Medical Care

March 31, 2008 at 12:25 pm (medical care) (, )

When I was three, I got sick. I never got better. My nose ran all the time, I got cold after cold and ear infection after ear infection and strep throat after strep throat. My dentists and orthodontists would comment on how large my tonsils were, even when I wasn’t actively ill. Taking pills was an ordeal because my tonsils, so large they touched, made swallowing anything but especially hard and sticky pills, extra hard. By the time I was a teenager, I had hearing loss in one ear from built up scar tissue, consistantly had difficulty breathing, and suffered from bronchitis 2-3 times a year.

I still had my tonsils.

I still had my tonsils because my pediatrician took a look at them, after writing yet another prescription for pennicilin, and told my mom that “we don’t do tonsilectomies anymore” and then offered that if I lost weight I might have better health.

 Because tonsils, you know, are nothing more than sacks of fat. When a person gains weight, it’s routine for their tonsils to get fat as well.

Oddly enough, I had a different doctor as an adult. The first time she saw me she pinpointed my tonsils as a problem, scolded my dad (who’d driven me and was in the waiting room) for not getting them taken out earlier, and arranged for them to be removed in about a month’s time. That was eight years ago, and I’ve had bronchitis one time since then.

I suffered with constant ill health, exhaustion, hearing loss, and infection after infection because a doctor was unwilling to look past my fat to find the root cause of the problem, even when the problem (and solution!) was an incredibly obvious one.

I had bronchitis a month ago and saw a nurse practitioner about it. She listened to my lungs and asked me if I’d been screened for asthma. I said no, but now that I had insurance I was going to… I just needed to find a doctor and make an appointment. I didn’t say that I’d never been screened before because as a minor my complaints about shortness of breath were consistantly dismissed as me being out of shape, despite the fact that I danced competitively, had allergies, had chronic bronchitis, and had a parent with asthma. In other words, I was active, and had three red flags for asthma. But, you know, I was also fat and apparently fat trumps everything else as cause of illness and pain.

 I hear a lot of talk in the “everybody knows” vein of how fat people are a scourge on humanity because they cost so much more in medical bills. But I can guarandamntee you that if I’d had my tonsils out as a kid, it would have cost less and would have taken less of a toll on me, personally (a few days recovery versus three weeks recovery for the actual surgery, not to mention all the illnesses I wouldn’t have had and gotten treated). If I’d had my asthma treated and controlled in a timely manner I’d be in much better physical shape now, both because I’d be more active and because I’d be less suspectible to colds and respitory illness. In other words, my fat has cost me more money  not because fat is unhealthy, but because I’ve received shitty medical care that has wound up costing me extra money because I have gone untreated for some pretty basic and obvious things. So I guess fat people don’t cost extra money so much as incompetent jerk-ass doctors cost patients and insurance companies more money when they fail to treat their patients’ complaints.

But that doesn’t make a good soundbite, I guess.

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Food Dreams

March 28, 2008 at 10:15 am (binging, disordered eating, dreams, fasting) (, , , )

The problem with fasting for a long time is that after awhile you get hungry again. Sure, you can ignore that hunger for a few hours, a few days. You can ignore the light-headedness and the confusion and the shaking hands. But after awhile your body reasserts its claims, its needs. And then you get hungry. Ravenously hungry. Out of control hungry. Your body craves fuel, craves sustenance, craves life. Driven by my body, I would binge.

I’ve read accounts of other people who binged (and usually purged. I never did. Not out of any reason other than I have a paranoia of vomit.) where they recount the tubs of ice cream, entire cakes, multiple bags of chips they devoured until they were stuffed and groaning and distended, unable to move. I would eat… wait for it!… several pieces of toast. A sandwich AND chips AND soup! A bag of chips! A carton of Chubby Hubby Ice Cream! You know, amounts of food that were fairly normal for most people, but I’d internalized the idea that since I was big fat fatty mclardass I must automaticaly be eating more food than other people and therefore when I ate a meal I must be pigging out and cramming mass amounts of food down my gullet. So a fast food combo meal or dinner at a Greek restaurant became not a meal but a horrible binge, more fat coins put into the lard back that was my gaping maw.

I started having horrific dreams where I’d wake up terrified, soaked with sweat, and feeling huge whomps of guilt. What was I doing in those dreams? Eating food at barbecues. Buying cakes at bake sales. Eating. Or… trying to eat food at barbecues, trying to buy cakes at bake sales, trying to eat. The dreams would often involve me feeling so shameful and guilt ridden that I couldn’t eat in front of other people, or I’d be unable to find my money and thus pay for the food, or everything I wanted would be snatched away and I’d run through mazes trying to find it. Or I’d eat and eat and eat to satiety and wake up feeling guilty because I was full and satisfied in the dream. And I’d feel “off” and shaken all day, and depressed. I felt bad about food even in my dreams. I felt bad about eating even when my dreams were trying to tell me to eat.

When did food become the enemy?

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The Way It Began

March 26, 2008 at 12:13 pm (disordered eating, fasting, highschool) (, , , , )

People were always telling me I “would be so pretty if only” and then a bit of a pause, and then a litany of my failings. If only I were thinner. If only my teeth were straighter/whiter/didn’t have braces on them. If only I just did something with my hair. If only I wore better clothes. If only I had better skin. If only I were thinner. The “thinner” one is, actually, the one I heard most often with the skin thing coming a close second. In my whole life, I’ve had all of one person come up to me and offer to help me with my awful, awful skin (her own words). I’ve had hundreds, literally hundreds, offer me unwanted advice about how to shed my awful, awful weight.

I can’t remember a time that people (my peers, kids younger than me, adults) didn’t pick on me for my weight. Looking back at photos of myself as a little kid I was a huge toddler, and then “normal” sized when I hit pre-school and kindergarten (right around the time I had two growth spurts), and then started chunking up in first and second grade. I’ve been fat ever since then. Consistantly the same amount of fat, consistantly the same size. Consistantly too big.

When you’re constantly told that you’re bad and weak and wrong because you’re fat, what do you do? How do you address that? When other people constantly question how much you eat, constantly ask you if you’re “really” hungry, how long does it take before you start second guessing yourself?

When I was in highschool, my diet on a good day consisted of:

  • Several cans of caffeinated soda, all diet (of course!)
  • Half a bag of M&Ms, Skittles, or Reeces Pieces, shared with someone else
  • Whatever my family was having for dinner.

There were times when I didn’t eat for two or three days.

I was cranky and out of it all the time, constantly tired. I had problems focusing, concentrating. I never got the final growth spurt my school mates got between 8th and 12th grade. My  nails were brittle and broke easily. And I remained fat. And people still insulted me for being fat, and told me that if I just ate a little less and stopped pigging out I’d lose weight. I hated myself for so many reasons, and sometimes I still do. I became more and more restrictive with food and eating, and became more and more depressed, until I realized that I was actively suicidal which was a bit of a wake up call and very very scary.

A few months ago I started practicing intuitive eating, trying to eat what I want to eat when I want to eat it in the quantity that I want. If I want to eat a baked potato for dinner, I will. Or a salad. Or soup. Or a pound of steak. Or some green beans. Or artichoke dip and pita chips. Or waffles.  It’s changed the way I eat. I don’t feel as compelled to finish off those last french fries. I don’t feel as panicked that food might run out. I have less horrific, guilt-ridden nightmares about food and eating. I am eating a wider range of food than I have in fifteen years. And people still give me shit for being fat.

Because, obviously, fat is a choice and if I’d just try a little harder, I wouldn’t be fat. If I’d just eat slightly less, I wouldn’t be fat. After all, humans are just like bunsen burners, and if you consume less calories than you’ll burn, the pounds will just melt away. If an 1800 calorie diet doesn’t cause you to lose weight, drop down to 1500 calories, 1000, 800, 500. If you can subsist on water and air for a long enough time, you’ll be thin, and who cares about malnutrition because thin! Thin is healthy! Automaticaly!

I am a woman of abundance. My hair and nails grow quickly, I have a big stomach, big arms, big belly. I heal quickly when injured. I am fat. I am hated for that. I am trying very hard not to hate myself.

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