A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘body acceptance’

Outrage

I was reading one of my favorite blogs the other day and I became outraged. It talks about how Google was putting information down about walking distance and calories when asked for directions. She felt this was fat shaming.  https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2017/10/28/google-cupcakes-and-terrible-ideas/

I do not necessarily agree that this was the best example of fat shaming. I actually think it is kind of nice information if you CAN walk.  The calorie indication is just part of the diet culture we live in. But there are other messages out there that are not only fat shaming, but blatant discrimination.

She mentions that in some places they have turned off the escalators so that people will use stairs. Swell. That is discrimination of people with disabilities whether they are small or large. I know plenty of people who cannot climb stairs or even worse, like in my situation, go down them. I can go up with a hand rail for support but coming down is not happening. My one ankle now goes completely out at any situation and makes me fall if I do not have something to grab. Imagine my luck on stairs.

What about wheelchair access? She was saying that they are putting up signs next to elevators to remind people to use the stairs because you burn more calories. Talk about rubbing it in the face of people who cannot make a choice. That is not fat shaming; it is just harassment of everyone who is disabled.

In other blogs she talks about the discrimination or fat shaming that occurs with large people getting medical treatment. She states one person she knew was denied health insurance because she was morbidly obese. (I hate that phrase with a passion) How is that not discrimination? How is telling employees that if you are over a certain body weight, you will have to pay more for your health coverage not discrimination and for that fact, legal? But places are doing it all over the country. My company almost went there.

We lump every large person into one category. FAT, LAZY, and UNRELIABLE. We are treated like liars all the time. (Yes, secretly I go home after work and stuff my face with ice cream and cake… and even if I did, what business is that of yours?) Doctors accuse of lying all the time. In my own experience, I was accused of gorging myself by my two doctors when I put on 17 pounds in 6 weeks. They were sure it was what I was eating. On my own, I stopped a medication I was put on and almost overnight, the weight disappeared. But neither would listen to me and I sat sobbing in their offices telling them how awful I felt since going on the medication. The medication also caused dyspnea, but they didn’t seem concerned and again said it was because I was fat. I did not have shortness of breath before or after. It was humiliating and hurtful and neither of them said anything afterwards when I proved it was the medication.

In this culture, large people are the remaining targets of the worse discrimination out there. We are outrage if someone is discriminated for color or race. They just sanctioned a baseball player for making slant eyes at an Asian pitcher. Bet if he called someone fat nothing would happen.

I can only speak for how this makes me feel. I see people’s expressions. I hear their words of disapproval, and I feel the ostracization all the time. I hear all the girls at work constantly talking about their suffering when it comes to dieting and they wear it like a badge of honor. “OH, I can’t eat that” or “I would love a cookie, but no…”

But this pisses me off more than anything: I eat my lunch at my desk while I am working. And I do this because I do not want to stop working, but more because I do not want to be judged. I eat the same thing every day. I have a bag of chopped veggies, an English muffin with mayo and 2 slices of “just turkey” (has no chemicals in it). I leave the veggies out to munch on. Just last week, someone came to my desk and had the gall to say, “OH my, what a healthy lunch.”  I said, “Yes, surprise! Fat people eat better than most. Why are you shocked?”  Oh did she do a back pedal. This is not the first time either. I actually have had people just come into my old office cubby when I was eating a salad and start lecturing me on diets.

The image I used for this post is what as me all riled up. “Fat ballerina.” This is inexcusable. Dress up like a fat person and make fun of them all night. Yes indeedy. Be the star of your party by humiliating people who often have no choice of their situation or health. Next we should make a costume to mock developmentally disabled folks and call it “Retard.” Or how about a costume that makes you look like you have a prosthesis and we can call that one “Gimp”?  Think I am going over board? Try walking around in a real fat suit and see how it feels.

 

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Don’t take this personally

“You’re too sensitive.” “I meant this is a good way.” And my favorite: Don’t take this personally.” Everyone time someone says those things; I know it is going to be a dagger in my soul. I am too sensitive. I will take it badly. And I most definitely will take it personally. Because that is the honest intent. Prefacing statements with “honestly” or to “tell the truth” does not excuse the fact that you are about to be mean. “It’s for your own good” never really is. It’s about you feeling superior to me.

Being an empath is not a pleasure. I see right through most people’s crap in a heartbeat. It does not mean that I can shield myself from the hurt. I never learned that part of survival. Because of that, I am very vulnerable to insults, even if they are shrouded in good intentions. They never really are good intentions.

When you are a large woman, you are a walking target for these kinds of insults. People feel so justified to say, “You would be so pretty if…..” “or you have a beautiful face….” People tell you how much better your life would be if only you could be more like them with statements like: “you should run with me some morning.” Oh Honey, if you really knew me, you would know I can hardly walk some mornings due to psoriatic arthritis. But you don’t really see me, so thanks but no thanks.

These comments do more than just hurt me. They trigger me. My family never lacked in cruel comments. It was a sport to see how clever someone could insult another. I was an enigma in the sense I was the only woman in my family who was large. I mean I am the tallest by 5 to 7 inches, I wore a much larger size (my Mom was a zero to 3) and I had boobs. I spent my childhood listening to “how much better I would be if I only…” This is emotional abuse by the way. I was deprived of treats, often subjected to ridiculous diets like green beans and Jello and constantly harangued about my shape.

[And this is how just writing about my childhood trigger me to justify it. I realized this when I went back to reread what I wrote:] My mom was in charge of the food in the house and meals were excessively high in carbs and fat. There was always soda and cookies available because the other siblings could gorge on them. They were thin. I was an extremely active child and teen often spending the day swimming or riding a bike for miles. I was not allowed to sit around and watch TV or even read. As a younger woman, I was very active. I only slowed down because of the PsA and if I did not have it, I would still be playing tennis and other activities as much as I could.

My family’s constant barrage of self-improvement comments were actually telling me how I failed. There was little said to counter the demeaning of the words. It successfully made me feel like a failure and that was the intent. I know this now, but it scarred me. So now when people make their veiled comments, I hear the disappointment in my mother and father and it brings me back to that time. When you have PTSD, it does not take much to trigger you.

When you grow up with a sense of failure, you have two choices: over achieve or lie down and whither. I overachieved. My success had not dampened the hurt I feel when someone is critical. I am so sensitive, that a look can set me off. I feel people’s disdain of me even if they think they are hiding it. I read people very clearly. It does not matter who or what the relationship. It does not matter if I love or hate the person. Their intent comes beaming through.

Next time you go to make a comment, try to remember that a large person already knows they are large. Chances are they have spent a lifetime trying to meet other’s expectations and have failed. They may not be strong, and your words will haunt them for days. You have no right to demean someone ever. If you think you are helping them, you are not. Get off your white horse and stop being so pompous. Learn that “right reflexing” (the attempt to take charge of someone else’s change process) does not motivate anyone to change. Understand your motive before you speak. Send love, not hurt.

 

Fat Shaming

There is a very strong movement out there that I think is wonderful and way overdue. It seems to be popping up everywhere on the Intranet. There are many web groups that are devoted to the principals of stopping Fat Shaming and Body Acceptance. It’s about time.

See, it isn’t just about just other people accepting a person of size. It is about how you accept yourself and that is the basic principal for most of these groups. They know to change society’s  point of view will include fighting the fashion and medical-insurance worlds. They have to take on the giant media world. But at least they are starting the awareness. This will start with the individual saying “no more guilt and shame.”

This is not about  eating whatever you want. It is about being healthy at any weight. And the first thing that most people say is that if you are overweight you are not healthy. That is not true. The degree of being overweight and the abilities of the person are factors that need to be included in the overall health of a person. But to judge someone by a statistic is unfair and bias. It is how the insurance companies do it. It is how the medical profession where trained. And it is darn near impossible to change those minds.

Most of these programs work with the primary concept that people have to accept and love who they are. If you have self-compassion for yourself, you will naturally take care of yourself. Taking care of you includes eating better. It means dealing timely with health issues. It means getting the care that you need when you need it. It means dealing with stress. It means, and I think this is the most important concept, not letting people make you feel guilty and bad about being you. Do not let people define who you are.

Living in a world where being Fat has only a negative connotation is difficult. You are discriminated, ridiculed and harassed. Up to now, it has been generally accepted that it is ok to pick on the fat person. We see it in our media. Look at the characters who are the bunglers and pathetic ones in movies and TV. They are fat. Fat equals dumb.

Fat shamming will probably never go away. But I am glad that it has a foothold and people are becoming more aware. I think of all the young girls who put themselves through torture to starve themselves and end up with an eating disorder. Being overweight can be an eating disorder too, but you do not see the same empathy for someone who struggles with compulsive eating. I think about how many women think they are grossly overweight and therefore an abomination and they really are not. What do you think would happen if these women were not riddled with guilt and shame?

Getting rid of the guilt and shame to me is the most important part about this new movement. Women are easily boxed in by trying to meet society’s rules. If people are free of guilt and shame, they are able to dream and be creative and do amazing things. I know many women I work with who are so focused on everything they put in their mouths. They count calories or points and perseverate on every morsel and are bound up with such guilt that it limits them to enjoy life. There is little joy for those who are so worried about every point and calorie. Enjoying one piece of cake does not make you a horrible person. It is like being tied to bully. And organizations like Weight Watchers feed that mentality. I know this to be true as I have done WW many times only to end up frustrated and shamed. Nothing says guilt like getting on a scale in front of everyone in a group, being weighed and although they don’t say it out loud…. Failing because you did not lose a pound. OMG, I think of the subjective oppression that brought on.

Being free of food shame is very liberating. And if you really listen to your body, you will eat what you need and when you need to. But that is a hard process to learn in our world. That’s another blog.

Pay attention to this change. It is everywhere. It makes me hopeful for the next generations. It has to be a better world where every individual is important and is allowed to be free from shame and guilt. Join in this fight for freedom of guilt. A healthy body can be at any size.

Here are a couple of organization’s I am involved with:

https://benourished.org/

https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/index.asp

 

 

 

Let there be cake!

I saw the bright reflection from down the hall. The light glimmered off the protective covering as my boss walked towards me. It was time for our weekly staff meeting and we met and turned to enter the room together. It was like walking with one of the three kings from the Orient to present the holy child with frankincense or myrrh. She had the gift of the Magi. She had birthday cake.

If I was abandoned on a dessert island and could only have one food, it would be chocolate birthday cake covered in butter cream frosting with tons of roses and flowers. And there is one store here that makes the best. My boss was carrying one of those exact cakes into our meeting as a surprise for one of staff. I had to decide at that point if it was the best day or the worst.

I have been going through an on-line course call “Be Nourished.” It is a series of six modules that offer lessons and inspiration to learn to become an intuitive eater. No diet, no starvation and definitely no deprivation. It takes practice and training to quiet the mind and really feel what the body is saying. Instead of eating from emotion, you eat when and what your body says it wants. Believe it or not, when you really pay attention, the body does not crave sugar. I was surprised to see how easy that has been. I also noticed that I do not crave carbs and salty things as much.

If you think by “letting go” there would be the urge to eat everything under the sun. For some, I guess that happens. But then, it is in response to an emotion and not the actual response to hunger. I discovered I eat when I am bored. I eat out of habit. Its noon, it is time for lunch. But now I wait until I am hungry. It is weird also to actually feel hunger. And then I listen to what my body says it wants. I bring my lunch but at dinner, the choice often is salad automatically.

The other part of intuitive eating is knowing when your full. There are studies which say often obese people do not sense full. I stop for the most part when I am full or just know to stop. Sometimes the guilt of throwing food out makes me push past the point where I could stop.

I sat through the meeting eyeing with delight and patience for them to cut the cake. But when they did, I passed on it. It was only 10:00 am and I truly was not in the mood. I did not want the sugar rush that early on in the day only to crash later. I knew the cake would be left in our shared area and others would attack it later as was my plan. But I ate my lunch first. I was not hungry after that, but images of butter cream rosettes danced in my brain. Finally, I gave in and went to cut a chunk for myself. I included a piece of the biggest pink rose. It was only about an inch and a half square piece. I had to carry it back to my office. I knew if someone passed me in the hall I would get “the look.”

I actually set it behind me on a cabinet for a bit and again reassessed how I felt. The biggest hurdle was the guilt. It was so strong. I thought of all the things I have been doing for myself. This was a blatant disrespectful act and lacked self-compassion, I thought.  I spun my chair around to gaze at the loveliness of the rose which just happened to be my favorite color. I spun back to my computer to think how I would feel with all that sugar pulsing through my body after so long a withdrawal from most sugary things. I could feel the cake behind me. Its chocolate goodness filled the air and the pure white of the frosting sat waiting to be enjoyed. I spun around and with fork in hand, slowly and with purpose devoured the piece. I tasted every grain of sugar, every ounce of butter, every essence of dark cocoa.

It was done.

Was it worth you ask….. Hell, Yeah!

Frustrations

I was going to add an image here, but after looking through clip art I was so offended and insulted that I decided I would not put a picture in. Google images for obesity and take a look at the insulting and sarcastic images out there.

A two second look was all he gave it. A brief glimpse into the Internet and he declared his ruling. “It is not a reported side effect.” He had gone to the manufacturer’s website and true, it is not listed. I had scoured the internet for information before taking the drug. But here I was, three months after starting this new shot and 16 pounds heavier. He deduced it must be due to my consumption. I looked at him through tears and said, “Do you know how much food I would have to eat to gain that much weight that quickly?” He could not respond. I sat there, tears streaming down my face and said, “You are calling me a liar.”

Here I was again with a follow up visit to the rheumatologist office. At the December visit, I was having such a terrible reaction to the medication, Humira, that they thought I had damaged my heart. I was sent through many tests and had to visit a cardiologist. The results of the tests were my heart was fine and strong. I was taken off the medication and improved immediately. But there was an impact on my kidney function again. Once off the drug, I immediately started to take the few pounds off I had put on.

One month later, in January, I was on a new shot called Stelara. This shot is outrageously expensive and not everyone is approved for it. I was only because there was not much left for me to take. I have taken within the last three years Enbrel, Simponi, Cimzia, Avara, Otezla, and Humira. When I first went on medication thirteen years ago, I was put on methotrexate (MTX) and prednisone. Six months in I was peeing blood. I told my doctors who said it was because I was on Coumadin. I stayed on this drug for a year and a half. My glucose A1C went from 5.6 to 13. My blood pressure went up and I gain thirty pounds.

They took me off the drug and sent me to a specialist because my kidneys were damaged. One kidney seemed to not be working at all. The nephrologist intern said to lose weight. That was the extent of the visit. The damage was there and there was nothing they were going to do. My kidney did get better over time and my output levels improved. I also dropped the weight and then some and lowered my glucose levels too. It never returned to the 5.6 but stayed around 6, which at that time was ok.

Then, I started having kidney stones. I passed and collect over 32 stones. They were big and they were small. Some hurt terribly, others not so much. I never went into the hospital and I probably should have for the last one back in 2015. It was so big that I struggled to pass it. The labs results showed dangerous levels of uric acid in my blood plus other indicators that the kidney was not working. But no one did anything. I even showed the stone to my doctor after I birthed it and he cringed. My kidney labs never went back to normal. But I also have not passed stones because he put me on allopurinol. Kidney issues are now commonly reported now for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and they are beginning to do research on it. But no one has admitted that the medication exacerbated this situation or this correlation.

Here I was again, sitting in a doctor’s office being told to go on Weight Watchers. I have been on WW so many times I know the points for just about everything I eat. Last time on WW, I gained weight. Then the discussion about bariatric surgery came up again. I just gave up and sat there crying. I am so weary of all this. I told him I put on 3.4 pounds from the reading I did yesterday in the morning to checking the scale at night when I got home from work. It went back down the next morning but was about a ½ a pound more from the previous days. I have watched in horror this slow creeping. And yet, I have done everything I can to be careful in my consumption. Nothing changes with me in my diet. I eat the same breakfast and lunch as I have for years. Dinner is always chicken and veggies or salad most week days. I have cut out salty things including my beloved cheese.

On top of the weight, my blood pressure sored to dangerous levels right after the first shot. This is a common side effect of the shot and reported in the material. My kidney output again indicated there was a serious issue. My labs were terrible and the levels indicated were now in stage four CKD. My PCP was so concerned he called me in to the office. Again, he gave me medication for the BP. But again, the weight issue was my fault. After a week on this new BP medication, my once skinny ankles looked like Barney Rubble’s. The BP came down a bit but not enough. I was so puffed out that there were nights by feet hurt. I finally said enough of this and he put me on something else. Too soon to say what will be that outcome.

I will admit I am terribly afraid. The weight issue is such a horrible thing for me. Trying to convince people that I do not eat what they think I do is a never ending battle for me. Both doctors have recommended bariatric surgery and both doctors admit it would be very high risk for me. No one sees my health issues past the fat. I am not a person; I am a morbidly obese non-compliant patient.

I went to the patient portals for people with PsA and Psoriasis. In less than an hour, I had four pages of patient’s quotes who reported large weight gain on Stelara. It’s out there. I am not alone. And the frustration is not mine alone either.

And then I got it. The biggest selling point of Otezla is that people lose weight on it. It is true documented fact that you will lose weight on it. It is from being so sick. Those who lose weight reported diarrhea, nausea and other gastric issues. I was on it for a short time and it made me terribly sick. I could not walk straight. I felt like I was falling over all the time. It was like living with the worse hangover. It did nothing for my PsA or P.

This Stelara is a fairly new drug. It is expensive. It costs over $20,000.00 a shot. That is why most people do not get it as insurance companies do not want to pay that. It IS amazing. My psoriasis is almost gone. My ability to move is much improved. My pain levels have not been this low in years. I am grateful for this. But would people even try it if they knew there was a good probability they would gain weight on it? No, they won’t because being fat in America is the worst thing possibly you can have wrong with you.

I read somewhere that people would rather face debilitating depression and face suicide than take medication that would help, but had the side effect of significant weight gain.

I write this for people who have medical issues that may be similar in hope there is some comfort to know it is not just you. I found over fifty people who are on the same medication as I who took the time to write about it in post on a patient board somewhere. It is a small percentage of users? I do not know but I have to think it is more prevalent than that because not many people use or will write on these patient boards. Does it matter? Yes, because if we do not advocate for better treatment we will become slaves to drug companies selling poison. Doctors need to be aware that not all obesity is caused by consumption. I will probably never in my life be able to prove that. But I am going to try.

“Living with where you are”

falls rainbow

Self-compassion teaches us that we need to come to a place of acceptance with whatever we have been given in life. It is the hardest thing to tackle and embrace. We use phrases like “if only” and “someday I will” to cope with that at this moment, this very present moment, I am not satisfied. Can we ever get to a state of total acceptance of what is, is just that?

There is always someone worse off than we are and then, they are people whose life seems totally charmed and conflict free. Deep down humans by nature are born to struggle and have conflict and it is not our place to measure and judge. But we do. We compare and emote how “no one knows what I struggle with.” That is a true statement. No one can know.

For example, pain is different for each being. We all have it and as we get older it is a constant companion. For me, there are times when it is overwhelming and there is no escape. This is what I have to deal with right now and sadly, it is not going to get better. Unless there is finally a miracle drug that works for me, I will progressively get worse. And the drugs I have tried have been a succession of making things worse, not better. This too is my present moment.

I am not dealing well with this, but I am trying to learn. One of the techniques I am learning is called “sitting with the pain”. Instead of ignoring it, I face it full on. I focus in my head the center of glow, the spot where the pain is the worse, and just sit with it. Sometimes it will calm down a bit to a dull shine instead of as spike of ice cold laser pain. Mediation also calms the beast.

But my life is not of a Buddhist monk. My life is filled with drama. I work fulltime in an angst filled profession where conflict and aggression are a daily part of my day. I have issues in my home life with family squabbles and pressure. This is a normal life and it is challenging.

What I am trying to learn is to be ok with everything. To accept this is what my life is and stop struggling. It is the struggle that exacerbates the pain. It makes sense. If someone ties you up, when you struggle against the restraints, it is painful. If you lay there and accept it, it’s not so painful.

But I am not one who quits either. I am not ready to lie down and give up and let this disease take over and make me bed ridden. I find myself very angry at times with my limitations. That anger has been getting worse because I am not at a place where I easily say, “Ok… that’s enough for today.” So I push myself too far and then end up in excruciating pain. And it is hard on my husband who often is the brunt of the anger. He is used to me doing everything. He sees the deterioration in my strength and stamina.  I think it frightens him. He is also used to be taken care of and he is not the best caregiver. That too is something that worries me.

Self-compassion teaches us to take care of us first. If we do not take care of ourselves, no one else really will and there you are. That is the heart of it. Self-compassion is not being selfish. It is learning to make the individual moments of your life the best they can be. No one else in the whole world can MAKE your life any better than you can for yourself. It is easy to preach these concepts. Much harder to live.

 

 

Autumn Challenges

pumpkins

This has been an amazing week.

I used to love autumn. It was my favorite season. So much so I chose to be married the first time in October. I love the cooler temperatures and the colors of the trees and the crispness of the air. I loved going back to school as a kid. I have always thought of fall as the season of change.

But as things in my life happened, I noticed a pattern of not so nice things happening in the fall. It changed my favorite season to be late spring and early summer, with June being my favorite month.

I started the process of my divorce in November, I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis in October, I went through several seasons of terrible medical issues, including the possibility of Ovarian Cancer discovered in September but by January the next year was dismissed as just a dermoid tumor. The list goes on includes thyroid issues, severe kidney problems and pituitary tumors.

I dread fall now for those reasons. But I also hate the dying of all the plants. One morning, I will wake up and my garden will have been killed by a frost. It devastates me. All that work all summer to have it gone in one night. I fight it by covering things for a while but then I know I have to sacrifice all the flowering plants. I do bring in many and host them for the winter, but the impatiens won’t make it. Even the large maples will shed their canopy and the garden will be barren. The animals will disappear for the most part, even though I continue to feed them.

bear-display

Well true to form, I had an issue. Two weeks ago, I went for my annual mammogram. I am faithful about that test. My mother’s sister, my favorite aunt, had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy at a very early age.

I had a new kind of imaging done that I have never had before. They found something. I got a call back requesting I return for another diagnostic test and then would be required to wait for a consult with a doctor. I knew I had a crazy week and so I waited until the following Friday to return.

The week was worrisome. I finally convinced myself it was just an issue with the imaging as she said she had trouble and needed to take two of the right breast. I did not know that was not the reason, but I clung to the idea she messed up through the week. But true to someone who has PTSD, my body reacted with terrible flares of pain. By Friday, I could hardly walk.

The Elizabeth Wende Breast Center is a fabulous facility here in my town. They have satellite offices and I usually go to one of those. But for this recall, I had to go back to the main center. It was mobbed. You waited in line just to check in. I was told I was going to the other side of the facility and to wait in a separate area. It was smaller and calmer. Once you are in the actual  facility, it is run like a spa. There is soft music and no sound is emitted from the TVs in the waiting rooms. They have couches and soft colors and you feel like you are in someone’s living room. They offer chair messages and paraffin treatments, and you can shop for jewelry while you wait. It is so soothing that the lady next to me wrapped herself up in a blanket and fell asleep.

The technicians are very kind. She allowed me to see the images she took along with the ones from the previous test. Sure enough, there was a mass and there was no denying it. I was sent back to the waiting room and fought back tears. It was a long wait, it seemed.

After a hour and half wait, they brought me back to the doctor’s office and I had to have an ultrasound done. I walked around the room in anticipation of what was next and I noticed the doctor’s multiple diplomas. The doctor’s name was Posy Jane. How could someone with that name give me bad news? She was crisp yet nice and allowed me to watch as she honed in on the darkened spot. She declared it a cyst and said not to worry. I love Dr. Posy Jane S. It was the best news.

I have a real empathy for the women I know who have gone through breast cancer. It was terrifying even though I had a great outcome. And what if it was something? I was glad I had the opportunity to have such state of the art facilities. They have such great new technology out there that must be saving many women’s lives. Early detection is critical.

I am hoping this was my crisis for the year. The garden is still going great and I plan on sitting out there today and read. We will go to the farmer’s market and then I will create a fall dinner with many vegetables and celebrate the beauty of the season. I know I am blessed and dodged a bullet. I am grateful.