Fat as Hell…

and not going to take it anymore!

The Queen of Denial

As you might imagine, since my last post, I’ve been in a pretty bad place.

I’ve spiraled into a fairly deep funk, and frankly, up until now, I just haven’t been motivated enough to claw my way out of it. I’ve felt like one of those characters from the old Saturday morning cartoons who’s being followed/shadowed by a single, lone storm cloud, while the rest of the world lives in complete and perfect sunshine.

Ok. Perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic.

But I do know this: caring about yourself is hard when it feels like all your efforts have been for naught… and that is exactly how I’ve felt. It’s been one year since I decided to turn my life around, and while I have lost 70lbs in that time, recently it’s felt as though my health has, in many ways, declined. And that’s been a particularly hard pill to swallow because finding my way to a healthier, (rather than simply skinnier, cuter or more socially acceptable), place has always been my *primary* goal in all of this. I realize, of course, that thinking that all my obesity related health problems would simply disappear if I lost weight was, well… simplistic and naive. However, I guess I didn’t really expect them to get worse either. And that’s kind of the kicker. Over the last few weeks, I’ve felt cheated, scammed, tricked, bamboozled, etc… as though I’d invested all my money into something that turned out not to exist. It’s been like The Emperor’s New Clothes, only I’m the stark naked fool.

Of course, I’m not really naked, am I? Or perhaps the better analogy is to say that I’ve been naked for a long, long time. I just haven’t faced it until now.

Like many overweight people, I’ve spent a long time denying that I had a problem. Sure, I looked in the mirror each morning, but I found ways to focus on things other than my weight. Facing the fact that I was killing myself and thereby admitting that I needed to actually *do something* about it was just too daunting, so… for the most part, I flat refused to think about it all. And as a result I completely ignored my body and all of its various cries for help. I did this for years and years. But what’s more, even after I “faced the fat,” as it were, I only really faced the health issues that were an immediate problem. I focused on the high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, because my doctor made it impossible not to. The other things? Well… I continued to ignore them.

I guess what they say about old habits dying hard is really true.

And, really, when I think about it, that’s probably a big part of why I’ve been so scarce these last few weeks. Something unexpected happened to me when I wrote my last post. When I allowed myself to purge all of the things that were plaguing me, I did more than just “get them off my chest.” I also put them in a place where I couldn’t ignore them anymore. It’s the old, “you can’t unring a bell” thing again. Once they were out there, I had to face them, and that has been hard. Each time I signed into wordpress or tried to read all of the gentle and wise comments that so many of you left me, I found myself panicking. It was like looking in the mirror and seeing all the damage I’ve done to myself, over and over again. Even now, I’m struggling with reading over that post or all of the love that people left for me in the comments. (Seriously, Fat Bridesmaid said she would shave her head for me. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is).

In the meantime, I haven’t spent the last few weeks with my head completely buried in the sand.

First, I decided to go ahead and take the hormones that were prescribed by the doctor. She indicated to me that I might not have a period the first month that I took them, but I did… and she said that was a good sign. Two more months to go, then we’ll see what happens.

Secondly, I made an appointment with a dermatologist. This was really for my own peace of mind more than anything else, and in the end, I was glad I went. Apparently tricholosists, like the one Jenny saw when she had a similar problem, are few and far between in this country, (the nearest one to me being over 1,000 miles away), so I did some research online and settled for the dermatologist. The bottom line of what he told me was this: a) my hair is thinning and it is not my imagination. This acknowledgment of the problem was important to me. Though I hadn’t told anyone (who could actually see my hair) but my husband about the problem, and his steadfast assertion that he didn’t notice any difference made me feel, at various junctures, like I was going crazy. As strange as it may sound, knowing that I hadn’t completely lost my mind made me feel a bit better. Then he told me b) that my hair follicles were *not* dead or damaged in any way and that they were entirely capable of growing new hair. *whew* He also said c) that there’s a difference between thinning hair and going bald. Going bald means that your hair falls out and doesn’t grow back. Hair thinning, on the other hand, is when your hair falls out more quickly than it grows back. The latter is what is happening to me.

Then we went over my medical history. I showed him all of the previous blood work I’d had, including the recent hormone panel and thyroid check. We talked about the history of alopecia in my family (there is none) and about my recent weight loss. And in the end, he said that he treats a lot of people who lose their hair during periods of extreme weight loss or gain. He said that when your body gains or loses a great deal of its mass that sometimes it shuts down or slows what it considers to be less than “essential” functions in order to focus on other, more pressing, issues. He said that hair production is frequently one of these functions and that he felt strongly that this is what was happening to me. Needless to say, this made me feel a lot better. He also prescribed something for me… a topical solution, (similar to rogaine, I guess) that he said he’d experienced a great deal of success with, (but that doesn’t require endless use and that doesn’t cause you to lose all the hair you grow once you stop using it). I haven’t filled the prescription yet and, to be honest, I’m not sure I will. Just having it, though, is comforting.

So… that’s where I am right now.

I’m not sure I’m completely ready to “get back on the horse again,” but I’m no longer slumped over in a pool of my own tears anymore either. I could say that I’m somewhere in between, but I think, really, I’m a lot closer to feeling “whole” again.

I think one of the mistakes that most people, myself included, who are trying to lose weight make is to constantly try to quantify our success. Sure, we celebrate the occasional None Scale Victory, but for the most part, we hinge everything on numbers. Whether it’s the scale, the tape measure, the never ending calorie ticker or the size on the backs of our jeans, numbers become the sword upon which we live and die. And that’s unhealthy, for a lot of reasons.

Yes. Losing weight is a numbers game. There is math(s) involved and you can’t take the pounds off without occasionally breaking out the calculator, believe me, I know that. But what I also know is that it’s not the analytical part of my brain that enabled me to put this weight on. It wasn’t bad accounting that landed me at 300+ pounds. Like it or not, there’s something in my personality that makes me susceptible to this problem. You can call it emotional eating or whatever, but what I’m coming to realize is that being fat is really just a symptom, and as with any disease, treating *just* the symptoms is a recipe for disaster.

So… now, I find myself in a strange place: somewhere along what seems to be a never ending path… not close enough to the end to see it yet, but too far from the beginning to turn back. It’s been a year since I headed down this road and in that time, I’ve lost some weight. But I still have a long, long way to go. The difference, this time, however, is that for the first time ever, I recognize that, that “long way” encompasses so much more than just the pounds that I have yet to shed. And since they don’t make a ticker to help me measure that kind of progress I can only go by how I feel inside. To that end, I’d be lying if I said I felt good about my progress over the last month. I don’t feel good about all the steps backward I’ve taken while reeling from this. But I do feel pretty good about the steps forward I’ve managed to tick off, and at I know that least one of those steps is a pretty big one.

That said, I’m back. Or, perhaps I should say, I’m on the way back. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to leave a bit of themselves here for me to find. I can’t tell you how much of a lifeline all of your comments have been to me. I’m so very grateful. Thank you.

August 6, 2008 Posted by | losing weight | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

More Questions Than Answers…

I’m a pretty private person – a fact that may seem a little contradictory to the personal nature of this blog. However, despite the inherently public aspect of keeping an online journal, the truth is, I’m not usually one to bear my soul to the world. Let’s face it, even though I’m lucky enough to have several people who read these ramblings regularly and who then, in turn, leave bits of themselves here for me to ponder, all of this is still fairly anonymous. I get to choose how much I share and when or even *if* I share it at all. Yes, this is a public forum, but the amount I expose is entirely up to me, which makes the sharing pretty safe, and therefor something that I’ve been able to reconcile with my own very real need for privacy.

I guess that’s why the last few weeks have been tough for me. Physically and emotionally there’s been a lot going on with me… stuff that’s harder for me to talk about than what I ate yesterday, how many miles I walked (or didn’t walk) tonight or how tightly my jeans are fitting this week. I’ve been telling myself that I need to share this stuff. That keeping it all bottled inside isn’t healthy and that I can only benefit from the wisdom of those people who stumble across my words, but it’s been hard for me to turn that knowledge into action.

As much as I hate to admit it, part of my hesitation has to do with the personal nature of what’s wrong with me. Seriously, it pains me to think that I am *that* much of a prude, but really, it’s hard for me to reveal all the intimate details of my recent gynecological failings to the world. Not only does talking about that stuff make *me* uncomfortable, but I can only imagine how *you* must feel. I keep having visions of people squirming in their chairs and not being able to move onto the next blog in their readers fast enough.

*sigh*

But, you know, the truth is that all of this is embarrassing for another reason. The fact is that the things that are happening to me now are my own fault. I’m not the victim of a bad gene pool (at least not in this case, anyway) and I’m not a statistical anomaly. All the health problems that are plaguing me now are the result of years of neglect on my part. I’ve spent a very long time not listening to my body, and now I am paying the price.

About 15 or 16 years ago I stopped having regular periods. I’ve never been one to keep super good records when it comes to those things, and I wasn’t on birth control at the time, so it was several months before I thought, “hmmm… shouldn’t I be having one of those?” I was in college at the time and didn’t have health insurance, so I just went to the a nearby free clinic. I don’t remember the doctor who saw me, but I remember her pushing me through with little patience. After a quick exam, she basically said that I was obese and that as a result of my own slovenliness, (my words not hers), my periods had stopped. She suggested that I take some pills which would induce my period and that I then start taking birth control to regulate it. She gave me no additional information, and this was long before the days of readily available access to medical information via the internet, so I complied and my periods started again.

I stayed on the pill for a couple of years after that, but then, over time I stopped taking them and eventually my periods became less and less frequent until I averaged only 1 or 2 a year. This went on for years and, like so many other things related to my health, I ignored it.

At this point I wish I could say that it was a fundamental shift in my pattern of behavior that caused me to finally wise up and seek medical attention for this, but the truth is that the only reason I eventually decided that I might need to see a doctor is because, in addition to not having regular periods for, oh… a decade, over the last 2 years or so I’ve also noticed a steady thinning of my hair. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bald or anything, and in fact my husband assures me that he has noticed no difference in the thickness of my hair at all, (it’s always been pretty thin), but despite his claims to the contrary, I know that it is definitely thinning. I still have the same thin, straight hair that I’ve always had, it’s just that now I have significantly less of it. And even though my husband might not see a difference, I definitely do. And I’m not imagining it.

And so, in short, vanity led me to see a doctor about a problem that I should have addressed long ago. And here’s the thing, as I’ve said here before, I’m not an idiot. I have two degrees, I can finish the New York Times crossword puzzle, I can feed myself and tie my shoes and, in most situations, function in society without the need of assistive technologies… and yet, when it comes to my own health and to taking care of myself properly, apparently, I am a complete moron.

At first, as you know, my doctor thought it was PCOS. So… she strapped me to the table and did an internal ultrasound and discovered precisely nothing: No cysts, no thickened lining of the uterin wall. No anything that might be deemed “remarkable.” So… next she drew some blood and checked all my hormone levels and discovered, again, precisely nothing. Apparently, all my hormone levels are normal. Turns out I’ve got all the right girlie ones and all the right not so girlie ones. And, here’s the kicker, I have the exact right amounts of each.

Woo Hoo! I mean, this is cause for celebration right? Great! No problems! I’m perfectly fine! Yay!

Except… oh yeah. I don’t have periods and I’m losing my hair.
So… what’s next?

Apparently, what’s next is 2 more pills a night in the form of 400mg of prometrium. Even though, as I mentioned above, my hormone levels are all normal.

Don’t worry. I don’t understand it either.

According to my doctor, estrogen is stored in fat. And because I have so much fat, my body thinks that it doesn’t need to make anymore…. and because my body has shut down its little pink estrogen factory, I’m not having periods. All of which sounds good except that none of that really explains why my estrogen levels are *normal* or why I’m losing my hair or what will happen to me if, given the fact that my estrogen levels *are* normal, I start taking what seems to be a pretty large dose of *more* estrogen.

I asked my doctor all of these questions and even though she tried to be reassuring, the truth is that, in my opinion anyway, she really didn’t have very good answers. She said that the bottom line was that I needed to start having periods again and that not having them presented more risks than a few months worth of extra estrogen did. She said that the idea was that by taking the prometrium, we were essentially “jump starting” my own natural systems and that with this little nudge *hopefully* my body would get back into the estrogen making business and that *hopefully* once these cycles were back to normal I’d see the positive changes (regular periods and hair growth) that I was hoping for.

*hopefully*

*sigh*

None of this sounds very promising.

And you know, it pains me to say this, because I’m truly mortified by how shallow I’m being when it comes to all of this, but the fact of the matter is, I’ve been short and fat and dumpy my whole life… and, you know, I just don’t think I can take adding bald to that list. And I can’t tell you how much I wish the prospect of losing my hair didn’t bother me. But it does… it really, really does. And, I’m being totally honest when I say that, I am just not sure I can take it.

I mean, c’mon… really.

Those of you who have been fat your whole lives know what I’m talking about. I’ve endured the slings and arrows of others who think being fat makes you a deserving target of cruelty. I’ve spent my entire life being judged on the basis of my weight. I’ve never been pretty or attractive or anyone’s first choice for anything. I’ve always been fat. It’s utterly defined me. And let me just say, for the record, (and as though it needed to be said at all) that all of that sucks. It sucks. And at this point, when I think about the prospect of adding, to the endless list of ways that I’ve been humiliated or degraded in my life, the idea of being bald too… well, I just have to wonder how much more I’m going to have to endure.

And you know what the worst part is? The worst part is that all of this… all of it… is my own fucking fault. Sure… I could blame it on the fact that I grew up so poor that we literally lived in homeless shelters and under overpasses for part of my childhood and that even when we had a roof over our heads that food was always very scarce. Or maybe I could blame it on the times when, as a child, I was sent into stores wearing oversized clothing and told not to come home until I’d filled the pockets with shoplifted food. I’m sure there are countless other food related childhood traumas that I could point the finger at, and that no one would dispute as being perfectly reasonable explanations for why I’m fat and fucked up today.

But the fact is, I’m an adult. And, what’s more, I’ve been an adult for a long, long time now.

I have to own the fact that *I* am the only person who chooses the food that I put into my body.
*I* am the only one who controls when/if I go to the doctor.
Only *I* can choose to listen to my own body and…
Only *I* can choose to take care of it.

~~~

Forgive me.

I know this isn’t the kind of post that you’re used to seeing here… but all of this is bubbling inside me and, frankly, I’ve got nowhere else to let it spill.

David, my husband, has heard it all before and has nothing intuitive or supportive to offer me. He definitely doesn’t support me taking the hormones that the doctor recommended, but he also doesn’t have any alternate solution. He says he’ll support me no matter what I decide, but the reality is that he can’t possibly understand what I’m going through. He’s never gone a day having to want for anything, much less food, in his entire life. He doesn’t understand my relationship with food and even though I know it’s not intentional, sometimes he totally enables my unhealthy behavior. The bottom line is that I love him, but I can’t turn to him right now.

So… here I am.

For much of this post, I’ve kept my eyes closed… just letting my fingers flail over the keyboard as I purge everything that I’ve been dealing with over the last few weeks. I don’t expect any of you to have any answers, but knowing that I can let it go… that I can spill it all out and pin it to these darks walls, without fear of judgment or condemnation, is very liberating.

I don’t know what will happen next and I hope, for all of our sakes, that I can get back to talking about how much I hate exercising and having to calculate the number of calories in a banana (100) each day. But until then, I feel a little better knowing that none of this has to be a secret that I bury somewhere deep inside me and that, even if I never say any of these words out loud, I don’t really have to bear the burden of them entirely alone. Even if I get zero comments to this post, or even if a few of you choose to stop reading my thoughts as a result of this lunacy, I know that spilling it all here was the right thing to do. Yes. As i said at the onset of this post, I am a private person. But even I have to admit that I feel so much better tonight for having lifted the lid so that I could let off a little steam.

Thank you so much for listening.

July 15, 2008 Posted by | losing weight | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Why I’m Doing This (A Little Reminder…)

First off, thanks to everyone who, either here or via email, sent me encouraging words or information re: PCOS. I’ve had very little time online this week, but that limited amount has been spent clicking links. Again, thank you. It makes me wonder what people did prior to the internet. Now, don’t get me wrong, *I* spent much of my life doing plenty of things *before* the internet, but it’s amazing how much more empowered I feel regarding my own health when I can go to the doctor armed with information. Even my doctor admitted that having better informed patients makes her job much, much easier. It makes me feel lucky that I live during this time in history. I’m sure I’d be much more frightened were I merely fumbling through all of this in the dark.

Anyway, the good news (or bad news, depending on how you look at it) is that the results of my recent ultrasound revealed no ovarian cysts or, as my doctor had feared, a thickened uterine wall. Obviously, this is good. A lack of these problems is better for my overall health than the alternative of having them. However, it also means that PCOS might not be what ails me after all. Oddly, it turns out that one doesn’t necessarily have to have ovarian cysts in order to have poly cystic ovary syndrome. Go figure. So… that means pcos has not been ruled out altogether at this point and more tests are needed in order to find out what’s wrong. That said, the day after I learned that the results of my ultrasound were “unremarkable,” I went back to the doctor and had bunches of blood drawn. Currently, I’m just waiting for the results of this lab work, in the hopes that it will shed some light onto what’s happening with my body.

In the meantime… I’ve been working A LOT. And, sadly, I feel like I’ve been eating a lot too. It’s really strange because I’m not working more than 40 hours per week, but the lack of a regular (fixed) work schedule has thrown my eating patterns for a loop. Similarly, even though recent diet news has only confirmed what I already know to be true about keeping a food diary, I’ve literally found it impossible to keep up with my own efforts in this regard.

I’m reminded of what things were like for me *before* I made the commitment to myself to change my life. In those days, as I’ve mentioned here before, I worked two full-time jobs, (I did that for nearly 10 years), bought and remodeled several homes and was (for part of the time anyway) in grad school. Even back then, I wanted to lose weight, but it wasn’t a priority. I made my jobs/making money/and my education the priority and as a result my health suffered. Even now, one year and 70+ lbs later, I’m still paying the price. These days, I’m not working nearly as much as I used to and I’m not juggling the demands of multiple jobs + school, etc … and yet I can feel myself falling back into some of those old patterns: eating late at night, including caffeine in my daily diet and making food choices based on convenience rather than health. I want to blame this on simply being tired, but in the end, I know it’s all about choices. And I’m not talking about simply good choices vs. bad choices, I’m talking about choosing food over all the reasons why I’m doing this in the first place.

And maybe that’s part of the problem. It’s not that I’ve forgotten why I need to lose weight, but perhaps I need a little reminding of why I WANT to. Back in January, in response to this same question, I listed the following as reasons why I wanted to lose weight:

  • I want to reduce or eliminate the need for blood pressure/cholesterol medicines in my life.
  • As I near 40, I want having (or not having) children to be my choice rather than one made by my weight.
  • I want to be in control of my decisions and actions, including what I put in my mouth.
  • I want to qualify for reasonably priced life insurance
  • I want to feel better about myself.
  • I want to have more energy and to do more outdoor activities like hiking, biking, jogging etc.
  • I want to learn to play tennis.
  • I want to be able to shop in stores that don’t solely cater to giant people.
  • If people are going to judge me, I’d like it to be for some reason other than the fact that I am fat.
  • I want to travel and explore new areas on foot or by bike.
  • I want to live like a normal person where food isn’t my enemy.
  • I want to make my husband proud.
  • I want to be cute for a fat girl.
  • This is my Everest. I want, no I need, to be able to say that I conquered it.

I still want all of those things. And now I also have to add to the list…

  • I want to, if possible, reverse (or at least lessen) the symptoms of PCOS (or whatever else is wrong with me). But just wanting all of this is not enough… which brings me back to choices.
  • I want to go home (Seattle) to visit my family *and* go on a vacation with my husband. (I haven’t flown in many years because a) the seats have, for a long time, been too small for me and b) I’ve not been able to fit a standard airplane seatbelt).
  • I want to be around to grow old and gray with my husband. Who will take care of him if I’m no longer around to do it?
  • I want to know what it feels like to feel sexy. I’ve never looked in the mirror and thought I was hot… I’d love to know what that feels like.

Each time I choose to overeat… each time I choose not to count and record my calories… each time I choose not to exercise… I’m doing more than just making the proverbial “bad choice.” Rather, I am also choosing food over the things I’ve listed above. I’m choosing a cookie over the ability to live without blood pressure/cholesterol medication. I’m choosing a fried egg sandwich over making my husband proud. I’m choosing Starbucks over feeling good about myself. And you know, when I put that way, there’s absolutely nothing I can say to justify it.

As most of you know, I’m not very good at games of internet tag, so I won’t name anyone specific, but tonight I’m challenging each of you to do the following: Even if you don’t do it publicly (as in on your blog or here in the comments), WRITE DOWN all the reasons why you want to lose weight. Don’t just think about them… write them down. Even if they seem silly; Even if they are embarrassing or painfully obvious; Even if you’ve never, ever shared them with another living soul. Write them down. I’m telling you, there’s something about the creation of that list that’s very powerful. The strength of all those wishes and desires, when stacked together like that, is absolutely remarkable.

And then, (and of course this is the hard bit), in the days to come, when you’re faced with a choice and you find yourself reaching for something you shouldn’t eat, try to remember that you’re not just choosing chocolate over celery, you’re choosing chocolate over all the things on your list… and let me tell you, chocolate’s good, but it’s not *that* good.

Someone once said that “destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice.” This week, I’m going to try very hard to look at my list as my destiny and then to do everything in my power to choose it. I hope you will too.

July 11, 2008 Posted by | losing weight | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments