You Keep Using that Word…I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means

Readers, I have a bone to pick. I apologize for any abrasiveness in the following entry, but I have some major weight to get off my chest. I say the following for all of my friends and family who are currently having or who have ever had a struggle with their weight. And I say it also for all of my friends and family who maybe don’t realize that a certain behavior of theirs is actually hurting people they care about. I do apologize—this is apparently I’ve Got Various Chips On My Shoulders week. But this has got to be said.

To begin, I would like to paraphrase some things I’ve heard people say over the years:

“OMG I feel so fat today.”

“Went to a friend’s birthday party and pigged out…lol so fat.”

“Had an extra helping of mom’s Christmas torte. Shouldn’t have eaten so much, but it was soooooo good. #fatforlife”

…really now.

I’m sure you’ve all heard/seen friends say/write things like the above. Usually they’re friends who are, if not half your weight, then at least not nearly as out of shape as an extra cookie after dinner makes them feel. In essence, they have maybe ten to fifteen pounds of extra weight on them at most, and having a treat once in a great while isn’t going to negatively affect that at all.

I for one am really tired of seeing and hearing this type of thing, especially from people I know who are not fat. And I know I’m not the only blogger to write about this, but I’m irritated enough that I’m going to throw in my two cents.

Why am I irritated? For three reasons.

One, the people who I hear saying this sort of thing are, without realizing it, trivializing the very real, very difficult struggle that I, their friend, am in the midst of, by talking about how “fat” they are when they are not only not fat, but actually in pretty decent shape. I can understand that eating something you don’t normally indulge in does produce certain feelings about yourself and about what you just did. But please. Choose a different word. “Fat” is not the word you want. More on that in a minute.

Two, it’s incredibly hurtful and insulting for you to talk about how “fat” you are like it’s a bad thing and then turn to me with a smile and tell me how “beautiful” of a person I am. Weren’t you just going on about how fat you are and how gross it is that you’re so fat? I’m easily twice your size. If you think your own body is gross because you just ate a huge, greasy hamburger, what must you think of me and my nearly one hundred pounds of excess weight? It’s not cute, silly, or funny. I am not going to laugh about it with you. Kindly knock it off.

And three, the people who I see saying this are way too intelligent to be using vocabulary that is so grossly incorrect. You do not feel “fat”. What you feel is guilty for having an entire basket of French fries. What you feel is bloated when your favorite jeans are a bit too tight. You are not fat. There is a big difference. Those around you who are fat would appreciate it if you would alter your vocabulary to accurately reflect the situation.

As a corollary to this and a potential reason number four why this sort of thing annoys me is that the people who say this who are feeling guilty need to stop beating themselves up for every occasional indulgence in a decadent food. It’s not the end of the damn world if—and keep in mind this is coming from a person with an eating disorder and all the guilt that entails for slipping up—you have an extra spoonful of ice cream once a month. Either enjoy the damn ice cream or don’t eat it. But don’t eat it anyway and then laugh about how “fat” you feel. You’re making your fat friends and family feel pretty terrible, actually.

There. I’ve said it. I’m sorry for ranting. But as I’ve said in other posts, honesty is very important for this blog, not only for my personal catharsis, but to let those reading know they aren’t alone if they’re having similar experiences. Sometimes that can make the difference between a person feeling amazingly better about themselves or hating everything they see.

This post does feel a little passive-aggressive to me. I should be saying this directly to the people I’ve heard say these things, and I believe I will do so from now on. But again, this isn’t just about me. I know there are others out there who have been hearing this from the people around them and trying, as I have for so long, to put their finger on exactly why it made them feel uncomfortable or hurt. So I hope this helped.


A Warning to My Friends and Family

Because of my recent dramatic weight loss, I have already been told by a few people not to lose “too much” weight. I know these people mean well, but I somehow have a feeling that their definition of “too much” is very different from mine. And no, they aren’t saying, “Don’t lose too much weight too quickly“—they’re saying, “Don’t lose too much weight, in general“.

Everyone, I do appreciate your concern. I also appreciate your making me realize that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on this blog just how much weight I actually intend to lose. So consider this your official warning.

Here is a picture of me when I was around 14. Note how much thinner just my face looks.

Me about twelve years ago

At the time, about twelve years ago, I weighed between 130 and 140 pounds. That is the weight I hope to reduce myself to with my LAP-Band™ and exercise. I was comfortable at this weight, and would like to be there again. It’s been a long time since I felt physically and psychologically comfortable with my weight.

But if it turns out that it’s not healthy for me, as an adult, to weigh that little, then I will instead weigh more. So loved ones, don’t worry. I will do whatever I need to do in order to avoid losing too much weight. Just know that however much weight I do lose, I need your support. I know you’re used to seeing me as a heavy person. I know it’s going to be a shock to you, those of you who I don’t see often, to see me be a lighter person all of a sudden instead of gradually like those I see every day. All of you, no matter how often you see me, I know that such dramatic changes in my weight might make you uncomfortable and make you worry. But please believe me when I say that I am even more concerned for my health and wellbeing than you are—it is my body, after all, my one and only—and that no matter how dramatic my weight loss may seem to you, I really need you to be happy for me. Be concerned if you need to, by all means—I really appreciate it. But twenty pounds lost out of about five times that many is nothing dire.

Also, I am in the hands of a very excellent doctor and team of medical professionals. Between myself, them, and all of you wonderful people, I should be just fine.

Now that that’s said, I think it’s time for a walk. The snow is mostly gone here in Indy, excepting the piles of it created by various plows. It’s warm enough today to be comfortable outside with only a light jacket, and I’ve been missing the wind against my face. Until next time.

No sooner had I stepped off the end of my driveway for my walk than some dude in a muscle car honked at me. I do believe I’ve just experienced the vehicular equivalent of a wolf whistle. …kay?

Status Update #1

Today was the first of my monthly post-op meetings with my surgeon. I will be expected to see him once a month for at least the next year to discuss my weight loss progress, see how I’m doing in general, and possibly get a band adjustment. Each month when I have these meetings, I also want to check in with all of you, too. I think progress reports are just as important for the effectiveness of this blog as honesty and openness.

Plus I look forward to showing off how well I’m doing when I’m doing well.

Weight on day of surgery: 239.2 lbs
Weight today: 226.6 lbs
Total lost: 12.6 lbs

Not bad for only a few weeks. I should note, also, that I weigh myself at home—the other day I was around 222 lbs—but that the measurements I’ll be posting here are my weight at the doctor’s office. This is always slightly different because at the doctor’s office I am clothed and wearing shoes, and usually have eaten recently. At home, I weigh myself first thing in the morning.

Today my surgeon and I agreed that it was not time for a band adjustment. For one, I haven’t returned to a regular diet yet, and for two, there’s still a lot of stuff I’m getting used to. So we’ll meet again at the end of next month and assess how I’m doing.

But in any case, the people around me are already starting to notice a difference in how I look. I’m noticing a difference not only in how I look, but also in how I feel and how my clothes fit me. I expect that my weight loss will slow down once I start eating solid food again and my portion sizes increase a bit because the swelling in my stomach has finally gone down. But I can’t wait to see where I am a month from now.

Status Update #1

Horrible lighting is horrible. Also, I have the flyaway-iest of hair.

And one last note. Since all of the bandages applied during surgery are now gone (I was instructed to wait for them to fall off on their own), I have been slathering my incision sites in Neosporin® and applying new bandages. I’m hoping this will completely prevent scarring, particularly as one of the post-surgery activities I look forward to is bellydancing. I can highly recommend this sort of post-op self-treatment if you are yourself pursuing bariatric surgery. My surgeon even seemed to think this was a most excellent idea.

Preliminary Status Update

I can hardly believe it, but it’s been almost a month since I had LAP-Band™ surgery. I feel like I’ve been pretty quiet as far as the blog goes, the occasional post containing relevant news articles notwithstanding. The absence of new posts hasn’t been due to a lack of subject material, however, but more due to the fact that I haven’t really had the energy for much. But now that I’m back to feeling human again—at least most of the time—I figure it’s time for an update.

I mentioned I’ve been tired a lot lately. If you’re in the midst of pursuing some kind of bariatric surgery, let me warn you now: Your doctor will tell you that you will be tired following surgery. No matter how empathetic a person he or she is, unless they themselves have had bariatric surgery, they only have a conceptual idea of what they’re talking about. So the word “tired” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In my case, it was more like a feeling of being constantly sapped of all energy forever. My energy levels were lower than they were when I had the flu, and impossibly even lower than when I had what I lovingly refer to as the Martian Death Plague*. This made total sense, of course, as my body was trying to repair itself after surgery and not getting a lot of external energy in order to do that. (It’s thanks to this that when I post Status Update #1, the first in what will be a new series, your eyes may bulge out at my new weight.)

Frustratingly, although I felt constantly sapped, I wasn’t really tired enough to sleep. Or perhaps that was just me stubbornly wanting to stay awake and watch horrible movies on Netflix. (The marathon continued, by the way—if you’ve never seen it before, “The Hunt for Red October” is a good movie.) In any case, after surgery, you will not just be tired. You will be the most drained you’ve ever been in your life, at least if you’re anything like me. I did read an account or two online of band patients taking only a day or two off from life, but I gather that such is not the norm.

Following surgery, I was of course also on a liquid diet for a few days. After that, I was on a puree diet, then next a soft food diet, and finally on Wednesday, I will be back to eating solid food. The hardest thing during all of this has been eating enough—which is a very unusual thing for me. It’s also been difficult to make sure I’m properly hydrated, and that part is still a little touch and go. But I’m working my way toward some kind of balance, and I think I’m finally getting there.

So now the next step will be to make sure that what I’m eating is as nutritious as it needs to be. I have some guidelines for that, thankfully, so here’s hoping that it won’t feel like as much of a shot in the dark as it has in the past.

Now for something that absolutely no one warned me about. This wasn’t in any of the preparatory materials given to me either by my doctor or by the pre-op informational interactive animations my health network sends out, and nobody mentioned it at the seminar I went to last spring when I first started looking into doing this to myself. I really wish that someone somewhere had talked about this. Thankfully I have a friend at work who’s been through multiple surgeries and said, rather offhandedly, something that made me feel a whole lot better.

There is every possibility that, immediately following your surgery, you’ll wish you hadn’t had it.

Seems impossible, right? I mean, in my case, I spent almost a year looking into LAP-Band™ surgery, going to consultations with the surgeon, meeting with the dietitian, researching things online, and yes, fantasizing about what it would be like to be remarkably thinner. I wanted this thing so much I went through three months of supervised weight loss, was willing to run the risk of paying through the nose for whatever my insurance didn’t cover**, and, when I was approved but couldn’t proceed due to finances, came back after four or five months and raised my hand for it again.

And yet for the first three or four days, I was terrified of what I had done to myself. I couldn’t believe that I let someone cut me open and wrap a medical device around my stomach just so I would lose weight. I felt horribly guilty that I wasted my team of medical professionals’ time, and that I’d made such a big fuss on this blog and in my family and social circles. I felt like a terrible person.

But apparently it’s not uncommon for surgery patients to not be terribly pleased with the state of themselves a day or three after surgery. Psychologically, that makes perfect sense. I was in a lot of pain (though not so much I felt it necessary to take anything but the anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by my surgeon). I was abnormally worn out. And I think the knowledge that I had a foreign object wrapped around one of my internal organ just gave me the heebie-jeebies. Nothing can make you recognize your own mortality quite so much as knowing, in a way that isn’t just conceptual, that you are a bag of meat.

So if you elect to have bariatric surgery and then afterward start to wish you’d never even heard of the idea, you’re not alone. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

The next hurdle was going back to work, which I did this past Monday after taking off two more days than I originally intended. I needed those two days. And in fact I needed Tuesday, as well. But I was able to finish out the work week, and I feel a whole lot better for it. Getting out and being active has done wonders, I think. I figured at one point that if I didn’t just do that that it would take longer for me to feel able to do so.

On that note, if you’re mobile enough to do so, make sure you’re talking walks. Even despite how tired I’ve been, I’ve still be going for twenty-minute walks when it’s nice enough out. Not only will the exercise make you feel better, but being out in the sun and the air will, too.

This week I also forced myself to go to a scheduled band practice despite being tired, and am glad I did that, too. And let me tell you, it’s nice to be singing without tears in my diaphragm.

Also, all of this craziness becomes more and more worth it every time I look in the mirror. It’s nice to have days where I actually feel thin, as opposed to feeling like a blob all the time. I can already see the positive change in my weight, as can other people. My skin feels firmer in the baggy places, too. And yes, I did get stupidly excited the first time I saw the barest hint of shadows around my collar bone.

I have a one-month post-op meeting with my surgeon on Monday. I’m not completely certain what will happen during this meeting, so we’ll see how that goes. I do know I will be weighed, and I intend to post my updated weight and possibly a photo as a Status Update. Since I’ll be meeting with my surgeon once a month over the next year for band adjustments, expect this to be a regular thing. As I mentioned, it will be a new series.

Until then, happy spring.

Springtime in Indiana
Note that what you can’t see, because my camera’s not that good, is that it’s actively snowing.

*The Martian Death Plague was an illness I had in January of 2011. It was memorable not only because of how it made me feel, but because of the residual cough that lasted for four and a half months that then led to my being diagnosed with a hiatal hernia. This illness did not involve vomiting, thankfully, but I am nevertheless convinced it was some sort of flu. It was the worst an illness has ever made me feel in my life.

**My insurance covered everything but about $1,400.00 and for that I have money in reserve. My husband has a Flex Account through his employer. If you remember, it was this account’s being empty that kept me from having surgery last year.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

We’ve all heard our share of weight loss advice from, oh, everywhere. Before taking any of it to heart, make sure the source knows what they’re talking about. It seems that even some weight loss experts have been misled by popular “wisdom”.

It’s also a good idea to take into account where the funding for a research project comes from and the potential conflicts of interest that can arise therefrom.

Like it says in the subject line, don’t believe everything you read.

You Are Not a Punching Bag

I included a link to this news article in a comment on my last post, but I thought it should be highlighted in its own post as well.

I’ve talked about addiction before, but even despite my own personal experiences with food addiction, there was always a part of me that felt like I was being melodramatic. I think it can shut up now.

A researcher at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine has produced some pretty damn good evidence that getting off a high-fat diet is akin to going through drug withdrawal.

“‘By working with mice, whose brains are in many ways comparable to our own, we discovered that the neurochemistry of the animals who had been fed a high fat, sugary diet were different from those who had been fed a healthy diet,’ Fulton explained. ‘The chemicals changed by the diet are associated with depression. A change of diet then causes withdrawal symptoms and a greater sensitivity to stressful situations, launching a vicious cycle of poor eating.'”

Well good goddamn. That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it? It has a whole slew of potential ramifications. I love that Dr. Fulton pointed out, “It is food for thought about how we might support people psychologically as they strive to adopt healthy eating habits, regardless of their current corpulence.”

Know what else it means?

You can stop beating yourself up for all the failed diets. I’m sure you have at least a few tucked away in the closet with the rest of your skeletons. I know I do. I’m not saying that you should no longer feel a sense of responsibility to yourself and your own wellbeing because the Addiction Demon in your head made you do it. What I am saying is that beating yourself up over a failed diet is not only pointless, it’s not constructive. What does the guilt get you? Nothing good. Does it inspire you to try harder? If you’re anything like me, the only thing guilt inspires is a long list of comfort foods to eat to make yourself feel better.

So stop beating yourself up. Stop right now. Just take a step back and take a deep breath. Understand that overcoming what is actually a very real addiction sucks. It sucks hard. And understand that everything will come in its own time. For you, that time might not be right now. Keep pushing until you reach the breaking point–either your own, or the addiction’s. If you fail, at least you tried. Pick yourself up and keep trying.

And stop the guilt. You are not a punching bag.

If You’re Obese, Does Your Brain Work Differently?

I know I’ve been posting a lot of articles lately, and I hope that’s ok. For one, I don’t have any news of my own to report (though I have a follow-up Wednesday, so that should change). And for two, I figure for people who have issues similar to my own that this could be really useful info.

So, back to the question in the subject line. If you’re obese, does your brain work differently? According to a study led by researchers at Yale University, yes.

Do read the article for the full story. It’s some pretty fascinating stuff. But in essence:

“Brain reward regions are activated when glucose levels drop below normal. In lean people, but not in the obese, the prefrontal cortex which is involved in decision making and regulating impulses are activated when glucose levels return to normal.”

Now of course I’m wondering if this sort of brain response dissipates as an obese person becomes more physically fit, or if it will remain indefinitely. I am also wondering what the rate of success might be for those who try to overcome this urge by willpower alone.

This research is actually quite comforting to me on one level. I used to worry that I was over dramatizing my lack of willpower when it came to food. According to this study, I’ve been dealing with a very chemically real form of lack of impulse control. I think that for me, at least, this might help me deal with future cravings. What does anyone else think?