Being Brave

fear

On Monday I went to the doctor.  It has been a long time since I’ve seen a doctor for something other than an immediate need (i.e. cold/flu, injury).  I don’t like going to the doctor.  I don’t like the waiting, I don’t like trying to explain my symptoms and I especially don’t like the inevitable observation that all doctors make when they look at me.  I am overweight, I know I am overweight but they always think it is necessary to point it out to me.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to lose weight.  As with most people who are overweight, I have tried a lot of things and have spent a lot of money trying to lose weight.  Unfortunately losing weight isn’t as easy as most people make it out to be.  That may sound like an excuse to you, and maybe it is, but it is my experience and it is all I have to go by.

If you have never had a serious weight problem then you may not understand how hard it is.  We are told by our culture that the way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more and it sounds like a simple thing to do, skip the chocolate or the chips and go for a walk.  Believe me when I tell you that I have tried this approach and although it may work for a little while, it has never been a long term solution for me this is one of the reasons I went to the doctor.

When society looks at a fat person a number of assumptions are immediately made

  1. They eat too much
  2. They only eat junk food
  3. They don’t exercise
  4. They are lazy
  5. They don’t care

Every person who is overweight has a story…a fat story.  You see me walking down the street and you immediately judge me by what you see, but you don’t know my story, you don’t know how I got to be this size.  You may think it is just that I am lazy or have no willpower or maybe you think I’m irresponsible or maybe you think that I just don’t care about what I look like.  None of those are true about me.  I don’t eat a lot.  I start work at 4:30am most mornings and usually don’t eat until about 11am or so.  I don’t exercise as much as I’d like, but I spend a lot of time on my feet and I generally work about 60 hours a week.  I have the occasional chocolate binge (no more than the next person), but the majority of my food intake is fresh, home cooked meat and vegetables.  Before you judge me, you need to know more about me.  Every fat person has a story about how they got there, some of it may be over eating or lack of exercise, but I can guarantee you that it is more complicated than that.

This is my Fat Story.

I was a chubby kid, from as far back as I can remember, and I always got teased about it.  I was teased by kids at school, by my brother and by some of the adults in my family.  When I was ten years old I was introduced to my first diet…Limits Biscuits.  These were calorie controlled, meal replacement biscuits.  They were these little packets of three biscuits and this was a meal.  I had one packet for breakfast and one packet for lunch…at school.  I had to eat these biscuits in front of all the kids at school.  If being a fat kid wasn’t embarrassing enough, I then had to subject myself to the ridicule of eating diet biscuits in front of everyone.

I didn’t lose much weight on these biscuits, but I did lose self-esteem.  I was ten years old and instead of being taught how to eat a healthy balanced diet, I was taught to restrict my food intake and I was taught that food was a reward.

When puberty hit, my body changed and I lost all the “baby fat” that I was carrying.  I wasn’t stick thin, but I was in a healthy weight range, unfortunately I couldn’t see that.  To me, I was still fat.  By the time I had reached High School I had developed a very unhealthy attitude to food and an unrealistic view of my body.  I tried every fad diet that was published in magazines, I tried laxatives and I tried diet pills.  I was also on a perpetual cycle of alternately starving myself and then bingeing.  My goal was to be anorexic.  I desperately wished that I could just stop eating and each time I caved and had to eat something, I felt that I had failed which further eroded my self-esteem.

When I look back now, I can’t believe how blind I was.  No, I was not a waif, I had curves and hips and breasts, but I was not fat.  I was a dancer and danced at least five times a week, more during concert time.  I played netball and rode my bicycle and did school sport, I swam, I did aerobics and I walked everywhere.  I was a very active teenager but still I felt that I needed to starve myself.

By the time I left school, I had realised that the starving/bingeing wasn’t working, but now I had another problem.  I was no longer doing the same level of activity that I did while at school.  I was working forty hours a week on a trainee wage ($115 per week to be exact) and I couldn’t afford to go to aerobics or dance classes.  I still walked everywhere (because I didn’t drive), but I noticed that it was harder and harder to keep the weight off.  I was skipping meals and still hoping that I could slide into being anorexic.

I soon met my {now} husband and I still struggled with my body image, but being in a committed and happy relationship meant that I wasn’t as strict with my food intake and slowly, slowly the weight crept on.  I remember a friend’s mother’s asking me if I intended to lose weight for my wedding.  It always amazes me how people feel they have the right to comment on your body or on what you are eating or on what is in your shopping trolley.

About twelve months after meeting my husband and about twelve months before we got married, I injured my back at work.  I was unable to work or do strenuous exercise and so I ate.  I know I am an emotional eater, always have been.  My bingeing was almost always triggered by stress or emotional upheaval.  I used food to reward myself, to soothe my hurts and to dampen down feelings that were too hard to deal with.

I fell pregnant on our honeymoon and I had horrible morning sickness for about six months.  You would think that throwing up just about everything that you eat (morning sickness being a misnomer because I had it all day long) would make you lose weight.  Not me.  I even had a doctor at the Pre-Natal clinic tell me that it was ok for me to diet while I was pregnant.  I didn’t ask him if it was ok, he just volunteered the information.  This was a doctor that knew nothing about me except what the scales said.  I had never seen him before and I never saw him again. (The pre-natal clinic works on a rotation.  You don’t have an appointment with a specific doctor, you just get whichever doctor is available when your name comes up on the list).

After my son was born, I struggled to try to lose the baby weight.  I just couldn’t budge it.  My life seemed to be spiralling out of control.  My husband and I were not getting on, we had financial pressures and I just couldn’t cope.  I was finally diagnosed with post natal depression and started medication.  But I still couldn’t lose weight.

Two years later and I fell pregnant again.  Same horrendous morning sickness but this time it was coupled with extreme back pain.  I was confined to bed for the last ten weeks of my pregnancy – it makes it hard to exercise when you are not allowed out of bed.

After my second son was born, I was determined to lose weight.  Every morning I would take him in the pram and we would walk about five kilometres and I started dieting again all to no avail.  I didn’t lose a single kilogram.

It was around this time that I noticed my menstrual cycle was getting longer and longer.  My period had always been irregular, but now I was going months without one.  The first couple of times I panicked that I might be pregnant.  After my husband got the snip, I stopped worrying about it and just enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to go through the pain and discomfort every month.

I went back to work and tried unsuccessfully to lose weight.  I felt like I was on a perpetual diet.  I didn’t drink soft drink or juice of cordial, I didn’t eat anything unless it was considered a “diet” food.  I strictly watched my portion sizes and I went for walks most mornings before work, but the weight still crept on.

I happened to be at the doctors on an unrelated issue when I mentioned to him that I hadn’t had a period in about twelve months.  My explanation was that since I was overweight, I assumed that it had screwed up my cycle.  He said to me that it may in fact be the other way around – that I was overweight because of something to do with my hormones.  He sent me for tests and I discovered that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and I was insulin resistant.  There is continued debate about whether PCOS causes obesity or whether obesity causes PCOS, but insulin resistance definitely contributes to obesity and makes it extremely hard to lose weight.  This explained so much to me.

So my doctor prescribed some medication, told me to see a dietician and off I went.  The medication made me sick and I couldn’t take it and the dietician was no help.  Her advice and the recommended food was what I was already doing.  Finally I had a diagnosis that helped me to understand what was happening to my body, but there was still no cure.

I think at this point I just kind of gave up.  Occasionally I would be motivated to try again and start a diet (I’ve tried them all), but ultimately it feels like I am fighting a losing battle.  I am relatively healthy (even though I am deemed to be morbidly obese) and don’t get sick all that often, I am able to function in my daily life, so I just plod along, resigning myself to the fact that I am going to be overweight for the rest of my life.

Then I decided that I should go to the doctor and have my insulin resistance checked.  It had been a few years since I’d had the test (see, I really don’t like doctors)and I had noticed a few sugar related issues popping up in my life, the most difficult one was that of being so incredibly tired all the time.  I pretty much already knew what the test results were going to be.  Type 2 Diabetes.  I knew that Type 2 Diabetes was just a matter of time for me, both my parents have it and several other close relatives also have it, but I was hoping that I could just ignore it.  No such luck.  The doctor was surprised that I had been as well as I had due to the high test results that came back.  So I am now officially a diabetic and I can no longer stick my head in sand and ignore it.

I am still trying to process what this means for my life ahead.  I know at the moment I am feeling guilt and shame.  Could I have prevented this?  Am I a victim of genes or am I responsible for developing this disease.  I know the current cultural norm is to view people with Type 2 Diabetes with disdain; if they had only tried to lose weight they wouldn’t be sick, but I hope that you, the reader, will see that I have in fact tried to lose weight – for my whole life.  It amazes me that we have a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry and yet we also have the highest levels of obesity.  Which came first?

I recently stumbled across a Ted Talk that tackles the question of whether Type 2 Diabetes is a cause or a result of obesity.

http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_attia_what_if_we_re_wrong_about_diabetes

I hope to journal my diabetes journey here as way for me to work through my own issues and also to maybe help someone else who is walking the same road.  Thanks for listening

Michelle xxx

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7 thoughts on “Being Brave

  1. Sorry to hear Michelle that you too have inherited the diabetic trend in our family. At your age I found out that I was a type 2 diabetic and was able to control it with diet and as for loosing weight that was very difficult for me too. As you know I am now on insulin injections once a day and over the last 20 years have managed to loose about 15 kilos which has made it easier to maintain a healthy blood glucose level. I managed to loose my weight by not eating sugar. I read a book called sweet poison and the plan to kick sugar and it is easier for me now not to crave all those sugary foods that I lived on. If you would like to borrow the books I am happy to get them to you.Our sugar to day has so many additives in them that make us crave sugar that we are fighting a no win situation. giving up sugar is like giving up an addictive drug and the withdrawls are awful.All the so called “diet” foods and drinks are actually worse for you also than the original. I pray for your strength and health improvement every night. love…Mum xxx

  2. Pingback: Discovering the Diabetic Diet – What The Hell Do I Eat? | My Whymsical Life

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