Is Weight Loss Surgery “Selling Out”?

It’s a story that unfortunately we’ve heard all too often, when a body positive advocate makes a decision to lose weight or undergo weight loss surgery, the very community that they’ve been a voice for often bites back and shames them.

Project Runway winner Ashley Nell Tipton has been a fierce supporter of plus size women and outspoken about body positivity since winning the popular reality TV show. However, when she announced in an article in People that she’d undergone weight loss surgery, the reactions of her community were not always positive.

Not an easy decision

The decision to undergo any kind of surgery is not one that should be made lightly. Ashley had been working with a personal trainer, as well as meeting with a therapist to deal with emotional issues that had been linked to her weight. It was when she visited a doctor that her health issues became more apparent, and that she started to consider more drastic measures.

“I went to multiple doctors to make sure that I’m taking the right anti-depression medication, and make sure that my blood pressure’s okay,” she told People. “I found out that my blood pressure wasn’t okay and that I had a fatty liver. All these health risks were coming up. I was like, no wonder I’m not happy, because my body is working 10 times harder to try to be healthy.”

ashley nell tipton weight loss surgery
Image courtesy of People magazine

This wasn’t a decision that Ashley rushed into. After discussing it with her therapist, Ashley consulted a doctor and received some alarming news that her metabolism was not functioning. Ashley’s doctors explained that one side-effect of weight loss surgery is that it can work to re-boost your metabolism, which when combined with exercise and nutritional eating, will result in weight loss.

A different kind of plus size

Ashley later ended up in hospital with a skin infection caused by the folds in her skin not being exposed to air. Not wanting to be in that pain again made her consider gastric bypass surgery more seriously, but at the same time Ashley didn’t want to lose sight of who she was, nor did she want to alienate her main clientele, plus size women.

“Going into the hospital for something that was caused by just being overweight really struck a nerve,” she said in People, “I didn’t ever want to be in that pain again or have another scare like that. I was like, I really need to figure out what I can do to lose weight and get healthier. It had nothing to do with how big I am.

I still wanted to be plus-size, but I wanted to be plus-size in a way I can work with, and at that point I didn’t feel like that.”

Is weight loss surgery “selling out?”

No one is here to make judgements about what you should or shouldn’t do with your body, nor how you should or shouldn’t feel about your body. It’s your body, it’s always your decision, and we support you in that. HOWEVER, some of Ashley’s fans have spoken out, claiming that the reasoning behind her decision is what has upset them.

ashley nell tipton weight loss surgery
Was everything Ashley said about fat-positivity false?

Fat-positive podcaster Ash of, stated that Ashley’s rationalisation to the public of why she underwent weight loss surgery was the most upsetting:

“Ashley made a name for herself telling the world that it was okay to be fat—she actually used the word fat, which is something that our other fat icons had not done in on a mainstream platform up to that point. She insisted that fat women deserved fashionable clothes, and plus size women all over the world have purchased her clothes and supported her brand.

But her interview last week with People was shocking—not for it’s weight loss surgery revelation but for the anti-fat sentiment that flowed through it.”

She goes on to mention how Ashley lists various health reasons for getting the surgery, but notes that these are health concerns that thin people can have too,from diabetes to skin infections.

“She had her breakout moments on Project Runway by talking about fat empowerment and self love. She had the support of the fat positive community. She built her business by using fat-positive language. But now she’s using self-love as her justification for losing weight? And she’s suggesting that surgery is just what you do when you love yourself? That’s such a huge, fucked up betrayal.”

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