Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Facing Anorexia

Lean or Anorexic?

Tonight I watched a profoundly disturbing intervention on A&E with a stick-thin woman suffering from anorexia. She is 5’8″ tall, weighs 94 lbs, and eats 800 calories or less a day, and thinks her belly is distended when you can see her bones. They look so sharp and angular that you could use them to cut things.

She is a twin and seeing her on screen in contrast with her healthy sister was particularly hard to watch. It was so obvious to me and my friend watching with me (and 99% of other people) that someone so skeletal looked scary and unhealthy. It was really hard to watch her talk about how she doesn’t deserve to eat, how she has rituals around stretching out the food as long as possible. Her clothes were baggy but they still didn’t disguise her true body shape. Her hair looked awful and her eyes were haunted. Her family was afraid that she would die soon.

Part of me watched in appalled discomfort as she justified her not eating, her appearance, her self control, her right to do what she wanted with her body. Because I know I say some of the same things, only I’m challenged by my obesity, not my anorexia. I’ve had fears that my family would stage an intervention with me — we love you, we need you to live and be healthy, we need you to see that you are killing yourself with food.

I’m afraid that I would not deal with it well. However true it is, there is nothing I haven’t told myself. So instead of allowing myself to be carted off to a treatment center to eat bread and water and have counseling for 90 days, I would probably stuff my face and cry.

The show was sobering and left me with much to think about. I can still see her face.


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Flying When Obese

AirplaneIt started innocently enough: an article at MSNBC.com about airline travel over the holidays. Not that I’m planning to fly anytime soon, mind you, but it was interesting to read about airlines hiring more people to improve the customer service to help alleviate the stress after months of not-on-time departures and overcrowded flights. So far so good.

There were a bunch of links to other articles about airlines and I read them all. Then I followed another link to view all articles and spotted one with the catchy title, Size Matters: Olive Oyl, Where Are You? which naturally I had to read. I was hoping there would be some tips on how to make the process less stressful, since much as I like to travel, I hate squishing myself into a seat that’s as wide as a computer keyboard when my body certainly is larger.

From there I followed another link to a message/discussion board responding to the article. Big, big mistake. There are 57 pages of comments and by page 3 I was in tears. The vitriolic words from so many anonymous writers cut deep but I found myself continuing to read, hoping for some kind of voice of empathy or additional ideas. Finally by page 6 I made myself get out before I couldn’t see from the pain.

I know that obese people are generally despised on planes. All it takes is one look at the people in a waiting area who are checking me out. You can see that they are hoping I’m not going to be near them, spilling over into their real estate and hogging their space. I hate it. I always try to sit on an aisle or on the single-seat side of a small plane, so I have somewhere to lean out of their way. It’s still very close.

I need to get a seatbelt extension, which is humiliating, although the flight attendants are pretty discrete about giving it to me after I ask. The days of hoping for an empty seat next to me are a thing of the past now that all the planes are little and packed on every flight – and there really aren’t that many “off peak flights” anymore. I’ve thought about even getting a first class ticket but the little planes don’t HAVE anything except sardine class. Maybe I need to consider buying two tickets, though I’m too miserly to think that’s a good plan.

Reading the message board, even just a little bit of it, makes me not want to fly anywhere. I don’t want to be despised for trying to just do what everyone else is doing – travel from one place to another. I wish Chicago was close enough to reach by car or more easily by train. I would feel less of a weirdo.


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Overweight in the News

Woman in BlueI did a simple search at Google News just now on the word overweight, trying to find a particular story. Obviously the results will vary and what you see when you do the search will probably not look like what I saw. But it was disheartening and confusing.

Story 1: Study finds some overweight people live longer

Story 2: Overweight And Obesity Cause 6000 Cancers A Year In UK Women

Story 3: Living Longer: Being slightly overweight may help

Story 4: Overweight Workers Beware, Insurance May Soon Cost You More

Story 5: Hospitals Spend Millions To Accommodate Overweight Patients

Story 6: Total “overweight,” target price raised

Story 7: Children who don’t sleep enough ‘more likely to be overweight

Story 8: Forced To Be Fit: What About Kids?

Story 9: Normal Weight More Risky Than Overweight Researchers Say – Cancer

Story 10: initiated with “overweight

I’m annoyed and confused. Depending on the article I read, I’m either more or less at risk for disease because of weight. Insurance may cost me more but I may live longer. Hospitals are preparing to accommodate bigger patients (and their visiting families) – but I didn’t see any corresponding article about airlines having a clue that Americans are larger than the length of a computer keyboard.

Being morbidly obese is not okay. It’s not healthy, and it’s not something I recommend. Being slightly overweight may not be a bad thing except it could easily tip into excessive obesity with just a few temptations or personal crises. I watched the news people fall all over themselves on the story that being a little overweight may be good for you, by countering immediately with “being fat is still unhealthy.” Well duh.

Of course all of the health news is reported by thin, coiffed, well dressed and well spoken people who don’t want any of us to be fat. Somehow they do not motivate me.

I’m going to die of something. It may be weight related, it may be environmentally related, or in an accident or any number of things. I might die of old age at 96 in a nursing home having outlived my family and friends. But it will be something. I need to be reasonably healthy and am working to increase the exercise while eating better. But I wish the “experts” would just pick something and stick with it so I don’t go nuts trying to keep up.

My arthritis and joint pain are problematic and I’m royally pissed that the only medication that actually helped – Vioxx – was pulled from the market. I know people died from taking it, that there were complications for some people. But other people, including me and lots of people I know, found that it worked when other things simply didn’t. I wish I’d had the chance to sign a waiver acknowledging risk and taking it deliberately to get the pain-free trade off. My doctor would never have agreed with me or let me do it but I think I have the right to make those choices with my own body — not yours, just mine.

Instead I take something that doesn’t work particularly well, limp a lot, and find my physical activity limited by uncooperative joints. Maybe there will be another study out soon with options.


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What to Tell the Doctor

Child’s drawing of a doctorTomorrow is my first appointment with my new doctor here in my new home. I picked my brain and came up with a 4 page set of lists of things that I thought someone would probably either ask me or want to know, such as who my Boston doctors were, allergies, ongoing medical issues, current medications, surgeries, etc. Tho that might be all. My brain doesn’t retain this information for very long and I can’t spell medical words without spell check to fix the mistakes, so it was easier to just write it up in advance.

The purpose of the visit is really to sort out my CPAP situation. You may remember from my Day in Insurance Hell that although I need the machine to help me live with sleep apnea, who actually is paying for the one I’m breathing with now is up for grabs. I need to get this sorted out and quickly.

But this is the first time I’ve seen the doctor. And I don’t know what else she’s likely to ask or want to know. It’s going to be quite obvious that I am obese and I have a sneaky suspicion that she will bring it up – because in my experience, all doctors bring it up. It’s as though they don’t know that I already know this about myself.

Weight is the elephant in the room. The doctor knows that I need to lose weight and I know that I need to lose weight. Who will say something first? Waiting for her to bring it up will make me anxious – already is, actually – and is likely to raise my blood pressure. Or I could take charge of it and raise it myself first, which would give me a chance to say, “I have had a life-long weight problem and although I have more to lose, I have maintained a 70 lbs weight loss for 5 years.”

The trick is being able to do it simply to impart information, not to get defensive or combative. The conversation will happen sometime – it always does – so I think maybe I need to practice. I might need it tomorrow.


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Big Medicine

Fat woman in a bikiniI watch a lot of programs on TLC about renovating a wardrobe or a house, and my beloved “Clean Sweep” gives me tips on decluttering. With my unhappy back, I’ve been watching (or listening – I can multi-task) to quite a number of shows in the last few days. And I’ve been noticing the ads for their new show “Big Medicine” which premier’s tomorrow (Mon. May 28 at 9/8 c).

Have you seen the ads? They’re sort of in black and white with large bodies dotted with cellulite, seen only in part with voiceovers talking about things we say to ourselves – things like “I just want to be a normal person.” The voices were heartbreaking to me because I could so easily identify with them and with the lumpy bodies.

The premise of the show is to “chronicle the emotional journeys and transformation of obese people who have opted to undergo weight-loss surgery in an attempt to regain their lives. ” I don’t think I can watch it, however good it may be. I already know it’s an emotional journey and the reasons why people opt to undergo the surgery. I don’t want to see them be exposed and vulnerable because I feel vulnerable myself when I do. It’s not sensible but it’s there.

About 10 years ago I shared a hospital room with a woman who had just had a gastric bypass. Our room was set up so that the beds faced each other which made conversation easier when we felt like talking and weren’t drugged up and out of it. It was the first time I’d talked to someone who had made that choice and we had an open and honest discussion about living as obese women. About all the diets we’d tried and failed; the problems with clothes, furniture, and travel; the deep sadness and anger and sense of personal failures because we were fat and couldn’t reverse course. She took the brave step of surgery; I stayed with Weight Watchers and have going up and down and up and down. I’ve often wondered how she did after her surgery and hoped she was happy.

I’ve been singlemindedly focused on food and weight loss for too long and am now in a different place. My approach now is to just go with the flow, working my program and listening to my body. It’s slow but it works for me and I don’t feel obsessed with food. I know how to do this and can tell I’m making better choices than I was even 6 months ago.

I lost 1.4 lbs this week. And I won’t be watching “Big Medicine.” If you do, tell me how you found it.


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“Big as Life” and Depressed

Fat woman in a bikiniI just finished watching a program on TLC called “Big as Life: Obesity in America.” It first aired in 2002 but not much has changed.

Frankly, I couldn’t believe I was watching a program about being fat because, let’s face it, I already am fat and I know about it and don’t really need to watch a whole program about it. It made me squirrely and squirmy and I was so glad that no one was here in the room with me to look at me to see how I reacted to various statements and images.

Here’s a program description:

Since the 1960s, the number of Americans with body mass indexes above 40 has more than tripled. This program investigates the causes and health implications of obesity in America while seeking to destigmatize adiposity. Interviews with doctors and scientists and with adults and children dealing with weight control shed light on issues including size acceptance, body image bias, and weight discrimination while considering health risks, genetic influences, and surgical interventions. The program also features innovative research being done and model programs being put into practice by Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. A Discovery Channel Production. (51 minutes)

The program covered a lot of territory and wasn’t all doctors telling the world that fat was evil and people who were fat were intrinsically bad people. There were interviews with BBWs and Supersized women who were comfortable in their size while being realistic about the limitations they experienced. They had jobs, went to dances, had active social lives, were fun people – not depressed or sad to be fat. Other people were failed dieters who had had success and then regained all their weight and more. They also featured someone who had had gastric bypass surgery, as well as several doctors who highlighted medical issues.

But it was extremely uncomfortable for me to watch. It doesn’t matter when I see something like this – whether working hard on my food issues or ignoring them completely – it just makes me squirm to hear people talk about being fat in public. I can do it here in writing but in person? The defensive hackles rise while my internal self-protective mode kicks in and I shut down, like a turtle, because I almost expect to be assaulted as a fat person by the people on TV.

I want to argue with them. To tell the fat ones who are saying there is nothing wrong with being so big the scales in the doctor’s office can’t weigh them that yes, there are medical things they need to pay attention to, even if they don’t get down to a model size. To tell the failed dieters not to give up, that some exercise will make them feel better, even if it’s small steps and not running a marathon. To tell the kind doctor who actually listens to his fat patients and doesn’t assume that whatever is wrong with them is always due to weight, that his humanity is saving the life of some of his patients. To tell the gastric bypass patient that substituting an exercise compulsion for his eating compulsion is a good trade.

But what I did do was sit and eat bread. Programs about weight and fat always prompt me to do that, like Pavlov’s dog. I get depressed and feel personally assaulted, expecting people who watch the show to ask me to explain myself. I can’t watch “Biggest Loser” or really any TV show about fat/obesity/weight loss because I just as though I’m a failure from the get go. This is one reason I try not to watch any of them; I get squirrely enough without the prompting.

I didn’t even get to the gym today as I had planned. My body started having a major coughing attack about 4pm and my nose turned on again like a faucet. I think the afternoon meds kicked in and I couldn’t imagine trying to do weights with my hands full of Puffs. I’m still expecting to go to T’ai Chi tomorrow but if I don’t get there, I got a “Yoga for the Rest of Us” DVD that I can do at home with easy access to tissues and chairs. But maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and be healthy. It would be a nice change.