Friday, October 28th, 2011
Please be advised that this post may be triggering for some readers. It contains weight loss talk, talk of weight loss surgery, and talk about medical conditions and their relationship with obesity.
Earlier this year I was diagnosed with diabeties. The Type II kind. The one that the wider community assumes that all obese people will end up getting. Well, I got it and I have had a hard time trying to deal with that over the last 9 months or so. At the same time I was diagnosed with a condition where my testosterone levels are very low. I have no energy or drive to do things, I struggle to concentrate for long periods of time and I quite often just feel like shit.
I’ve recently started to notice that I feel quite disconnected from my body these days. It’s something that is there and I can feel that it is physically there, but I feel almost separated from it. I don’t feel like I have any control over it. It’s just there and a lot of the time it just gets in the way or doesn’t to the things I want it to do.
I’ve seen a specialist about my condition and their response was that the only viable solution was for me to lose weight. Apparently my condition is brought on by being obese and if I wasn’t so obese then I wouldn’t have the condition. Wow, so simple. They also strongly recommended that I have a Lap Band installed so that I could get the weight off and start to feel better, and that with my failed history of dieting and weight loss attempts that this was my only viable solution. I was gobbsmacked.
I’ve read a fair bit about Lap Bands over the few years that I’ve been apart of the Fat Aceptance movement and the last thing I wanted was one of those. I was angry that this is all I was being offered as a form of treatment. If I didn’t go down this path I would have to deal with my illness myself and that just didn’t seem right.
A couple of months have passed since then and I’m starting to feel desparate. My body feels like it is failing more and more. I have less and less energy to get up and do things. I’m almost completely disinterested in life and there are days where I would just like to switch off and come back in a couple of days or weeks when I feel a little bit better.
Nagging on my mind all this time were the words of this specialist. I must lose weight. i must get a Lap Band. But yet I know that studies show that weight loss diets and ineffective, and that there are many complications with Lap Band surgery that makes it almost not worth the risk. And yet it digs at me.
It digs at me to the point that I have now regressed so far in my thoughts of my body. I feel like it’s my fault that I’m sick and that if I just stopped eating so much and exercised more I would lose some weight and feel better. Wow. That’s so far from the FA mantra that I’ve adopted over the last few years that I feel ashamed to even write it. And yet it is how I feel right now thanks to the good work of that specialist and my brain running over all of this.
I can understand how deseparation could lead someone to get a Lap Band. This morning I almost convinced myself that it was the only way that I was ever going to feel better. I’ve managed to get myself out of that mindset at the moment but I’m sure it will be back. And I’ll have to fight it off again.
If I had some idea of what I could do to fix myself in a way that was nourishing for my body, then I would happily take it. I probably need some sort of eating therapy. I’m convinced that I have disordered eating and no amount of dieting or surgery will fix that. But that kind of thing just isn’t there in mainstream medicine.
So for now I struggle with this mental gap between where my brain is and where my body is. I feel like I’m betraying the Fat Acceptance movement by even writing this post and talking about my struggle. I think it’s important that we all recognise that it is hard to deal with this sort of stuff even if you have been fighting for fat acceptance for years.
Somehow I have to find a solution to my health problem. I don’t know what that is going to be yet. It may be that I get so desparate that I get a Lap Band. I don’t know right now. All I know right now is that I wish there were answers and I wish there were more answers than just “lose weight”.
‘Cause it’s not like I was successful al that over the last 31 years. How the heck would I be able to start now?
Thursday, August 12th, 2010
This was recently posted over on my new blog Nicholosophy. I’ve taken the liberty to cross-post this as I think it’s very relevant to what we often deal with within the Fat Acceptance community. As a warning, I mention the terms ‘weight loss surgery’ and ‘sexual assault’ but do not talk about these topics.
I’ve had this topic in my drafts bin (which is where I keep all the things I want to write about) for the last few days but I’ve been putting it off. I think it might be that I’m concerned about what I’m going to write and how it is going to trigger me. Now it’s funny that I should start a post on triggering with how I think my own writing might trigger me. I haven’t even explained what it is yet, so perhaps I should get onto that.
A trigger as defined by the Wordnet (r) 2.0 dictionary is “an act that sets in motion some course of events”. As an example, you turn the key in your car and you trigger the ignition system to start the car. It could be the fact that you stand on your dog’s foot triggers it to growl. These sort of situations make sense – you do something which causes a reaction. However triggers don’t have to relate to setting off some sort of physical event. They can be emotional as well.
Triggering is the concept that some things, when said or written, can trigger a bad emotional response. A blog post or video or tweet is considered ‘triggering’ if it sets off someone to have a bad reaction because it brought up some situation or issue that they have faced in the past.
I’ll give you an example of an emotional trigger that happened with me the other night. I was washing up the dishes and “Australia’s Funniest Home Videos” was on the television. Like any home video clip show, they often show things that are perhaps funny to some but just make other cringe. But you don’t expect much of an emotional response, except perhaps laughter.
Well the clip they showed was of a fat man on a water slide. The voice over went something like “Now I know why the attendant wanted to grease me down before I went on the slide”. The man was stuck – not because the slide wasn’t wide enough but because he must have been sticking to the slide. He then gets up and starts to walk down the slide. Apparently this is considered ‘funny’. But I was upset, not laughing.
Back in the 90s I went to the local water park here called “Wet ‘n’ Wild”. I was a teenager and I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to roller coasters, speed slides or anything of that nature. This time I thought I’d get on the speed slide. They have mats bu
t since I was concerned that I would end up going too fast and crap myself, I decided I didn’t need one. No one said anything to me suggesting it would be a good idea. So I got in and pushed myself off.
Cue me half way down a speed slide unable to move because I was sticking to the slide. The embarrassment and shame of being the fat kid stuck in the slide still hits me today. I had to get out of the slide, walk down the maintenance strip on the side of the slide and come down to the bottom. To make matters worse, I cut my foot open on some wire and had to get attended by first aid.
A little piece of me died that day. A little piece of me went away and locked itself so tightly inside that it would never get hurt again. Any time I think of that day I end up in tears. Hence why I’ve put writing this off until now.
Consider someone who has been sexually assaulted, bullied or who has been bashed up because of their race of sexuality. Any time something comes on TV or the radio or the internet that reminds them of that time, it triggers an emotional response. A very innocent situation or words said that would not make most people react can cause them to become upset, angry or even (in the extreme) violent. And it is all perfectly reasonable for that to happen, because they are dealing with a hurt unlike anything else that most of us experience.
My experience on the slide that day is significant to me. I can’t imagine what it is like to have someone overpower you, take away your dignity and sexually assault you. I can’t imagine what it is like to be spat on and kicked to the ground because you are gay. I’m sure it hurts and haunts much more than my experience. So if a TV show can trigger an emotional response in me, it must be worse for them.
In the Fat Acceptance community, talk about weight loss and weight loss surgery is considered triggering. The first time I ever learned about triggering was when I posted a blog post on Axis of Fat which was an interview with a lady who had gone through weight loss surgery. The idea was that I wanted to learn more about it so that my opinions could be formed based on fact and not conjecture. What I didn’t realise was that my post would trigger emotional responses in some people that crushed them inside.
Now when I write a blog post and I think the content might be triggering, I warn the reader at the outset. That way they can make up their mind whether they want to read on or not. I don’t have to stop writing about the triggering subject matter. I allow the reader the chance to have the choice about whether they read about it. This is actually fairly standard practice in the Fat Acceptance community.
I need to keep in mind every day that everything I write here, or on Twitter or Facebook can be read by someone I don’t know too well. I don’t know about everything that has happened to them and even with my closest friends, they could have some secret trauma that they have locked away for their own self preservation. I have to keep in mind to be sure that what I write won’t be triggering for someone. If I think it will, I either don’t write it or I warn people in advance. Quite often it is probably better to just leave it well alone.
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
WARNING: SOME PEOPLE HAVE FOUND THIS TRIGGERING
The media have recently been looking at weight loss surgery, including lap banding and gastric bypass, as the solution to the “obesity epidemic”. Since I’ve never had weight loss surgery, or met anyone who has, I put a call out on Twitter looking for people to tell me their story, either good, bad or indifferent. One person answered the call.
Doreen from San Diego, California had gastric bypass surgery seven months ago. I asked her some questions regarding her experience with weight loss surgery. I thought her answers so so well written that I should just let you read them as she wrote them. So without further ado…
What prompted you to consider weight loss surgery? (e.g. doctor’s advice, friends and family, something you saw in the media)
To fully explain why I made my decision I need to tell you a little bit about myself.I grew up in a large family. My maternal grandparents had 10 children and by the time I was born most of them had kids so I was one of over 30 grandchildren. Of all of them I was the only fat kid. The rest of my cousins are all willowy and small whereas I somehow inherited the bulk of my Father’s genes. His family lives on the other side of the country so they weren’t a big influence in my life at the time. The only fat people I knew growing up were one of my aunts and the older ladies at our church.
Through the magic of a young mind & too many Disney movies I basically believed that I was destined to be my family’s ugly duckling. One day I would wake up thin & lovely like my siblings and then my real life would begin. As such I lived my life waiting for that magic day. I wore shorts with elastic waists in horrible colors & shirts with puppies, kittens & teddy bears from the Kmart plus section. It didn’t matter what I wore because nobody was looking at me anyway.
Cut to high school, my parents have divorced & I finally start to wake up & come into my own. It has to be the result of many converging factors. Years of well-meaning relatives giving me diet books and workout supplies; trying to live on cabbage soup & pepper; my Mom getting a Lane Bryant credit account so that I could get semi-stylish clothes that fit me & my new friend, Candis. Candis came from a family of fat women. She, her Mom & her 2 sisters acted more like roommates than mother & daughters and more importantly the were all fat & all unique. I would love to say that my friends were years ahead of the times and had accepted themselves & loved their bodies but it’s not true. They were just women who had tried everything and were still fat. They were resigned to it. It had never occurred to me to be okay with being fat before. It was mind boggling.
I slowly began decide that I was okay. I was smart, pretty and well-spoken. I began to dress well, speak my mind & was even the Co-Editor-in-Chief of my High School yearbook. Still I was by far the fattest person in my social circles. It’s like I was thinking, “It’s okay to be fat but not this fat.” I would still try to exercise & would start a new diet every few weeks but it was always with a resigned sense of impending failure.
I started seriously considering a gastric bypass after I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. I started falling asleep at my computer, at work, even in my car in traffic. It was pretty scary for while. I thought I was Narcoleptic. I redoubled my efforts to exercise and eat well. I bought a treadmill & join Nutrisystem but a year later nothing had changed. I was being to lose hope so I went to seminar about Gastric Bypass. I went by myself and didn’t tell anybody. I debated with myself for almost a year before I sent back the paperwork to start the approval process. I was 3 months into my required 6-month, medically-supervised diet when I told my family & friends what I had decided to do.
Ironically it was while researching gastric bypass online that lead me to the Size Acceptance community. At this point I had completed all the steps to get approval from my insurance company & I was just waiting for a surgery date. I briefly considered stopping the whole process but I had come so far & I was afraid that I might not get another chance. I’ve done a lot of research and I believe I was as well-prepared as possible. I believe I went into the process with a realist expectation and I am happy with the overall results.
I was also afraid that the other people in the Size Acceptance movement would see me as hypocrite so I spent many months just lurking around the websites. I finally got up the nerve to join in the community and found everybody to be wonderful but I haven’t come out and told everybody that I’ve had surgery so this may change some of that for me.
What expectations did you have of the surgery?
I tried very hard not to have unrealistic expectations but I have to admit that the “ugly duckling” ideal has still cropper up a few times. A part of me still expects to find the perfect dress to wear to that conveniently timed gala event where everybody I’ve ever know will see how fabulous I look.
I feel I should confess that since my surgery I have starting taking an antidepressant. I think that I’ve always been mildly depressed(obesity & depression are a bit of a chicken or the egg situation in my mind) but I think the fact that I KNEW that having the surgery wouldn’t make my life all sunshine & roses and then, the fact that it didn’t caused me to spiral into a depression shows just how pervasive these ideas can be.
For the most part I got exactly what I expected. A few weeks of living on mainly chicken broth & creamy soups followed by cottage cheese & eggs. I lost a lot of weight very quickly & was able to start doing more exercise. I am surprised at how much more I enjoy the exercise, especially since hearing a skinny girl talk about how much she loves her aerobics class usually makes me want to claw her eyes out.
Did you feel it would be THE solution to your weight issues or something that would work combined with other changes?
I do feel that this was THE solution for me. I know that the reason I ended up as heavy as I did was because of my eating habits & my sedentary life. Don’t get me wrong, as I said above I got my Dad’s genes so I was built to be a big girl but wasn’t genetics alone. I was binge eater. When I was stressed, sad or even just bored I would eat massive amounts of food sometimes to the point of making myself sick. Once I got a car, my physical activity was usually limited to my part-time retail job & the occasion trip to the beach.
Gastric bypass has been referred to by some as a “fresh start” & I agree. This is was I needed. Given all I had learned about nutrition & exercise over the years I knew I could be successful if I could just get a good start. After all of my “failures” with diets I needed something that I was convinced would work(almost like Dumbo’s Magic Feather). The biggest reason I was so convinced that gastric bypass would work for me was because after surgery your body will usually produce a lower amount of the Ghrelin hormone; which is what makes that little voice in your head go, “I’m hungry!” Without the constant thought of food in my head I am freer to live my life.
How long has it been since you had the surgery?
How did you feel after the surgery was done?
I felt great. I’ve always been remarkably healthy, even at 400 lbs my cholesterol & blood pressure were near perfect. I was up and walking around just a few hours after surgery. I took 4 weeks off work to recover(mostly because I could). I felt a little light headed & tired for the first few weeks but once I was able to start eating protein shakes & soft foods I felt really good.
Mentally I was ecstatic. The weight came off easily & didn’t feel hungry at all for the first few months. It’s actually been fun looking at food in a more abstract manner. My tastes have changed a lot so I’ve been trying new things and wondering what I enjoyed about certain guilty pleasures.
Did you have many complications following the surgery?
Very few. As I mentioned before I am taking antidepressants to treat my current chemical imbalance. As far as I can tell it is pretty common for women who’ve had this surgery or who have lot a lot of weight quickly to take antidepressants. Studies suggest that excess estrogen will trigger depression(because being a woman isn’t fun enough already?).
I’ve been lucky when it comes to food. There are very fews things that I can’t eat. Even sweet stuff like chocolate doesn’t usually give me problems. Only stuff that’s really carb-heavy, like rice & potatoes, upsets my stomach regularly but I’m always careful when I try something new because I never know. Just a few weeks ago a scrambled egg gave me stomach ache for half a day.
Do you feel like you achieved what you set out to by having the surgery?
I can’t say that I’ve achieved my goal yet. When my surgeon originally asked me what my goal was I had no idea what to say. I knew I would never be the 135 lbs that is considered the “Ideal Weight” for a woman my size but what did I want to be? Eventually I decided that I wanted to be under 200 lbs. This meant that I would need to lose 200 lbs. Now I’m 7 months out & I’ve lost 150 lbs. I currently weigh about 250 and to be perfectly honest I think I could live the rest of my life at this size & be happy. I’m still losing weight but the more time I spend with the Size Acceptance community the less I care about the number on the scale and the more I just want to go out & do things.
Would you recommend it to other people who are considering weight loss surgery? Would you recommend it to anyone or only to particular cases?
Given everything I have heard & seen with regard to weight-loss surgery, both online & in real life, I wouldn’t make a recommendation to anyone. There are too many risks not to make the decision for yourself. For me, it has done everything I wanted it to do and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Only time will tell if I can maintain my weight loss without further complications but I am optimistic and I have no reason to think that my life won’t be everything I want it to be.
This is just one woman’s story on weight loss surgery. If you have your own story, why not drop us a line on twitter or leave a comment and we would be happy to help share your story too.
Whilst Doreen is very happy with her choice, there are many different opinions on this subject. If you want to read another view on weight loss surgery (this time lap banding), you can check out a recent post over on Fat Lot of Good.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009