I just read an article on "The Mighty", a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities, about the big deal the press is making of Adele recently losing weight. This article so affirmed ideas I have had for years but never thought could actually be true, because society and especially medical personnel, have been saying the opposite.
The article, titled "What to Remember Before Commenting on Adele's Weight Loss" (published mid-December 2019, written by Lexie Manion... https://themighty.com/2019/12/adele-weight-loss-christmas-photos/?utm_source=newsletter_mighty_brief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_mighty_brief_2019-12-30&$deep_link=true has some amazing thoughts in it. But by far my favorite paragraph is this one:
"For those struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating, celebrating someone's weight loss uninvited can trigger dangerous behaviors in an attempt to lose more weight. Some argue that by uplifting or just allowing fat people to exist we somehow promote obesity, which isn't true, yet no one talks about how we clearly promote self-harm through eating disorders and disordered eating when we carelessly celebrate someone's weight loss and nothing else. It sends a dangerous message to people trying to recover from disordered eating and eating disorders that weight loss of every kind is an accomplishment."
I have been overweight by far the majority of my life - sometimes extremely, sometimes not as much, but I've never been what the charts say is a "healthy weight". Even the times in my life where I worked out every day or was on a strict diet, I never made it to that magic number.
But until very recently, my physical health has been pretty good - and what I've been dealing with health-wise has had no relation at all to my weight (except for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome - PCOS - which actually could be a cause of my weight issues). Other than that, for years I've dealt with Restless Legs Syndrome and Mitral Valve Prolapse/dysautonomia, and just being a sickly child in general with many, many ear infections, kidney issues, etc as I grew up, plus a myriad of mental health issues.
I just crossed the line from pre-diabetic to having type 2, but it's still controlled by meds so it's really no different other than the terminology. I wasn't diagnosed as a pre-diabetic until just a couple of years ago. My cholesterol was a little bit high at my last check-up - the first time I've had an issue with it at all. My blood pressure has been slightly high the past few years but those years have been BEYOND stressful so how much of that was weight-related and how much was continuous, ongoing, major stress on top of an anxiety disorder and other mental health issues?
I have two clear memories of the medical field in relation to my weight and this issue - two extremes. One was a time that I knew I had an ear infection (I have had many so I knew what they were like) and I needed to get antibiotics. I had new insurance and hadn't established a primary doctor yet, so I went to one of the few in the area that would take me without being established. He spent the entire visit lecturing me about my weight - and he didn't even look in my ears! That experience to this day makes me nervous about going to a new doctor and experiences like this have also scarred my daughter concerning the same issue.
The other time was just the opposite. I was severely depressed at this time of my life. This doctor mentioned at my visit that my weight was something that we needed to address, but not at that time. He was much more afraid that I would do something to hurt myself with my level of depression and he knew that adding on the stress of dealing with weight loss could send me over the edge. (He was very correct, by the way.) This was the first doctor I ever had who cared more about me than about my weight.
Since then the tide is slowly turning to where doctors don't blame weight for almost every physical problem out there. I have found a few doctors now that care more about me than my weight issue. But both my daughter and I both have dealt with this in the recent past so we know that thinking is still out there.
On a quick side note... for most of my life I would put off going to the doctor about anything, even an ear infection, because they made me weigh at each visit and all it did was throw me into a deep depression. It has taken me years but I am finally at the point where I tell them I don't weight - and the medical field is starting to listen. I've had to argue with some to get to that point but now I don't let me scale keep me from having other medical issues addressed.
If you are in the same boat as I am about that issue, stand up for yourself. My point always was, if they can tell me a reason they need to have the number, I'll do it. So far no-one ever has. I can understand a child whose amount of medication is affected by his/her weight or a health issue that very directly involves weight gain or loss as a symptom, but not a freakin' ear infection!
Oh - and if they tell you that you don't have to look at the scale but they have to have that dang number, don't fall for it. One time I read over my post-visit notes after they had said that, and saw the number. I got so depressed I was down for weeks - all over that stupid number. Again, know that I've done it for years now and though sometimes I have to argue with them about it, I've always gotten the medical care I needed, even without that number on their charts.
Back to the main issue... I know my eating is a huge problem. I have said it before on this blog that I am to the point where I am terrified I won't ever be able to fix it - and those health and mobility issues that are just now showing up will get much worth over time. But it's truly ridiculous for a doctor to bring it up in an office visit where you went in the first place because you thought you had a virus. Do these doctors not think that we (those of us who are severely overweight) haven't already realized that it's an issue that needs to be addressed?
"The Mighty" author said it so well: "When we assume weight loss is a good thing without the person saying so themselves, we send the message that any lost weight is a win, when in fact, people can lose weight due to stress, illness, eating disorders, taking new medications and a multitude of other things. This also sends a clear message to fat people that it's not OK to be fat, and that they should lose weight to fit in, too."
This happened to my boyfriend, though, because weight isn't a big issue to him, I doubt he even noticed. A couple of years ago he was in and out of hospitals for months, extremely ill, while several teams of doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. He was finally diagnosed with Stills Disease, a rare auto-immune disease similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Throughout the course of that horrible time, he lost about 45 pounds - and he's not a big guy to being with. When he was finally strong enough to be able to get out and do things, a friend of his complimented him on how great he looked.
All I could think about was the absolutely nightmarish way he got there - and how I had begged him to eat and drink during that whole time because he was so weak. It tore me up inside and the one who said it is a big addiction recovery advocate. Maybe he was just trying to think of something positive to say... but I really wish he would have emphasized how great it was that he was out of the hospitals and on the road to getting better. If that same thing had happened to someone who was sensitive to eating issues, it could have spiraled them down to thinking that it was better to lose weight, no matter how you got there.
Sometimes I wonder about the future of medical science. I have already heard one TedTalk speaker say it (Peter Attia - "What if We are Wrong About Diabetes?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMhLBPPtlrY )- and I know there are others who are starting to believe it, but what if... WHAT IF... the reason I am so overweight is due TO a medical issue, not the other way around? What if it doesn't have anything to do with my willpower or the fact that I don't exercise enough? What if, in fact, diabetes is part of this same underlying medical issue? What if no amount of willpower or dieting would change the basic underlying make-up of my chemistry and even if I lost weight, the other issues would still happen to me?
I know one result of this thought process... the shame at being overweight would be gone. The self-hate would be gone too, and so someone in my condition would actually care enough to tackle being as healthy as possible, instead of giving up because who wants to work that hard to help someone you hate?
I dream that one day this will no longer be an issue. In 150 years I hope that medical science will have come so far that they no longer blame the person for issues that are much, much deeper than something like willpower or being shamed into it fixing it (issues such as addiction, mental health, weight, etc). I hope that they look back at where we are now and think of this the same way we now wonder how the most enlightened 150 years ago believed that bloodletting was the best way to cure illness.
I still need to lose weight. I know I have an addiction to food and it's controlling my life. I know that there are definitely health issues that are directly caused by my obesity. But people, especially those in the medical field, need to realize that weight loss is not the most important aspect of life. After all, true health is the goal - not a number on a scale.