Sunday, July 28, 2013

Media - Shaming leads to Slimming? As if!

I found a couple of articles online today that I feel the need to share because they're true.

The first one is about how discriminating against fat people just makes them feel worse about themselves and, rather than encouraging them to go lose that weight, it makes them turn to emotional eating and more.  

I completely agree with this. I have been made fun of a lot over the years.  Growing up obese was not a picnic (and often didn't involve picnics), and after a while I got used to the insults, whispers, and stares. I became really great at ignoring those to the point where someone has to be pretty overt or I have to be really aware of my surroundings to notice these days.  But when I do notice it makes me angry, annoyed, upset, and most of all defiant.  You want to glare at me while I'm eating with my friends in a restaurant?  Fine! I'll order a sundae and give you something to really glare about while I silently fume and emotionally eat my way towards an early grave.  Honestly, I probably would have ordered that sundae anyway, but thanks to you - judgemental stranger - I'll feel both awful and smug while eating it.  

The next article is about an anti-obesity campaign that features fat parents with fat kids realizing they are setting a bad example for them.  While in some situations this is kinda true (like mine), it's not because they are trying to set a bad example by eating crappy food because not all fat people do and most people I know don't encourage their kids to be fat - often the opposite - but they do teach acceptable of people who are and what they look like, at least in my case they did.  More on this subject later because it's complicated and hard to explain.  

This article talks about the same ad campaign in a slightly different light, agreeing with the message (which I do agree with to some extant) but not being too sure about the imaging.  The second article also has all the ad videos which the NPR article does not (or at least the link to the ad with the mother and daughter was broken when I tried it).  I stand corrected - for some reason the grocery ad is not available there either.  So here's a photo of it from the same site.

My problem with these ads is not that it targets fat people, or fat children or that I don't like the message, it's that they are completely unrealistic.  I have never in my life seen or heard two fat boys comparing how much their dads can eat or saying that someday they'll be able to eat more.  The only conversation I can even imagine being close to this is how much spicy food their dads could eat.  

The grocery store ad appears to show a fat mom filling up her cart with unhealthy food then noticing that her daughter's cart is full of the same kind of sweets and junk food.  This ad is realistic in the sense that a child is likely to fill up their own mini-cart with junk food and sweets because kids fill their own carts with what they want to eat which, let's face it, is not always the best stuff.  If you let my niece or nephews (6 yr old and under) pick the food that goes in the cart they are going to choose ice cream, chocolate, potato chips, and candy as I suspect most kids would do.  

However, they also put bananas, yogurt, mixed nuts, and juice in the cart so they're putting in what they like - good and bad.  It's up to the parents to make sure they don't buy it all.  And while a fat parent may be more likely to let the kid gets more of the junk food than a thin person because they like to eat it too, they are just as likely to not get a lot of junk food because they don't want their children to be as fat as they are. If the ad had showed a fat mom putting cookies and chips in her daughters cart that would be awful and also unrealistic. 

I think one of the biggest hurdles for eating healthy isn't just wanting to eat what tastes good, which is what most people seem to think, it's eating what you can afford and what you have time to cook.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are expensive, and I while I agree that there are chemicals in processed foods that are bad for you, there are people like me who just can't afford to buy organic.  The same thing goes at fast food restaurants.  The burgers are $1, the nice salads that come with protein are $5. 

America, if you really want people to lose weight make the premium salads $2 and the burgers $10, or make a gallon of ice cream more expensive then a large bag of apples or a bag of potato chips cost less than a bag of carrots.  (actually carrots might be less expensive come to think of it.  Celery's pretty cheap too).  

The majority of food purchases, in my experience, are not just about taste or quality they're about price.  

Just my $0.02 worth on the subject.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bariatric Surgery - Orientation

A few weeks ago I went to an orientation about Bariatric Surgery which is the first of many steps I'll have to do to get the surgery.  I was a little annoyed I had to go - I mean, I can just do my own research right?  Well, yes...and no. 

The orientation was being done by the primary clinic - a bariatric clinic - that specializes in this type of surgery and really doesn't do much else.  The information I got there was more than just a lecture about types of surgery and requirements - it was also a question-and-answer session talking to people from the clinic, almost half of which have been through the procedure themselves so they were able to speak from experience which was fantastic.  

The lecture and slideshow part was presented by one of the surgeons who has done thousands of these operations over the years, so he had heard most of the questions before.  The before-and-after slides of people who had dramatically lost weight were all people he had personally operated on in the last three years.  

Upon entering the conference room where it was being held, I experienced a first - almost everyone in the room was fat to some degree and the only "thin" people were clearly there to support a fat friend or family member. Since this was a group of people wanting to learn about surgery to lose weight, this is sort of a "duh" realization, but it was still...well...nice to know that for once I was in the majority and no one in that room would judge me for being fat because they were too and we were all trying to get help for it.  It was a great feeling knowing that for once in my life I was going to be in a room with strangers who were not going to judge me just because I was fat.  There was no negative vibe, no second glances, dirty glares, or shocked stares.  In a way there was a feeling of acceptance - we were fat, we all knew that, and we wanted to get help losing weight through surgery because nothing else seemed to work. 

Also, I knew the chairs they provided would be sturdy.  That was actually the best part, I think, sitting through two hours and not worrying about a slight shift making the chair break. You have no idea how nerve-wracking that can be. 

So, on to the information - for those who are curious about it for themselves or friends, family, etc. 

There were the usual charts and graphs about how bad it is to be fat for your overall health and that obesity leads to a lot of other health problems, including diabetes, sleep apnea, joint pain, and more.  I have all three of those so not a surprise.  However, they also listed mental-illness as a symptom of obesity and I take issue with that.  The speaker did clarify that no one was sure if obesity caused all of those things or if they lead to obesity but there was definitely a correlation.  I do agree there are a lot of obese people with mental illness so there is some correlation between the two, but I think it has to do more with having trouble maintaining a regular schedule and a healthy lifestyle when you're mentally ill.  In other words, in my personal opinion, being fat doesn't make you crazy, but being crazy can make you fat through sheer personal neglect. 

Anyway, so the speaker talked about the three types of bariatric surgery they perform at the clinic, explain what the procedure was and what impact it would have in the long term, sides effects, etc. 

**What I am about to say is mostly from memory, my notes, and from how I understood it through my sometimes foggy little lens. For more information start with the wiki entry on bariatric surgery and go from there.**

The first kind is Gastric By-pass.  

Basically he explained that they make a small pouch about the size of a shot glass at the top of your stomach, then cut your small intestines in a specific place and stitch it to the pouch so it would by-pass most of your stomach and a part of the small intestines.  Sounds a bit weird and slightly Frankensteinish to me, but it's the type they do the most (1000+ per year) and it's a lot easier to maintain afterwards then the others, ie less risks or side-effects.  It also has the highest success rate at their clinic in terms of people being able to keep the pounds off and stick to all rules you need to follow.  And this is the kind that helps you lose weight dramatically - 50 or more lbs in the first year, possibly even a 100lbs. 

The big problem is that it cuts out a part of the small intestines which absorbs certain vitamins like B-12, which means you have to take vitamin supplements for the rest of your life.  Not really a big deal, considering I am already taking other meds for life so what's a few vitamin pills added to that?  I already have the pill regime down so that's not really a big deal. 

The second kind is Adjustable Gastric Band.

Basically they put a band around the top part of your stomach and tighten it to control how much you can eat at one time.  It's less invasive and is much easier to reverse than gastric bypass.  However it's less effective and the weight does not come off as dramatically as with the bypass.  

But it's less scary and doesn't involve Frankensteining my intestines by cutting and splicing them onto other internal organs.  It's just a band clenching to make your stomach think it's smaller.  Sounds safer and better, right?

Well, apparently it requires more follow-up appointments with your doctor, stricter rules on the diet, and a lot more attention and follow-through then the by-pass, and considering I have trouble brushing my teeth on a regular basis, having to be closely monitored and more strict doesn't really sound like it would work for me.  

And then there's the real turn-off: it's adjustable and can be adjusted by you, meaning it involves a medical attachment that is basically a string that tightens the band when you pull on it and you have to be careful and be monitored when you pull it and how much, etc.  It might make me a feel a bit cyborgish which wouldn't bother me except for the fact that I worry about constantly fiddling with it as I am prone to do sometimes.  And that I live with three small children who like to climb around and on top of me.  Since I don't have a lap they basically sit on my stomach or my legs if I'm sitting down.  I can just imagine them finding the string or tab or whatever it is and trying to pull it, so...yeah, that's a "no" on that one. 

The third kind is Sleeve Gastrectomy.

The doctor basically described it as cutting off half of your stomach (or more) then stapling the remaining part closed. The stomach part they cut off is removed from the body and put into a bucket then disposed of (I kid you not, the guy actually said "we put it in a bucket").  That's sounds kind of extreme.  There are a lot of risks with this type of procedure including internal leakage, internal bleeding, ruptures, and other not-very-pleasant-sounding things.  

They very rarely do this kind of surgery and it's only in extreme cases where the others are not likely to work or can't be done for some reason.  It's also the only procedure that cannot be reversed.  The cartoon next to this actually shows what my reaction was as the doctor described what was involved in the sleeve surgery. 
 I think the only reason I would go for this is for the photo op of me holding a bucket containing half my stomach which is a disturbing image that I would still strangely want if I had this type of surgery.  Which I won't.  Because it's scary. Oh my dear lord, it makes me shudder just thinking about it.  (and I'm clearly bizarre and insane because I just decided that if I took of photo with my and my bucket-o-stomach I would have to put googly-eyes on it. Just because. Because I'm twisted.  Twisted like a pretzel.)

So, I've decided on the Gastric By-pass.  Considering that last year they performed 1000+ by-passes, far more than the 400+ lap bands and the less than 100 sleeves (that's in the last 5 years, not just 1) I think it's safer.  I would rather choose one that they have so much experience with and that is the most recommended type of surgery than one that involves hazards such as external strings and internal leakage.  

I'm very glad I went to the orientation.  I'm actually going to do this, and not just talk about it.  I found out my insurance will cover it as long as my doctor agrees that it's medically necessary and since she suggested it - and I'm 400lbs - I have no doubt that I'll qualify.  

Now I have to send in some forms and start the next steps which includes an exercise and nutrition class, getting a psychical evaluation from my doctor, and a psychological evaluation.  When the speaker mentioned that everyone had to get a psychological evaluation done after someone asked about the risks of depression after the procedure, I asked what would happen if you were already mentally ill.  He said I would still need to get the evaluation from my psychiatrist, so that should be pretty easy, as long as I'm declared mentally stable enough for the operation.

I have a lot of questions and thoughts and feelings on all of this which I will be bringing up in future posts.  I will now leave you with a picture of bucket that some day may (or more likely may not) contain a partial stomach.  But not mine.

All images I used were either drawn by me or are from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Let's Get This Party Re-Started!'s been a while.  I need to clear out the metaphorical cobwebs around here.  I'm actually going to be posting more, hopefully once a week (gasp!) because I'm taking my weight loss, and my weight in general, more seriously. 

In fact I'm about 95% certain that I will be going through Gastric Bypass surgery if I can get my insurance company to pay for all or most of it.  I've had doctors telling me for years (about 15 years in fact) that I should consider or get  Gastric Bypass surgery to which my reply has always been: "Sounds great! Are you gonna pay for it?" 

Well, now it's become almost a medical necessity rather than a luxury, so there's some hope that insurance will pay for it and if they do then I will get it. *deep breath*

I'm going to go over more details about the surgery in my next post.  Mostly I am back here to blog about my thoughts on the surgery and all of the emotional issues it brings up, as well as reflecting on life from a fat person's point of view.  I'm going to treat this like a diary because I need a sounding board basically to spew out my thoughts about all this.  The reason I'm making my private thoughts on the subject public is because in talking to a lot of people it seems that other fat girls (and maybe guys) could get something from these posts as well.  Not sure if that's true, but what the hell. 

For those who don't know me and would like to know more about me check out this post.  I've revised and updated it cause it was way out of date.  

I have also included a few quick facts that you should know about me if you're going to read this blog:

FACT #1 - I am over 400lbs

FACT #2 - I have been fat all my life, since 1st Grade, and I have always been fatter than all of my peers.

FACT #3 - My inner self is thin.  When I look in a mirror or see myself in a photo it's still a little jarring.  I know logically that I am fat - morbidly obese in fact, but the vision of myself in my head is about 5'7, 150 lbs, and has red hair (cause I've always wanted red hair).  And actual boobs (in the front, not the back).  So when you see the little cartoons I draw of myself that don't look anything like me - that's why.  

FACT #4 - I am Bi-Polar.  I was diagnosed over ten years ago and this has had a major impact on both my life and my weight and makes losing weight more difficult then you might think.  I will occasionally address my mental illness in posts since it is such a huge part of my life. 

FACT #5 - I am currently unemployed (although officially still self-employed, but without any clients) and am on disability for both my Bi-polar Disorder and for my weight - primarily for the combination of the two that makes finding work extremely difficult. 

FACT #6 - I often feel ugly next to other people and have long compensated by trying to be great at other things.  So when I talk about being ugly, I'm not fishing for compliments, it's what I believe at times. 

FACT #7 - I come from a large and dysfunctional family of six (two parents, four kids, and numerous cats).  My family is very important to me and I will reference them often, especially my mother and father and the sister I currently live with. I live with my sister, Gen, her husband and their three children and yes, I'll talk about the kids quite a bit too.

FACT #8 - I love taking photos, but I hate being in them because I don't like the way I look.  However, I will be posting photos of me a lot because I think it's important to see what I look like when I talk about how I feel. 

FACT #9 - I like costumes.  A lot.  That's probably not very important for this blog, it's just a fact.


And last, but not least - one of the most important things about me:

FACT #10 - I am me.  I may not be proud to be fat or Bi-polar but I am not ashamed of it either.  Not at all.  I talk about both quite openly and frankly because I believe it's better to talk about things that seem taboo then to keep sticking them in the naughty corner and trying to ignore them.  I may low self-esteem and often low self-confidence, but I have always had a very strong sense of self.  I may want to look like other people, but I have never wanted to be anyone but myself.

As a result, I am very opinionated and I may say things you don't agree with - however I am interested in other opinions and like the idea of a free exchange of thoughts and ideas, at least now that I'm medicated I do.  So if I touch a nerve feel free to challenge me in the comments, just keep it reasonably polite and don't flame (or set yourself on fire, which honestly is what the phrase "flaming" sounds like to me).

And if you're read all of this and are still awake then you probably need as much help as I do, or some sleeping pills.