It took several months to come to the conclusion, years of denial, and a lifetime of wrong choices, but it finally washed over me when I took a look at my lower legs last week for the first time in a while and saw the indentations that the socks had left behind. I had not realized that I’d been avoiding looking down. Of course, I washed my feet daily even shaved my legs. ;D I like pedicures and get them done as regularly as my job will allow but I had not assessed myself. I started playing with the fluid on my legs as I’ve so often done to patients. One finger here, another there- wait, how long did that take to come back? Grade it, +1,+2… pitting?
But I’m not the patient.
But I am.
Raw emotion came over me. Denial is where I wanted, correction, want to live. Immediately I started cataloging the changes over the last few months-my stretchy leggings couldn’t really stretch anymore. My fingers- swollen. My face- puffy. It was kinda hard to breathe and taking the stairs is always met with a laughable “if you want me to go into SVT”… a really fast heart rate.
But I hike. I bike, hell, I even kayak. At least once to three times a week.
Still, I couldn’t deny where I was. This became especially true when I removed the scale from the drawer I stuffed it into 45 days ago to weigh myself and saw I gained 15+ pounds.
Could most of that be water weight? Yeah, sure… maybe I’d lose 20 pounds in a month. Using that as an excuse would only serve me another injustice. Truth is, most of the weight gained was pure fat. Scientifically, one could propose that I was “Bulking up for the winter” as a doctor once comforted me with when I was going through puberty. I huff to myself. I can’t rationalize it away any longer. I feel sick. Nauseous… and my only solution? Spending the last of my budget on as much junk food as I could manage to fill the aching feeling and dull the sensations paying close attention to the stiffness of my body and the numbness of my toes.
The self-hatred that has to exist for such a “solution” is beyond what I can describe here. It’s beyond my own comprehension. Why cause me more harm?
Because that’s what it is; self-harm. Just like an alcoholic needs alcohol, a cocaine addict needs powder, and a nicotine addict needs a puff, I’m addicted to food and often feel like I have to satisfy every single craving. It’s exhausting and it is expensive.
Wow! I said it… I did say it. I did not just type it. Promise.
What is the source of this self-hatred? I’ve gone through therapy and I’ve done enough work to know that self-reflection is extraordinarily hard. So hard, in fact, that people spend lifetimes avoiding their own reflection.
So, now what? Where do I go from here? Down? Do I continue to ignore my blatant symptoms? Do I continue eating my way, fry after fry, to diabetes? Heart failure? Kidney failure. Wait until I’m on dialysis, an amputee, or near point to one?
Before you think I’m getting ahead of myself and before you try to subdue my emotions and spiraled thinking with “you’re beautiful. You’re enough. Curves are beautiful”, can you not? Honestly, I know the science behind this weight gain. I know what it’s doing to my body. How every fat-filled bite I take is only one step closer to a CVA (cerebrovascular accident, aka Stroke) or MI (myocardial infarction, aka heart attack). I know that my liver probably has too much fat on it and that my increasing blood pressure is another indication that my body is breaking down and no longer compensating for the repeated decisions I make regarding the food that I use to “fuel” it.
I’m 5’6” and I’m 340 pounds. My hip to waist ratio is extremely poor, my BMI is literally off the chart and while I can still summit a peak on a mountain, I take longer, more frequent breaks than my arthritic 70-year-old buddy… and I’m in my thirties. I’m not overexaggerating with the title of this blog.
So, do I wait until I’m a patient, lying in a hospital bed, yelling at people not to throw my candy away that I’ve managed to lose as they fell into the crevasses of my skin folds and bedding? Wait until I can no longer keep my addiction behind closed doors and ensure the entire world knows of my wicked obsession and wait until I desperately hoard and snatch my food away from the staff members bringing my cold, soggy deep-fried whatever into my room… because of course my finger had to be stuck to check my glucose and the nurse couldn’t come in to give me insulin before I could eat because they were busy with x, y, or z.
Yes. Today is a day of realization. A day of self-proclamation of addiction. A day that I say aloud what my weight is to a world of anonymity as I await criticism and words of affirmation. I’m not asking for pity or even cheerleaders. I have no ego when it comes to healthcare. The schooling I went through made sure of that so I know of the harsh, very honest opinions regarding morbidly obese individuals from a very matter-of-fact perspective. They’re not pretty and I know enough not to rely on the words of well-to-do strangers. I will require respect, of course- there’s no need to be nasty. I’ve got enough of that in my own head.
But I decided to publicize my writings because I do need a creative outlet and I enjoy writing. I find it to be a wonderful use of my time as I feel the words coursing through my soul and my energies being dumped onto a white background- a certain release if you will. And publicizing anonymously encourages a certain degree of accountability as it allows me to say things I wouldn’t tell to friends, family, or colleagues while also encouraging community. I’m sure you get it, you’re on a blogging site after all. Haha.
Okay, so my mom embarked on this path to a point that the only way out that she saw and embraced resulted in gastric surgery. I’ve done my research and I’ve seen patients on the other side of those surgeries and while I’m no expert, let’s just say I’d prefer not to go that route. But I am where I am and desperation is no stranger of mine. So, out of curiosity, I looked up the average caloric intake post-surgery… I was flabbergasted. I mean, whoa! I’ll be careful not to say too much as again, I’m no expert, but you essentially starve yourself. That’s the big secret. For the first few months that caloric intake post-gastric surgery is no more than the caloric requirements of a 12-pound infant.
My thought? Well, why not develop a foolproof meal plan that meets the same requirements without the surgery? Yeah, it’ll suck but I’m pretty sure surgery would suck more. At least in the long run when doctor bills and various complications develop.
And here we are. I’ll be having a conversation with my doctor, asking them to monitor my bloodwork, going through my cupboards and refrigerator, and tossing whatever I won’t be keeping on the menu. I’m going to buy supplements and vitamins as recommended by my GP (general practitioner, aka regular doctor) and work from there. Eventually, I’ll be able to increase my caloric intake, but that will come in time. Before you rush in with concerns regarding how supported people are post-surgery, I want you to know that my doctor is a bariatric surgery expert. Well, that is, their spouse is a bariatric surgeon and they assist their spouse. Clinically, I’m covered.
Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. I honestly can’t see a reason why the same caloric deficit should not be followed in my particular case. If there are concerns, I’ll voice them to professionals and weigh my options. There is a matter of willpower, obviously. The antidote to overeating is not eating… much at all. I’m not naive enough to think this will be easy in any step- I mean, my stomach is going to remain the same size and won’t be shrunken by artificial means. It’s going to be hard and I’m sure I’ll fail multiple times. It’ll feel like I’m starving and clinically, that’s the point; corner the body into using the energy reserves of the fat cells while maintaining enough input to keep the body functioning. But it’s worth trying, right? And this way, I can avoid causing my body additional trauma. Bariatric surgery, in my opinion, is akin to a drug used to make people sick when they drink alcohol. People familiar with the matter will tell you it’s not fun, but it’s an option when attempting to stop yourself from drinking. Once the surgery is completed, you get sick when you eat too much. You *have* to follow a certain diet to ensure you get the necessary nutrition your body needs to maintain muscle and bodily functions.
My concern for the masses is this: if people have such built-in support post-surgery, then why do they not have support prior to? Honestly, I went 25+ years before *any* physician offered any assistance, and even then it was with medications. I’m not advertising medications, but I’m sure some are familiar with the med, if not, just know it’s considered a last resort. Not one physician offered nutritionist/dietician support. No one before that one had ever offered any way of developing accountability. Not one intervened with recommendations for physical therapy or programs to help one lose weight. Not one pediatric physician helped my single mother find resources to ensure the development of healthy eating habits. But once you receive bariatric surgery, many programs offer 24-hour access to professionals to help guarantee your success. Just like when you have a sponsor for a drug/alcohol rehabilitation program, you get 24-hour access to professionals post-surgery.
Do I blame physicians for my condition? No more do I blame them for my gender/sexuality/race or asthma that I’ve had since infancy. They’re blameless in the development of my condition. I’m simply pointing out that there are resources available after the fact. The resources are reactive instead of proactive. There’s an issue when healthcare is reactive. I’m sure I’m not the first to identify it and I’d love to work with people to help develop proactive programs that help to empower people from an early age… where it matters the most.
Ah, a cause. I hope to work more on that later. For now, I’ll focus on healing me.
Until the next time folks and hopefully after a conversation with the doctor!