would permit myself to grieve the loss of who I used to be. Although the stigmas society placed on me were detrimental, they gave me my identity. And although I love the person I am now, I have no idea who she is. My role as a mom and wife has shifted. I’m being forced to relearn how to live in ways other than food, while also pushing past the societal stigmas that have previously limited me in my life. This spiral of toxicity, internalized stigmas, and self-fulfilling prophecies ends with me. Because of what I now know, my son will grow with love larger than the guidelines set upon him by society. 

Let me take a moment to reintroduce myself. Hi, my name is Timisha, and I am a mom, wife, therapist, and crazy cat lady. I had bariatric surgery to take back my life, and man, oh man, did I do just that! 

To those struggling, know there is a light at the end of this tunnel. The work of bariatrics is difficult, but it’s worth every moment. So be kind to yourselves, and try not to fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy set forth by our society just as I did. You are strong, my dear friend.


  1. Morris WE, Jr. Bariatric surgery: a physician’s perspective as a patient. Bariatric Times. 2022;19(4):12–13.
  2. Raves DM, Brewis A, Trainer S, et al. Bariatric surgery patients’ perceptions of weight-related stigma in healthcare settings impair post-surgery dietary adherence. Front Psychol. 2016;7:1497.  

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Category: Past Articles, The Wise Provider

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