Fat girl in a skinny body…

Ok, I guess I should re-phrase it to indicate that in no way was I what normal people would consider skinny! My lowest weight was 150lbs, and yeah, I thought I looked damn good, but definitely not skinny. You might think that a former fat girl would LOVE to be inside that new slimmer body and for the most part you’d be right. I did love that fact that when people looked at me they didn’t see fat anymore, they just saw me and I was, for once, unremarkable. There was no need for a double take anymore, no need for THE LOOK, no need for smug smirks in my general direction. That was all wonderful while it lasted. There were some issues with being inside that new body though. For this post we’ll stick to the first two that come to mind.

The first is having a fat girl inside who feels guilty for liking that the body isn’t fat anymore. I can remember a conversation where the people I was with started talking about fat people. They weren’t being overly mean, but neither were they being complimentary. I immediately blushed and started sweating. They were talking about me! How could they?!? But then I realized they had never known me when I was fat. So they couldn’t be talking about me. They were just having a normal conversation and it never occurred to them to edit themselves because I wasn’t fat!!!! That was one of the weirdest moments post op for me. To realize that I LOVED the fact that they felt comfortable enough around me to talk about fat people cuz I (finally!) wasn’t fat enough to qualify. I was elated, but at the same time totally eaten away with guilt. I mean, since I didn’t say anything to defend fat people that made me a horrible person, right? Plus I felt ashamed of myself for liking being in that group. You know the saying,” I don’t want to be a part of a club that wants me for a member.” That’s how I felt. I felt that to be grateful to be part of that conversation I was betraying every poor bullied fat girl everywhere. That was my identity for so long that it felt like I was joining the dark side when I didn’t defend fat people everywhere.

The second issue that I discovered was a huge amount of rage just simmering under the surface. During that conversation, when all I did was listen, it started to bubble. What right did these people have to be talking that way?! They had NO IDEA what it’s like to live as a fat person. A fat person’s biggest flaw is right out there for all to see and judge. These people were so smug and self-righteous as if it was their God-given right to judge, snicker, giggle and degrade this section of our society. I mean, what if we had monthly prejudices? One month is designated the “bad with money” month. For the whole month, those people would be talked about with derision, looked at, pointed at, every purchase scrutinized by strangers. They would have to tolerate being told they are just lazy and don’t care about their families or children. They would have to go to humiliating support groups, have their bosses question if they could do their job correctly with their “money problem.” Fat people don’t have the luxury of hiding their worse problem from the public or trying to keep it private. So where do those people get off?!? This rage surprised me at first, but after a while I realized it had been there all along. It’s just that fat people aren’t supposed to be mad about their situations. It’s just considered to be their own fault and they should just lay in the bed they made and be quiet about it.

Those were two of the issues I came face to face with about a year after the surgery. Maybe if I had been in therapy from the get go they would have been easier to deal with. I don’t know. If you are considering the surgery that is something you need to think about. There will be things that come up that you could not possibly predict that are different for each of us. If you have had the surgery, tell me what you have come up against that surprised you.

Ultimately, I had to change my thinking about those things. I had to come to terms with the fat girl in my head and find a way to merge her with the new body. And as this most recent 50lbs has come back on over the last 3 years, I’ve had to yet again, change my thinking. I had to finally realize that the girl in my head (fat or thin) needs to be loving and know her own worth. That she can’t let other people’s opinions of her define her opinion of herself. That journey is ongoing but the most important part of it is that I finally DECIDED to change my THINKING about myself. You can too. Trust me, you can!

 

 

Why choose weight loss surgery?

 

We’ve all seen the People magazine cover’s with those people that have lost huge amounts of weight (we’re talking 50-100’s of pounds here!) all on their own. The magazine makes sure to point out in big letters that these people did it all WITHOUT SURGERY. As if they need some kind of medal or something. Don’t get me wrong now! I believe that anyone who loses weight, never mind over 50lbs of it, deserves a medal. It’s just the fact that the whole WITHOUT SURGERY part is supposedly the most important part of it all. It’s a big life changing deal to lose a lot of weight – no matter how it’s done. Plus I believe that the people who choose surgery don’t necessarily make a bigger choice then those that don’t choose surgery, but I do believe they make a much more desperate choice.

When I was facing that choice I was most certainly desperate. Desperate, depressed (near suicidal in fact), panicked and defeated. I truly saw no other way for me to live out even the next ten years, never mind make it my to son’s high school graduation! That’s the kind of spot I was in mentally and I believe it’s probably true for others that choose the surgery route. I personally think that if you are considering having a potentially life threatening surgery done, then you should probably be in a life threatening situation with your health. That’s where I was. After a checkup I received a letter from my doctor. This letter was an eye opener. I knew I was hugely overweight and that I was courting disaster health wise. But this letter blatantly stated that if I couldn’t get my weight and Diabetes under control I would be facing amputation within a few years and probably death within ten years. Time to do something drastic, right?! When people are considering this surgery it’s NOT for vanity or cosmetic reasons usually. Think about it this way, does someone just decide to have cardiac bypass surgery because they think they may have a heart attack in a few years but don’t want to stop eating sausages? Um, no way! Nor would they be allowed to – I hope! Same goes with weight loss surgery.

I really envy those people in the magazines that lose all that weight and get healthy and don’t need to have surgery to do it. I think they are in a MUCH better state of mind than I was at the outset though. They may have some of the same problems even, like diabetes, or a hypertension diagnosis that triggered them to solve the weight problem once and for all. But the fact that they felt even remotely capable of solving the weight problem sets them several important steps above where I was.

I think mind-set is maybe the single most important factor in play here and I will be spending a lot of time on how what you think affects your reality. But for now, if you are seriously thinking about having weight loss surgery (friends and family listen up!) then you are probably thinking all day, every day how impossible this problem is for you to solve, how you’ve been fighting this battle for sooo long and you’re battle weary and scarred. It’s hard to tie your shoes because it’s hard to bend over because there is too much fat in the way. Or if you have already given up on tie shoes, it’s hard to bring your foot to your opposite knee to even put your shoe on. Maybe you have had to just give up and use Crocs or some other slip on. Getting dressed is just covering up as much fat as possible cuz for sure you don’t have any clothes you get excited about putting on, or if you do, they never look quite the way you want them to. What’s of vital importance here is that I was so tired of living in that situation that I felt there was no other way out. If I had been able to believe in myself enough for long enough (beyond the first two weeks of every new diet, that is) I would have never gotten as bad as I had. The person who had that surgery was a different person than I am now. I had been verbally and mentally abusing myself pretty much since puberty and there was no universe where I felt that I was capable of losing the weight on my own or that I even deserved to!

When a person has put themselves in a mindset like that for years and years, well I think it’s laughable for anyone to actually look at that poor wrecked person and say,” Well if you just stopped eating all the junk and went for a walk once in a while.” What can they be expecting from a statement like that other than to shame? Do they really think this morbidly obese (100 pounds over his/her ideal body weight) is going to stop and say, “OH geez! Really?? It’s just that simple?? I NEVER knew that! Thank you so much! I’m going to go home and clean out my kitchen and pantry right now! No! Better yet, I’m going to jog there! My life is transformed!” Um, no! Someone who is 100lbs over their ideal body weight has bigger issues surrounding weight than just cutting out junk food.

Also, it should be pointed out, especially if you’re reading this and considering the surgery or if friends and family are reading, that you can’t just walk in and say, “I want weight loss surgery.” and have surgery scheduled ASAP. There is a long process, or was for me anyway, and many screenings and informational meetings that have to happen before a surgery date is scheduled. I had to meet with a nutritionist, my regular doctor, the surgeon, and a therapist. Not to mention the huge amount of lab tests that were done. So, when people just dismiss it, yet again, as only the “easy way out”, it’s really not.

The mental state of mind I had allowed myself to descend into prior to surgery was one where on a daily basis I told myself that I and my son and husband would be better off if I died on the table, rather than continue to exist the way I was. I truly felt that for my son, my baby boy, to grow up with a 300lb plus mother was way worse for him than losing his mother when he was 4yrs old.  I even wrote him a letter that he could have in case I didn’t make it or there was some huge complication. That’s where I was mentally.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who considers this surgery is in that same mental state, or even partly in that kind of state. What I am saying is that generally speaking anyone who is big enough and with enough other possibly life threatening issues going on is probably NOT being cavalier with their life. There are serious, serious considerations to major surgery and I believe that most people that have gotten to the morbidly obese stage have a lot more going on inside than anybody knows about. I think anyone who gets to a point that they are willing to risk death for an operation that permanently changes their insides should be given a healthy amount of respect and not be treated like they cheated their way into health!

If you or someone you know is considering this surgery or just have some questions about what happens after when the weight comes off…..or when it starts to come back on….This is the place. Anything you want to know – anything at all – we need to start talking about it. Only when you bring something into the light does it break free from the hold of darkness. This is a very dark, shame filled issue in our world. We need to light it up.

 

 

“Fat people are lazy”

“Fat people are just lazy.”

Grr! How often have we heard that one? I believe that statement is one of the reasons that fat discrimination and prejudice are still acceptable in our society. I would like to think that we have evolved beyond such narrow thinking, but in a culture where we have to remind each other that “all lives matter”, that’s not the case. This happened today, in one of my classes. We were discussing weight management and the effect that movement/exercise can have on obesity and diabetes and cardiovascular health. This course is about becoming a personal trainer or coach and focuses mostly on exercise. The professor asked why people don’t exercise more in today’s world when we know so much about how good it is for us. The first answer he got was from a 19-20yr old guy sitting in the back. This guy clearly spends a lot of quality time in the gym – he is very fit and has obviously never struggled with his weight. His off the cuff response was, “Because they are lazy and don’t want to do the work!” This is going to be a person who works to help people get fit?? I’m sad for people like me who want to get help and end up with a trainer who holds them in contempt.

But a lot of people have that view of us. We haven’t yet reached the place where it’s PC that we call it a “disease” like we do for alcoholism now. And I’m sure there are a fair amount of people who think having a drinking problem is not a disease but just plain undisciplined. However, it’s acceptable to view overweight people that way. Why? I think it’s because obesity is such a multi-faceted problem.

Think about it! How many different elements or issues go into making a person fat? Genetics? Sure, there’s DNA that’s against us. Environment? Of course! Did we grow up in a fat family or a fit, active one? Personality? Yep. Are you the type of person who deals with life with addictive behavior or are you one of those (people we love to secretly hate) who needs to go for a run when life gets stressful? Ultimately though fat comes down to, at its most basic level, what we eat and if we exercise. And that is something we control. No one but me holds the fork or makes up excuses why I can’t work out today. That’s what people who think we are lazy see. They don’t have trouble controlling that so can’t see how we do.

It’s a tricky issue and hard to combat because most people who think we are lazy don’t say so to our faces. Also we have to overcome that opinion in ourselves too. We’ve all heard it growing up. “If you’d just try harder and have some will power!” I think that’s where the real damage can happen. We know inside that there is some part of this problem that is about our being able to control ourselves. That’s where the shame comes in (and oh boy is there shame!). We should be able to control or fix this with just our will. That’s one of the reasons that gastric by-pass surgery is looked at as an easy way out. We alter our body from the inside instead of conquering or controlling it through force of will.

The people that call us lazy don’t see us, not really. They just see the fat or that we are wasting our body. They don’t see what it takes inside us to try yet again to beat this demon. They don’t see how much work and effort it takes for us to go out in public sometimes with our biggest flaw on display for the world to see. They don’t see that of course we know there is some part of this that’s about our ability to control ourselves. They also don’t see that it’s just a small piece of the whole and that obesity is an all-encompassing pervasive problem that affects every single aspect of our existence.

So next time you hear that fat people are lazy, first, pray for the patience to coexist with idiots. Then be comforted that I see and know that lazy has very little to do with it. If you have friends or family that see it that way, send them here and have them read. They may just get a different perspective on the whole thing. And if you’re struggling right now with believing you’re lazy or don’t have enough will power, don’t panic. There is a fix for that. It may be the most important fix there is for weight problems and we will get to it soon I promise!

200+ pounds at the gym…train wreck or training?

 

I am in a college gym, complete with huge weights, and that slightly funky smell of old and new sweat combined with the rubber smell of the mats. I am surrounded by two, sometimes three 18-21 year olds that are in great condition. I mean, ‘wear skin tight leggings and a belly baring shirt and look awesome’ kind of condition. I am 41, frumpy and fat. Oh and did I mention there is a ridiculously fit professor that is around my same age encouraging me as I try to perfect my form in a Romanian dead-lift?  I am WAY outside my comfort zone here! I am also actively wondering why the heck it is named that?! There is not a single Romanian in sight- dead or alive! But despite the fact that I am huffing slightly from exertion and most certainly red in the face, I am having fun. Yes, I said FUN!!!!! Now if you are overweight and uncomfortable with it you know this is not the usual way things go for us in a gym. If you are overweight and have always been confident enough that this scenario would not ever have bothered you….I am hugely envious! Either way, for those of us that have always been slightly mortified at even the idea of going to the gym with all those perfect bodies judging us, it seems pretty impossible that I would be there and having fun at the same time. How did this happen?

Gyms are not made for the people that actually need them. I’ve always thought that. Gyms are supposed to be for people who are unfit to go and become fit. I suppose some of the people there started out less beautifully muscled than they are now, but they sure as hell didn’t start out at 300lbs! And ok, maybe I have a slight, tiny, miniscule prejudice about these people who have always intimidated me with their beautiful bodies. The fact remains that I never felt comfortable or welcomed in any fitness facility. They always seem like a voluntary way to go relive middle and high school gym class and what fat person wants to do that??? Once through that torture was more than enough thank you very much.

I decided when I went back to school at 39yrs old to study nutrition since it’s been an all-encompassing issue in my life. Mostly a frustrating mysterious seemingly impossible issue. My family has always had overweight issues and I figured that if I’m going to do my best to solve that for me and my kids, the more I know about nutrition the better. So why not a degree? The school I attend had just implemented a program where I could earn an Associate’s Degree in Health Science with a Concentration in Nutrition and I was off and running. My second journey through school has been wonderful! Who knew I could be a straight A student? And who knew that I would turn out to be a science geek? Well, let me clarify, more like a human body geek. My Anatomy and Physiology classes were a blast! Bones and muscles and body systems and how it all works together were like play time for me. I loved learning it all and I was good at it. Fast forward to my last semester where I only have two classes left. For some reason, the people who designed the course of study for my major must have thought that anyone in this major wants to be a personal trainer and work at a gym or high school. So I find myself in a class all about being a personal trainer where by the end I can even take a national certification exam and probably become the first over 200lb, out of shape,42yr old personal trainer! Um…yeah…that could happen.

So anyway, I look over the syllabus and realize I will have to be exercising and moving around a lot in this class and spend time in the school gym. GASP! The high school gym class PTSD kicks in and I can feel myself getting red in the face, feeling embarrassed and humiliated and sick to my stomach and I haven’t even moved out of my safe chair at my safe desk located a safe distance from the nearest gym yet. What could I do? I need this class to finish my degree so I HAVE to do this.

I am hoping what comes next can help some of you who are facing similar potentially embarrassing situations. I figured I’d be in class with about 15 huge, buff 20 year old guys who “pick things up and put them down” and a collective IQ below plant life. Yeah, no slightly bitter, totally uninformed opinions here…. I was pleasantly surprised by a nice mix of men and women and not all of them with perfect bodies. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a few buff 20 year old guys and it probably won’t be all that difficult to watch them exercise. 😉But for the most part a nice normal group of people.

The problem remains, though. I’m going to have to go to the gym with these people and exercise in front of them. To re-arrange my body into strange and uncomfortable positions twice a week. Sigh…can’t someone just let me memorize how the moves look in the book and give me a matching test? I’m good at that! I went back and forth in my head for a full week leading up to this class about what to do and how to handle it.

I finally hit on it while I was thinking about this blog. It’s all about seeing what we all have gone through as strength not weakness. I’m finally taking hold of the fact that even dumb high school gym class made me stronger and didn’t beat me down. I’m still here and I’m still trying and I’m finally actually being NICE enough to myself to want to be healthy for my own sake, not so I look good for others. That’s all I needed to realize. I have to keep re-realizing it but when I do, it’s all I need. And suddenly I really and truly just didn’t care about it at all! I for the first time ever actually don’t care what “they” think, be it classmates or general public. Those people have NO IDEA what we have gone through and that’s fine because I’m sure they have their own struggles. I have no right to assume that they are judging me and I don’t have to care about it anymore. What a weight lifted! I don’t have to put that weight of what they are thinking about me on my shoulders anymore. They probably aren’t anyway. I know what I have gone through and how much strength I have as a result.

So how did this translate into me having fun in the gym? Simple. I talked up front and frankly about the elephant in the room. I’m the biggest and clearly the most out of shape person in the class, not to mention the oldest. So on the first day of class, when the prof. asked us all to introduce ourselves and tell a bit about us I came right out with it without embarrassment or shame. I told them straight out that there is a weight problem in the family and I am educating myself so I can try to solve it. I told them that I am really good at learning and memorizing, but not so good with movement and I’m trying to fix that. And then I told them that I would love for them to help me through this class because it’s all foreign to me. I would have been fine if no one even responded, but their reaction stunned me. I’m so used to the side long looks and subtle (sometimes not so subtle) discrimination that when they responded so positively I was speechless. A few of them said they were proud of me for attacking the problem, most smiled and a few more said they would love to help me. I think I turned myself into a kind of class pet or project. But even if I hadn’t become a pet of sorts, I would be comfortable (finally!) going into that gym and trying. But what a bonus, to be respected for trying and being offered help on form (which is apparently important) and being offered smiling encouragement that for once isn’t condescending!

So yeah, that was me, AT THE GYM! With a smile on my face and both chins a bit sweaty and having fun. Now it’s a day later and I have taken as much Motrin as it’s possible to take without overdosing and still I whimper when I sit (thank you squat!) and groan feebly when I have to lift my arms (curls and something called a “seated row”) and look forward to doing it again because I’m determined that by the end of the semester it won’t hurt to do it! But most importantly, I am free of the weight of other people’s opinions or judgements for the first time in my life. I may have to remind myself often because old habits of thinking constantly try to battle back in, but I won’t let anyone else determine my state of mind anymore. And neither should you!