Yesterday I went to the doctor for two things: my ongoing and increasing back pain and horrendous menstrual periods, which I wanted to ensure didn’t have anything to do with each other. The reason for this was because I had started to see some progress with my back, but another hellish cycle struck and I was sidelined again by the back pain – to the point I had to call out from work.
So I did a little research to see if the two things might be related, and in doing so I realized that the kinds of heavy, painful periods I have been having, which I chalked up to aging, aren’t necessarily perimenopausal like I had previously thought. Instead I was reading about fibroid cysts (which my mother had) and how the pressure of large cysts could cause back pain.
Seemed plausible, but I’d need a doctor to confirm so I made an appointment. I thought maybe if THAT was the cause of my current back pain, then perhaps that was a treatment I hadn’t considered, one that could make a dramatic improvement in my current health.
I wasn’t looking forward to it. The sketchy thing about back pain is that it’s one of those diagnose by process of elimination things. I’ve been through it all. MRIs, physical therapy, chiropractors, etc. I figured with the possibility of a cyst, I’d probably have to get another ultrasound.
I was about to climb yet another mountain, and I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but I had no choice. It’s everything I can do to get through an eight-hour shift. I’m not sleeping well, obviously, and by the time I go to work I’m already tired. I sit at a desk for eight hours, which, as expected, sends my sciatica through the roof. I try to walk it out, like I had in months past, trying to limber up and get moving at least twice a day with a ten minute jaunt around the complex where I work. If I can make just three of those laps, I easily make my 10K steps.
Recently, I’m lucky to make it once. By the time I drag myself home in the evening, I’m done. I’m doner than done. There is no cleaning, no errands being done – like grocery shopping, for instance, which has thrown my diet out of whack because we’re grabbing things out more often than not. This includes lunch and dinner, which spells disaster for what I’m trying to do to lose weight.
I thought if nothing else, I’ll get the standard prescription treatment for my back, the narcotic/anti-inflammatory/muscle relaxer, and I’d take this weekend just to medicate the hell out of myself and try to get past this acute episode.
This ain’t my first rodeo. This has been the protocol towards “fixing” my back since 2006. Only it never fixes anything, it just keeps me a faithful customer to Big Pharma.
When I wasn’t working, I could medicate with cannabis and saw much better results. But because of the stigma that goes along with the use of cannabis, not to mention the legal ramifications even now that it’s “technically” legal in the state of California, that’s not the go-to option anymore. When I applied for my job, I was given a drug test. Since I had worked with employee files up till then, I knew what the perimeters were to pass. I could have 1000mg of cocaine, but 25mg of THC would have given me a hard stop.
Cocaine – acceptable. A plant that has been used medicinally for ten thousand years (and never killed one person) – not.
It’s frustrating. Every bit as fucking frustrating as my weight being the sole focus of any and all doctor’s appointments.
I mean, I must be one of the easiest patients for doctors to see. Instead of probing and getting to the root cause, they can just look at me and make an instant diagnosis. Oh, your back hurts? Well, you’re fat. Case closed, moving on, next patient.
I spent maybe ten minutes talking to my doctor about the issues that brought me into the office. She dismissed immediately that cysts might be my problem, and shrugged off my hellish periods as just a woman thang, even when I told her that (TMI alert) I have horrendous flooding that will have me going through every protective barrier known to (wo)man within an hour. Seriously, I’ve almost passed out before from the blood loss. I have gone from the bathroom five steps to my bed and collapsed in a heap, hoping Steven didn’t come in the room before I could pull myself together in order to clean up the mess so he wouldn’t think someone had tried to murder me.
Those are the days I barely even want to leave the house because movement = flooding, which means I have to change three times a day. But she just smirked and said every woman feels that way.
Basically none of what I told her registered to the doc, who expects me to trust her when she was absolutely not going to trust me when I was telling her what was wrong. That flooding thing is new within the last few years. It’s not “just a woman thing” or me being a baby about my period. I’ve had my period since I was nine, just like I’ve had this back pain since 2006. I KNOW when something is up. I DON’T just go bug her for nothing.
Instead she pushed around on my back for a whole thirty seconds, nearly sending me flying off of the exam table in the process. Within those thirty seconds, she decided it was completely muscular and declared I needed to lose weight “yesterday” to avoid the weight compressing my discs in such a way that I’m virtually crippled by the pain in a decade.
All she saw was the weight. That’s all any of them see. And they won’t take my complaints seriously as a result.
She made the same snap judgment everyone else does: I’m fat so I’m clearly not doing anything about it. If I did, it would fix all my woes. I explained to her I was currently trying to lose weight for that very reason, because I’m tired of my life being so fucking limited, but without the ability to exercise I’m between a rock and a hard place. She told me that I could technically do it diet alone, but I told her I’ve been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for the last four months. The diet thing works for about a week and then if I don’t add exercise into it, it stalls.
I mean, I’m 47 years old and I’ve been fat since I was a child. I know my body pretty well by this point. I know what works and what doesn’t. I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years. I’ve tried almost everything, except maybe for surgery. When I was a kid, there was a diet aid literally called “Ayds” (this was before the 1980s.) They were these little pieces of chocolate that were supposed to curb my appetite.
By the mid-eighties I went on Nutrisystem and stayed on that as long as we could afford. Back in 1984, it was $90 a week for both my mom and me, not including all the fresh food you had to buy (not to mention all the other non-food grocery needs.) To put that in perspective, my weekly grocery budget in 2017 is $100-150 to feed a family of FIVE. As a single mother in 1984, working for barely over minimum wage, Mom simply couldn’t afford us to stay on it, and so I capped out at 36 pounds lost in six weeks. Yay! Magic! It works… as long as you’re chained to the program.
And yes, THAT I did without exercise, if you don’t count P.E., but it was the only time that worked.
After Scott was born and I had forty pounds of pregnancy fat to lose, I created my own system that alternated between fasting and limited calories, as well as walking at least thirty minutes a day. Today they call these things intermittent fasting and the 10,000-step plan to walk yourself thin. (I was so ahead of my time.) I lost enough weight to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was still fat. It didn’t go any lower.
Out of desperation I tried the Mayo Clinic* Diet (misleadingly named after the medical institute,) where I was supposed to drop 10 pounds in a week if I ate certain foods on certain days in certain combinations. It worked, I lost 10 pounds… of water weight. The next week it was back, even though I kept using the plan.
When I was homeless in LA I lost quite a bit of weight quite dramatically – but it wasn’t just from lack of food. Whether we were at the beach or at Griffith Park, we walked everywhere we could just to have something to do that didn’t cost any money.
Then I got pregnant and, well, I went back to old habits.
Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of things. I’ve tried Slim-Fast, I’ve gone on the Richard Simmons plan (which helped me lose thirty pounds in time for my wedding to Steven, dropping me from a scary 350 to 320 and size 32.) I did the Cabbage Soup diet until I couldn’t even look a head of cabbage in the face. I lost 70lbs using SparkPeople, but, again, I had to have an exercise plan to go along with or else it would stagnate and frustrate the hell out of me. I’ve gone vegan, I’ve gone low carb, I’ve gone sugarless. In each and every experience, if I didn’t add physical activity onto it, my body stopped losing weight once it became accustomed to the new eating plan.
This is what has happened now with my intermittent fasting. I still only eat about eight hours a day (this week being the exception to that rule,) but without the physical activity I add to it, either using my stationary bike at home or walking whenever I can fit it in, it really doesn’t do much to help me move the scale.
Hence why I’ve been stuck between 290-297 for the last four months of weekly weigh-ins.
I know my body. The diet, though they say it’s 70% of the battle, only takes me so far. I need to add exercise. And yet every single time I add exercise, I end up throwing out my back and it undoes all the progress.
So I tell her this, and just like the whole period thing she dismisses it. “So you’re telling me there’s nothing you can do about your weight.”
No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I need help. She said that Kaiser Permanente offers food plans much like Weight Watchers. And like WW, I have pay by the week for a sixteen-week program AND I have to show up to weekly meetings.
If that was what I wanted, I’d have joined WW. (Actually, no I wouldn’t – because I abhor any kind of weight loss program that makes a profit off of desperate fat people. I won’t buy pills, I won’t buy pre-packaged foods. These companies don’t protect their bottom line by helping you succeed – and I don’t want to be stuck on a program the rest of my life. I’m not trading one set of shackles for another, thank you very much.)
She gave me the standard prescription protocol for my back, with an order for steroid injections – since that’s the only thing I haven’t tried to help me stay upright, rather than flat on my back, doped out of my mind for days at a time.
But I still woke up three times in the night with white hot pain radiating down my leg. I face another day of poor sleep and relentless pain.
It dawned on me fairly quickly yesterday that despite reaching out for help, I’m alone in this. And I guess I always have been. People look at me and make their assumptions, which is nothing new. Back in Texas, I had a doc tell me in our first meeting together that I was diabetic. This was without any kind of symptoms, this was without any kind of blood work. This was her looking at me and deciding since I’m “morbidly obese” I must have diabetes. I told her no, I’m not diabetic. That’s the first thing any doc ever tests me for, even when I was pregnant. I’ve done the fasting blood tests, I’ve been checked consistently for years and *knock on wood* it’s the one thing I’ve managed to avoid. Yet she didn’t hear any of that. She insisted I was. It took the blood work coming back to convince her, because my word CLEARLY wasn’t enough.
(Which, by the way, I got my results back from my blood work yesterday. My A1C is 5.3. The normal range is 4.8 – 5.6. In 2012, the last time I had my blood drawn, it was 5.1. Please stop assuming I have diabetes because I’m fat, k?)
In fact, all my tests came back fine and in normal ranges. The only thing that was a bit high was my RDW blood test showed 15.1 when the normal range caps off at 14.5. I immediately researched to find out what this means.
This is what I found:
When your red cells have a lot of variation in their size then you will see higher RDW values in your test. If your rdw blood test is high then there could be a few reasons for the cause.
A common cause of high RDW values is Vitamin b12 deficiency or Folate deficiency. This can lead to macrocytic anemia (or large cell anemia). People with macrocytic anemia almost always suffer from elevated RDW levels.
Hum. Would you look at that. Anemia. Blood. Why did I go to the doctor again?
But…. FAT. FATTIE FAT FAT FAT. FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.
My blood pressure was slightly elevated at 135/69, but I was also in a lot of pain. I’ll take it again with my own machine later to monitor. After last year’s scary episode, I don’t play around.
See, people will think to look at me I don’t care about my health, when in fact I’m rather obsessed about it. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m not doing something about it every single day.
It’s just taking a slow ass time, made even slower by the fact I. Can’t. MOVE.
Basically I paid $70 to find out things I already knew. I’m on my own in this, and I’m the one that is going to have to fix it because I’m the expert when it comes to my own body.
I’ve had to be. Everyone else just sees the fat, not anything that is going on underneath it.
So glad I’ve paid nearly $3000 so far this year for this kind of stellar health coverage.
So. What’s my plan?
Well, I’m going to have to do as the doc says. I’m going to concentrate on my diet, rather than the exercise, simply because I have no choice. I can’t walk right now and if I try, I’ll end up hobbled again and missing work, which I can’t afford to do. The only thing I can control is what I put into my face. I only have two rules for a “diet”: One, it can’t cost me money, i.e. Slim-Fast, WW, Nutrisystem, fat burning pills, etc. (See above.) Two, it has to be health-based. I want whole foods, real foods, not processed junk that is marketed to a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, whose profit margins have raised right along with the skyrocketing obesity rate. No Lean Cuisine. No Diet Coke. No low-fat, sugar-free, fad o’ the moment quick fix.
Unfortunately for me, this is still going to cost me. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and spend a little more on groceries to split apart from my family. Of the five people in my household, only two of us aren’t picky eaters. My husband is the pickiest, he hates most fruits and vegetables (it’s a texture thing,) and is a carb junkie despite being diabetic. (Did I mention he’s 100lbs lighter than me? He eats junk, I don’t. He has diabetes, I don’t. Fuck anyone who makes this trigger judgment of me as a result, especially if you’re a goddamned doctor.)
My future daughter-in-law comes in second-pickiest. She eats more foods than my oldest son Tim, BUT it’s HOW she eats them. She’s virtually Sally from When Harry Met Sally:
She’s not an experimental eater. She reluctantly tries new things. Here’s our biggest Food Tug-of-War at the moment: I want her to branch out and eat different kinds of salads. She’s a HUGE salad eater, but it has to come with specific ingredients that can work well with ranch dressing. If there’s no ranch dressing, there’s no salad. Period. Honestly, I think salads are basically her ranch delivery service, but that’s typical of a lot of people from Texas. I am trying, now, to get her to try salads that incorporate fruit and nuts but she’s thrown on the brakes because she can’t imagine that level of experimentation. She can’t have a salad without ranch dressing, and fruit with ranch dressing?
This, to me, was my favorite part of going vegan. I tried all kinds of new combinations AND new veggies. I love food, y’all. Let me play with it. I went to Pinterest last night to see what kind of foods I could eat instead of the standard family friendly fare we normally get, and I pinned dozens and dozens and dozens of new recipes. It amped me up. I got excited. I couldn’t wait to try new things.
Not her. She would rather go without than eat something she doesn’t want to eat, even if she’s hungry.
I don’t quite grasp this concept. Obviously.
She likes her deep fried stuff, her alfredo sauces, all the things I can’t eat because of a tricky gallbladder. And, like me, she’s been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for three whole years – the only difference is she’s seriously UNDER-weight. She can afford the junk. She can indulge the sweet tooth, which is a daily requirement for her and, as such, a daily temptation for me. And I don’t deny them, I just fit them in to everything else, making my compromises elsewhere.
But, for the next week or month at least, I have to split apart from this because our goals are diametrically opposed. I’m going no sugar again… and I apologize ahead of time for the massive bitch this is going to turn me into.
My older son is attempting a health regimen himself and, as his father’s son, he has some opinions about what I’m doing wrong. (Don’t they all?) But he’s on my side with the no soda, no processed sugar thing, so I have his support. He also told me I need to be more compassionate of myself whenever I succumb to temptation… like this week when I kept hopping on and off the wagon.
People love me and want to take care of me, which so often times includes food. This week a nurse left an egg roll for me, which was very sweet of her. It was also at 9am, way before I allow myself to eat. The next day there was red velvet cake, because life is just that cruel. The next day was a goodbye brunch, ALSO way before my eating time frame.
If I try to muster any will at all to say no, I always hear the same thing: “Just one bite won’t hurt you.”
Like I need a lot of convincing… especially when I’m in the kind of pain I’ve been in lately. I just want to feel good and we all know by now food is my vice of choice, especially at work where my other vices are limited.
I even succumbed to the rare Diet Coke (blame the cake.) Within minutes Hal posted a link on how Diet Coke contributes to weight gain.
It was like he KNEW. My one and only coke and he freaking knew.
Despite these setbacks, I kept mostly with the plan, and my 100+ ounce of water consumption. We still ate out a lot this week, mostly because no one felt up to cooking. The fam has been battling some stomach bug and my back has been breaking to the point I don’t do ANYTHING when I get home.
It’s going to be a(nother) disappointing weigh in. And I’m just going to have to forgive myself and move on with a plan that I’m going to have to follow solo. Steven has offered to throw himself on the grenade, learning how to eat more plant-based foods (which I truly believe is the key to better health – and one of the reasons I think that, despite the inability to exercise, I am in mostly good health except for the back thing.) But he’s so picky that I know I’ll be tempted to come up with stuff that will appeal to both of us, and – quite frankly – I can’t be held down by that limitation. I’m going to get what I like, what I’ll eat, what I know is good for me. I can eat nothing but salad for a week straight, limiting my sugar to fresh fruit. Steve? Not so much. And I can’t allow that to be yet another stumbling block. I have to be a little selfish here, a little rude, a little impolite.
I’ll make what I want, what I know is good and right for me. He has to decide if he will like it or not. Or else he can eat what the family eats.
Because that’s the way it’s just going to have to be. I’m done compromising, because I always end up on the losing end of that. Just like right now, Brit texted because she’s just now getting off of work and wants lunch while they’re out. That means fast food. That means more junk. She asked if I was hungry, which I am, but I said no, I’m good.
If I’m in this alone, I have to do what’s best for me. Same thing when I went vegan all those years ago. I have to look out for myself because no one in my family can or will join me. I’m in the fight for my life now, particularly in terms of my mobility. I may be like a stallion locked up in the starting gate, but let’s face it – I’m used to things being difficult.
It’s going to take some time, much longer than I want it to be, mostly because fat is the only thing people see when they look at me. The doc said I have to lose weight “yesterday” and she’s not wrong. In order to fit in with her and with everyone else, I have to have the “After” body, not the “Before” and certainly not the “During.” I’m fighting my way out from behind my body for the kind of value that other people take for granted. They can go to the doctor and be heard about their concerns. They can walk down the street without people assuming they’re lazy and don’t give a shit about themselves. Despite the fact I eat much healthier than she does, Brit turns heads when she walks down the street. Men want to get to know her. She’s a smoker, she eats crap, but she’s got the “After” body, even when she’s in the “During” process to get to a healthier weight.
But she can be seen and accepted and heard, just like everyone else who doesn’t commit the high crime of being fat. They can be seen for who they are instead of what they weigh, and I’m going to have to wait a helluva long time for that, made longer still by the limitation of my back pain.
I’m just going to have to make peace with that, which, frankly, is harder than losing the weight. It’s going to take time before people will hear me, or see me, or recognize anything that I’m doing that’s good. They’re going to make their assumptions. They’re doing to diagnosis me with terminal fatness.
But they don’t count. They can’t. In order to claim my value I must first find it in myself. Here’s what I know:
I’m not a bad person.
I’m not a failure.
I’m not careless about my health.
I’m not lazy.
I’m not weak.
I have a specific challenge to fight, but I’m strong enough to beat it. It may not happen in a year, but like any war it is won one battle at a time, one day at a time.
Time to make this a good day.