By: Alison Dunn Jan 11, 2011
Keeping it real

I’m not who you think I am.

Every week, I write this editor’s blog about health, fitness, nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. Every week, I oversee our articles that talk about the same issues – eating natural foods, natural beauty, staying in shape and so much more. And, always, the focus is on keeping it real and loving who you are.

But every so often, I feel like a bit of a fraud when writing this column. Yes, I do believe quite strongly in eating a fresh, healthy diet and regular exercise – and I know this is the key to lasting weight loss. I want desperately for all of us to feel comfortable in our own skin and not feel like we must turn to surgery to make ourselves look (and by extension feel) better. The words I write in this blog are all true, and I believe deeply in everything we say on Health Local.

That’s why I’m coming clean and admitting this: I’ve had plastic surgery.

Yes, I know it’s a bit at odds with the health advice we offer. Let me explain a bit before you judge me too harshly. Growing up, I was always rather well-endowed. I started wearing a bra at age 11, and by age 13, had a chest that would put a Playboy model to shame. And that was just the beginning.

As I grew older, so too did my breasts. When I got married, I got fitted for a specialty bra for the first time. I was horrified to realize I couldn’t buy a bra in my size at a regular lingerie store. After I had kids, my breasts weren’t just big – they were enormous, heavy and pendulous, requiring contraptions that resembled a steel cage just to lift them up to normal height.

I had a hard time finding clothes that fit. I had regular headaches, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and deplorable posture. When I ran, I had to wear not one, not two, but THREE sports bras just to keep those ta-tas down. I hated looking in the mirror – all I could see were those two enormous breasts.

I went to my family doctor, who referred me to a plastic surgeon. After waiting nine months for a consultation and a year for surgery, the big day finally arrived – a bilateral breast reduction. My wonderful surgeon worked with me beforehand to make sure I understood everything that would happen (including making sure I didn’t want any more children, as the surgery would make breast feeding next-to-impossible), and pledged to make my breasts as small as I’d always wished they could be.

After a few weeks of recovery, I noticed I was starting to sit up straighter. My headaches and back pain disappeared. My running improved. My self esteem improved. I could finally buy shirts in the right size because they no longer had to accommodate the “girls.” I could walk into any lingerie store and buy a bra.

Yes, this surgery changed my life in so many ways for the better. I have not regretted it for a second, even though I’m no longer as “natural” as I once was. For me, plastic surgery was the right decision.

But is it the right decision for you? If you’re struggling with body image issues (or, like me, some health issues because of extra weight you’re carrying), you should definitely read “Plastic makes perfect?” this week on Health Local. In it, we discuss the pros and cons (and costs!) of a variety of plastic surgeries to help you decide if this is a step you want to take.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but in some cases, it can be just what you need to move past certain issues (both physiological and psychological) and live a healthy life. It’s an intensely personal decision, and one that no one else can (or should) make for you.

Just make sure you go into surgery with your eyes open. I knew the risks of my surgery, but they were risks I was willing to take to keep me healthy and happy for many years to come.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.