Saturday, September 02, 2006

Horror story

A young woman I know reached the horrific weight of 500 pounds before she was diagnosed with a thyroid problem and had weight loss surgery to rid her of the excess pounds. It seemed like magic. She seemed to be one of those rare people for whom massive obesity was solely a physical issue. The surgery was a grand success and she quickly lost 300 pounds, found a new life, got married. She followed the post-surgery recommendations of eating small amounts of food more frequently and she developed a new pattern of eating.

Over the last nine months, the small amounts of food changed to small amounts of calorically dense foods. Her fat consumption skyrocketed. She regained at least 60 pounds and then became pregnant. The fact that she was eating for two encouraged her to eat more. The small amounts turned into regular portion sizes. She still eats as frequently as before; that habit has remained. The quantities have doubled and tripled and even more of the foods she eats are calorically dense and ultra high in fat. The vegetable of choice is avocado. The high protein is cheese. She has regained another 80 pounds in this three months of pregnancy.

I find this absolutely frightening. I am using this very sad story as a kind of aversion therapy/stimulus for my own efforts. I talk to my sister, with whom this young woman is temporarily living, in order to get regular updates on how she is eating, the decisions she is or is not making to fight the increasing weight. It seems incredible that a kind of fog has descended over this intelligent young woman: she does not weigh, she believes she is eating in line with the post-WLS plan, she is shocked that she is gaining weight. She has put on enough weight now that she is physically struggling to walk. This, of course, puts her on the fast track to wholly disabling obesity and, ultimately, death.

I say it seems incredible that she's in this fog but it isn't, not really. I've experienced that same fog in my own life. The last 100 pounds I gained when my husband was ill came on in a period of about two years and I did not see it happening, did not feel it. At one point in there, always dieting, of course, I had stuck for a month to a low carb plan which always resulted in weight loss when I used it. With the expectation I would be well under 300 pounds, I went to a doctor's office to weigh and found that I was 345 ~ higher than I'd ever been in my life to that point. I got on and off the scale four times. Always the same. It paralyzed me, but it did not stop me. I returned to that foggy state of denial and just stuffed it away for another couple of years.

Sometimes I think this thing that lives in me, this eating problem, disorder, living breathing godawful horrible whateverthefuckitis thing, is dead set on trying to kill me. We all used to say in OA "I have a disease that thinks it can kill me and live on its own." It's a strange sense of being two people in one. There's the one who wants to be healthy, takes the action to maintain weight loss and lose more, who loves living a life free of the insanity of the compulsion to overeat, who loves to work out and does so frequently, who is happy, content, joyful in this new freedom. There's another one who would, unchecked, simply eat herself to death, to founder on excess food. It is no different from an addiction to drugs or to alcohol. It is sobering to realize that I grew to 368 pounds while thinking about, planning, getting on or off of a diet every single day of my life beyond the age of 12.

There are those who say that diets don't work, and that's true. But the reality is that nothing really works except finding a way to, at some point, control what goes into my mouth. Whether that's done through WLS, retraining my eating patterns, gentle eating, mindful eating, liquid diet, diet pills, Jenny, WW, or the irritating old classic of pushing away from the table, it's going to be more tolerable if I expend more calories through some physical activity. Physiologically, nothing will work to lose weight but reducing calories one way or another. The task is to figure out how to do that successfully and consistently. That's a lifetime process, I think, but it starts by saying "enough, I am tired of fighting, enough."

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Blogger Losing Elaine said...

Wow...ok...that post really hit me! I have those two people inside me...the one that wants to eat healthy and be healthy...and the one who wants to go bake two dozen chocolate chip cookies and eat THEM ALL!
I'm curious as to what make you go to OA and how it helped you.

September 02, 2006 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Big Fella said...

First off, one small, factual correction, avocado is technically a fruit, so this person's rationalization doesn't hold any water, or in this case, oil.

But we know her rationalization is flawed in the first place. I firmly believe that she is in denial, and I believe that most people who resort to bariatric surgery are in denial. Or more specifically, are looking for some outside force to solve their problem, not accepting their own responsibility. And I think these surgical procedures are downright dangerous, and last of all, are not very lasting (because they do not address the root cause of the problem).

You and I both know what we have to do, and we have to work at it, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week after week, month after month, for the rest of our lives.

You are going to ultimately succeed at this effort. Why? Because you are honest with yourself and are cognizant and consientious, and you are a motivated, smart high achiever, and I'll kick you butt if you don't.

September 02, 2006 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Lynn said...

I started my diet this weekend...low-carb. I tend to do well with low-carb as well--but am really more interested in the gym and what it can do for me. You have been inspiring me so much. I know that in the end it is all about activity--doing rather than thinking so much.

September 02, 2006 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Holly said...

As a recovering over eater I can relate to what she is doimg. while I have never had surgery, I do know more than I care to about denail, when emotions want food tney are quite crafty at lieing to us and tricking us into thinking we are only eating a little when we are eating a lot.

For many of us, food is the drug of choice in a chatic world. we eat when we re happy, sad, mad, glad, scared, tense, giddy, or cause its tueday;.

To be sucessful a weight loss progam has to focus on he person as a whole both inside and out. It has to be small changes a person can live with for a life

I strugle with it daily. at my higgestI was 312+ I am currently at 231 and slowly working my way down to health. But many days, part of me would love noting more than to eat an entire pan of brownies or a pot full of creamy rich hotdish. Even though another part of me knows the plan I am following is much better for me.

Often in the past I would eat a large bag of chips and tell myself it was just a few chips; or just a cookie, just a little soda. Unril ausswnly norhing fit anymore an I had no energy.

It is a long time to recover, every day is a struggle but it can be done I{m doing it.

September 03, 2006 1:31 AM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

I can relate to the statement you made about getting to such a high weight while not a day passes that you don't think about or plan to lose weight. I guess we probably all can. It's that "I'll start tommorow" trick we play on ourselves. Directly before I started this time, I had increasing thoughts in which I would actually say to myself, "No, you won't start tomorrow. Tomorrow, again, you will continue to put it off." And I would wonder how in the hell I could consciously know that and continue stuffing my face with thousands of calories daily.

I have to tell you, I really learn a lot from you. Since I started reading here, I've been developing this idea of food IN GENERAL being addictive. And this post really drove that idea home for me. That would really help explain of lot of things, not just about me, but all people who overeat and are overweight. It's also scary because, if similar to alcohol addiction for example, that means it is something I will have to battle for the rest of my life.

There goes my fantasy of getting thin and being able to eat peanut butter toast all day.

Thank you for sharing this and I sincerely hope this woman comes to grips with what is happening to her and does something about it. For herself, and her baby.

September 03, 2006 2:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post today Lynette - keep inspiring others, your words are changing lives each day I believe. Have a nice holiday!


September 03, 2006 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Annie said...

I wanted to make one comment. I am not sure it applies to your friend here but I have a very close family member that has thyroid issues. I know when she forgets to take her meds her common sense literally goes out the door. It actually effects her menial abilities to the point she simply is not as smart as she is when she takes them. Now this person I know has had thyroid issues since childhood and things could be different but I just thought it might be something to check and make sure.

September 03, 2006 10:50 AM  
Blogger christie said...

What a FANTASTIC post!
I just watched a show called "super obese" and was stuck by the same feelings as you are struck by in knowing this woman.
Same thing where I am sort of using it as aversion therapy for myself :)

My aunt had WLS - she wasn't anywhere near 500 pounds, somewhere in the 300's I think. But I am so pissed at her because she lost it all and then has been gaining and gaining again. Why don't they understand you can't ONLY change the AMOUNT you eat?? My Aunt never changed WHAT she ate, only how much. Then slowly, over time, she started expanding how much she could eat again, and since it was all bad stuff, she's been packing it back on. All the while going "I just don't understand! I am so ANGRY at them! They didn't do the surgery right!"

I considered having WLS for a while. I really did. I went to the Wish Center and got on their pre-surgery eating plan. I eventually decided not to do it because I wanted with every bone in my body to be NORMAL SOME DAY, and I felt that I never would be if I could only eat 1/2 cup of food at every meal.
Also, I wanted to be someone who actually did that. Not eat more and stretch the tummy. But I was afraid that it would be "too easy" and without enough discipline developed, I'd go through all that for nothing.
In the end, I'm glad I didn't do it, and I won't ever consider it again. I think it's great for someone who it is a matter of life and death. This woman you know may have died without it. But if she's not carful, she'll be 500 pounds again in no time.

Also - and sorry this is so long- but the way you described having two people inside... that is very powerful. It really is an internal battle. Almost like having the little angels and devils sitting on our shoulders!!! But I know we can make our good side win!


September 03, 2006 1:46 PM  
Anonymous fat-n-forty said...

Why is that no matter how we lose (surgery, pills, hard-core dieting) we always gain it back? I lost over 120 pounds and have regained nearly 90!! How is it that I didn't see this coming or was unable to stop it??

September 05, 2006 1:20 AM  
Blogger angelfish24 said...

I too can identify with the fat or thin person inside of me. I know what is right, what to eat, and have read so many books I could probably be a nutritionist. But it's the emotional side that I'm fighting. Certain emotions make me want to eat and not think about it. Self medicating. Like one of the above posters mentioned, I'm likening this to someone who uses alcohol or drugs to feel good. I use food in some ways. I've been on the other side of the fence too, thin when I was younger. I didn't think about food all the time then, I just lived life, was active, and ate in moderation. I'm still doing self reflection to figure out why I have let my emotions and my eating habits go. It seems to be working. Just consciously thinking every day about how I'm going to try to live healthy today. Day by day. Enjoy your blog and your honest and real reflections.

September 05, 2006 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Whitney said...

Although I have never been obsese, I will still comment. I hope that I do not offend anyone.

Why would the woman spend the money, time, and effort to change her life only to regain so much weight and return to her problem??? If I got a second chance in life to change ONE thing about my life (arguments, poor choices, failed relationships) I would not take it for granted.

I'm curious how her husband feels. I wonder if he knew that she was once 500+ and had the ability to reach such weight.

Whitney --

September 12, 2006 7:21 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I totally relate with your post here about WLS and pregnancy and your desire to be healthier. I am at a point where I am inspired to do something about my weight, but then that other part of me still desires all that is not so good for me now because I cannot control my intake of chocolates, cookies, and other poor eating habits. I was doing "Setting Captives Free" online (a program centered around a Christian morale to ensure met needs in spiritual and emotional hunger through redirection of emotional eating to God), and I was doing well until I hit the emotional crap that has been welling me up for majority of my life. I am currently in a place of reawakening. I am at loss for other words on how to speak about it, but now I am at peace, can feel emotionally, and am experiencing physical awareness to hunger, love, and other feelings. I used to not feel anything because of being a survivor to sexual trauma at an early age, but thank heavens for me getting pregnant, having my son, understanding that I need to be healthy as well as meet my son's needs and mine, and have that desire to LIVE and choose. I used to feel like I didn't have a choice, but I do...and I see that now. I hope at my reawakening I remember that me being healthy is more crucial than me being a size 14. I just want to be more mobile and live without physcial limitations. I don't want to resort to the WLS or other drastic measures because as you pointed out it doesn't work unless you address the behaviors at-hand that are affected by something going on inside you mentally and accepting your limits to understand how but at the GRACE of God this can be done. This is what I believe. Sorry, if you get offended, but your post inspired me.


September 13, 2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger M said...

This is my biggest fear regarding my WLS. I am so acutely aware of this right now (8 mo out) and can only hope that I will continue to be so. I also am hoping my support network and family will not be afraid to let me know what they see me doing to myself. I count this as their job and responsiblity to me~to open their mouths when I am opening mine too much or for the wrong things!

September 27, 2006 2:23 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Hey, thanks for your note -- I wasn't aware it was that hard to file a malpractie suit. You probably saved me a ton of footwork.

It just makes me wonder though, this guy is one of the tops in te nation. If a patient didn't follow-through with the appropriate after-care, isn't it possible it could be pinned on him somehow.

I agree, 6 in a year is a bit much, and the moderator says there is MORE!

I am going to meet a new surgeon -- this guy has absolutely no fatalities and minimal complications, but he doesn't have the same number of surgeries as my current surgeon -- you know the whole apples to apples thing.

I'm going to continue my due diligence. I will get to the bottom of it.

September 28, 2006 9:11 AM  

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