Friday, October 26, 2007

WLS/Dieting and Fat Acceptance

I have read various things at various times on FA blogs where some think that anyone who has had/is having/is contemplating WLS does not belong in the FA movement. If that is so, then I don't belong here either. I say that because 10 years ago, I had a VBG, which I have said before, and posted in comments on other blogs. Yes, it failed, and yes, I'm still alive and still fat, and still healthy, just like I was before the surgery. Do I have complications from it? I don't know, mainly because I can't afford to see a doctor to have the problems I'm having diagnosed for causes.
Now, 10 years ago, I was in a totally different headspace than I am now. Back then, I didn't know that fat acceptance even existed, let alone what it could mean for a fat woman like me. I had minor mobility problems (yeah, they were minor compared to what I'm going through now). I couldn't walk for more than a couple of blocks without my back cramping up and causing pain. I was still able to sweep and mop floors without having to take a break halfway through, I could vacuum the whole living room without having to stop, and I could do a sink full of dishes without having to sit and take a break till my back quit hurting. I didn't have to use the motorized cart at Wal-Mart to do my shopping. I didn't have any problems getting in and out of the shower, or even being able to stand long enough to take a shower. All of those things are more difficult for me now, after the WLS failed and I gained an additional 40 lbs.
Why did my nurse practitioner recommend the WLS? Not because I was diabetic, or had high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. I didn't have any of those, and still don't. She recommended it because I have arthritis in my right knee, and it's getting worse all the time (degenerative joint disease, and it runs in our family). I did a lot of roller skating when I was a teen and young adult, and every time I fell, I landed on that knee. Did that start the arthritis early? Could be, since I was diagnosed with it at the age of 33 after a particularly nasty fall and had to have fluid drained off the knee. She said that there was no way an orthopedic surgeon would even think of replacing my knee at my then-weight of 350 lbs.
So I took her advice, since I couldn't take the phen-fen anymore (yeah, she had prescribed that too, and it worked, till it was taken off the market). I went through with the WLS, and I can say now, looking back, that it was the worst mistake I ever made. Yeah, I lost 70 lbs in the first few months, but when I followed the surgeon's recommendations to start adding regular food back to my diet and stop relying on the mashed/pureed food, it all went to hell. I couldn't keep anything down, no matter how well I chewed it or how small I cut it up. My stapling came undone, and I started gaining the weight back. But it didn't stop there, I not only gained back the 70 lbs I had lost, I gained an additional 40 lbs. I also gained a side effect that no one told me anything about, and it's one of the reasons I don't eat fast food very often anymore. Lovely side effect, it is. If I eat at McDonald's, or Hardee's, or Burger King (or anywhere even remotely like that), I had better be near a bathroom within an hour of eating, or I will need to take a shower and change clothes (I really don't want to get more graphic than that, it's totally embarrassing for me to say that much).
I didn't want to lose a lot of weight, all I wanted was to go from my then-weight of 350 down to 250, maybe 225. I would still have been fat, but fuck, at least maybe I wouldn't have had so much trouble walking and standing. Now, damn it all, I just wish I was back at that 350 lb mark. At least then I could do a hell of a lot more than I can now. Now, I'm lucky if I can walk half a block before I'm in severe pain. I have to sit down in the middle of vacuuming, sweeping, and doing the dishes. I have to use a motorized cart at Wal-Mart when I shop because there is no way I can walk all the way through the store without severe back pain. And I totally relate to Heidi when she says she can't even wipe her own ass and how that makes her feel (I'm not there yet, but if I gain any more weight, I could be). I can't sleep flat on my back in bed because my back cramps and it hurts to move. I can't keep my right leg straight in bed because then it doesn't want to bend without pain. I had these problems before the WLS, but they've gotten worse since. My nurse practitioner back then didn't want to see if anything else was causing the problems, she was just positive it was my weight, and I was fool enough to believe her. Yeah, when I lost the weight, before I gained it back, I felt better and could move more easily (after I healed), but that short period of time where I felt better and could do more was so not worth what I'm dealing with now.
When I applied for SSDI and had to go see their doctor, he said "Yeah, you're disabled all right. Have you ever thought about WLS?" Told him been there done that, no way is it happening again, it doesn't work, and I'm proof. He said I should try the RNY (a friend of mine in New York City had it done last year, he went from 325 to 265 and he's currently at 290). Yeah, right, I am so not going there. No more WLS for me. I have enough problems from the last one, why the hell would I want to give them another chance to fuck me up even more? But that is my personal decision, based on what has happened to me.
I am not going to pass judgment on people who are considering WLS/WLD because I haven't walked in their shoes. I don't know how bad their lives are, nor do I have any idea what they have to cope with. If I were to be asked if I thought it was a good idea, I would have to say no, just from my own experience. I know diets don't work in the long run, been there done that too many times. I know WLS didn't work for me, and it killed my best friend, so I don't have a lot of faith in it either. However, for some people, this may seem like their only chance to improve their life and they may be willing to deal with all the possible complications and the possibility that they may even die. If their lives are so bad that risking death via WLS seems like a viable option, who am I to tell them no?
Banning people from the FA movement because they are desperate for an improved life is not kind or compassionate. I can understand that it's hard to see how someone who is having WLS could say that they love their body when they are willing to mutilate it. But it's damned hard to love a body that doesn't let you move, that you can't take proper care of, and that causes you pain every hour of every day. Those people can bring a needed perspective to this movement, just by telling us what is happening with them and how they got to the point that WLS seemed to be their only option. Why wasn't something done earlier, before a person got to the point that WLS seemed to be the only way out? What illnesses/diseases weren't diagnosed because all a doctor saw was the fat and refused to look further? What can we do to stop this insanity and get people to realize that fat is not the enemy, it's the blindness and bigotry that says everyone must be thin to be worthwhile?
I know this is not going to be popular with some, but it's the way I feel. I'm working hard to love the body I have, but I can tell you, there are days when I go "Body, I don't like you much today, you hurt and I can't do what I want/need to do, and I'm so tired of this shit." I also have days that are pretty good and I like my body and what I can do, and I'm looking forward to more of them as I get in better shape. But it's not an easy road, and I've made a lot of wrong turns and detours on the way. I'll get there, eventually. But shutting me out, and people like me, because we've made those wrong turns, doesn't advance anything.


  1. Thanks for this post. I like that you include everyone in your FA circle and not just the ones who believe the way you do. I also appreciate that you explained how you got to where you are now both physically and emotionally.

    Personally, I'm going to think about this every time I'm tempted to do major carb restrictions because of my diabetes. When I do the extreme low carb, I can't stay on it and when I go off my insulin resistance seems worse. Then my control is more difficult and oh yes, I gain weight. I'm worse off than when I started. Now if I can just remember this!

  2. Thanks, Caprice, I debated for a couple of hours before I posted. I wasn't sure I wanted to put myself out there like that, but I can't stand by when I see something I think is wrong happening.
    It takes all of us to make this work, whether we have dieted, had surgery, or not. Everyone has experiences that can contribute and help and enlighten.

  3. I'm really glad you told this story, Mariellen. Thank you.

  4. Hi, I wandered over here from the Fatosphere. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your side of things - it was truly moving.

  5. Thanks, Kate, I read what you posted and that was part of what made me decide to post. I have read a lot of what Kell had posted in the past, some of which I agreed with, some I did not. But where I didn't agree with her, I just figured it's her opinion and she's entitled to it. I'll agree to disagree and let it go.
    I don't know Heidi, but I read what she wrote and cried because it hit so close to home for me, so when someone attacks her, I think putting another perspective out there can't hurt, might help, and might let people know why some choices are made that we don't think are the best (but may be the only ones we have).

  6. Thank you for posting this - I feel sometimes I'm not a viable member of the Fat Acceptance movement because I actually do want to improve my quality of life by getting in shape and looking forward to the weightloss (if any) that results from getting in shape. Its nice to know that people like me, that do want to change, are still accepted.

  7. Maiden, I want to get in better shape too, just to improve the quality of my life. If weight loss happens, that's fine, but I'm not counting on it. I'll be happy if I just end up stronger and more flexible and even just semi-pain-free.

  8. Mariellen, that was beautifully and eloquently stated, and made me cry. I wish I could hug you right now.

  9. I hope this doesn't come off wrong, but have you reconsidered your definition of "healthy" when you have trouble walking a block?

    I'm not saying that it's your fault, but that is a serious health problem for someone who isn't particularly old, like you.

    I hear that exercise is very, very good for arthritis problems, even though it makes things hurt worse in the short run. If you have health insurance, it would probably do a lot of good to get physical therapy, or otherwise you could sign up for a water aerobics class, where you are able to exercise in a pool where there is much less stress on your joints.

    I know that you are anti-diet, but from what you told me, your weight is still increasing, which may be even more trouble on your joints, especially as you age. Ignoring calories, are you able to substitute highly energy-dense foods for things like apples, which are much more filling but aren't very energy dense?

    Just trying to help. It's conflicting that you are anti-diet, but you still realize that your weight makes other problems worse for you.

  10. This is a great post. Eight years ago, when I was only 29, I couldn't hold down food. I would vomit up to 8 times a day. I'm sorry if this is TMI, but sometimes I would thow up walking down the street. I couldn't even be discreet about it.

    The doctors treated me like I was mentally ill, and didn't believe me, because I was chubby! I wasn't fat, at the time I was about 145 - 150 lbs, smaller than my picture on the BMI project. But the doctors looked at me and determined that I must be lying because I wasn't skinny.

    Eventually, a heroic chiropractor diagnosed my hiatal hernia, my espophogus was twisted and unable to let food travel. He adjusted and still adjusts my stomach so that it doesn't go too much out of place anymore.

    When I was that sick there were times I wanted to kill myself because I couldn't take it anymore. I thought if nobody even believed I was sick, how could I ever recover? So who the hell am I to tell Heidi she shouldn't take whatever risk she feels she needs to take to live the life she wants and so richly deserves.

    I have no idea if this will work for her, but how could I, as a human being and as someone who knows what life is like as very sick person, wish her anything but success?

    So I would say to Kell and anyone else that wishes Heidi harm for making this decision, if you think my support for her makes me a bad (non?) fat acceptance activist, I don't give a shit. I'd rather be a decent and compassionate human being.

  11. Fascinating, and everytime I come to your blog, my heart aches for your friend, may she rest in peace.
    I wish that you wouldn't think of yourself as a fool to believe your nurse. It's not a belief, it's brainwashing, witness Anonymous, I'm guessing-she read your arresting tale and got nothing more than yet another lecture about food and exercise. Even though you told us about your active youth. This is about the surprises the human body still holds for us, google 'retired althlete's syndrome' and you'll see what I mean! But hey V44, don't keep us in suspense, have you tried apples? I hear if you stick one up your arse, it makes the whole world seem brand new.

  12. Hi there, thanks very much for your story about WLS!

    I'm in NO WAY trying to diagnose you (uh, like anonymous up there), but I was curious if they've checked out your gall bladder. A very good friend of mine had many similar back issues (as did I, but she was larger so they ignored her for like two years where they listened to me right away). Turned out it was gall stones--I myself can walk and vacuum now but before the gall bladder removal I had to stop half way through vacuuming my living room. Your story just reminded me of the two of us, is all, and I know sometimes they refuse to consider anything besides weight.

    The good friend also eventually had the WLS, and was sick all the time afterward (she usually vomited. Like, every day). Then she finally got someone to check past the band with a scope and found her stomach all screwed up, so she had to have it again. Unbelievable.

    Peace and good health to you!

  13. Amelia June, I had my gallbladder out in 1987, so I know the back problems aren't from that. They could be caused by the ventral hernia I got from the gallbladder surgery (that I had repaired in 1997, but has returned). Also could be because I got hit by a car when I was 19 and had my pelvis fractured in 3 places (and being young, I ignored the doctors who said I couldn't stand or walk for 6 weeks afterwards). I couldn't handle being in a wheelchair for that long and after about 3 weeks, I got crutches and started walking everywhere (I needed the crutches because I also had both bones in my left lower leg broken when the car hit me). I had one specialist who wanted me to have an MRI to see what the problem was with my back, but I couldn't lay on my back for the 90 minutes it took to complete the MRI (that was before the standing and seated MRIs). And now, with no insurance, and not a lot of money, I can't afford to go through all the tests to find out what the cause is. So I'm doing my little bit of yoga, and using my stretchy bands and hoping that will improve my mobility and the pain.

  14. anonymous, if your definition of health is that I have to be able to walk more than a block without pain, that's a pretty limited view of health. Every time I see a new doctor, the first thing they ask me is if I'm diabetic (because I'm fat so I must be diabetic, right?). They also don't understand why I don't have high blood pressure, or why my cholesterol levels are so good. So in that sense, that I don't have any of those problems, and I'm not asthmatic, yeah, I'm healthy, just with mobility issues.
    And I can guarantee you that I eat fewer calories than my diabetic husband. And nowhere did I say I was still gaining weight. Until I had my physical in February this year (at my husband's insistence, and he paid the bill for it, we were married in Dec of '06), I hadn't been on a scale in over 8 years. So I don't know if I gained that 40 lbs right along with the 70 I regained from my WLS, or if it took me 8 years to gain it all.
    And you're doing the same fucking thing all the damned doctors do, it's my weight causing the problems. How the hell do you know? Do you have a crystal ball that tells you this? Even when I didn't weigh as much as I do now, and when I weighed less than I did when I had my WLS, I still had back problems, and I still had problems with my knee. My weight has been 175 to 235 to 175 to 325 to 220 to 350 to 280 to 390 (see how well diets and WLS work?), and at ALL of those weights, I had back problems and knee problems. So don't tell me it's all because of TEH FAT.

  15. Vesta44-

    Why are you attacking ME? You were the one who says you weighed 350 pounds instead of your current weight.

  16. Anonymous, and just what the hell am I supposed to do about my weight? Diets don't work, been there done that. WLS doesn't work, been there done that. So unless you have some magic bullet that's going to provide permanent weight loss, saying "It's conflicting that you are anti-diet, but you still realize that your weight makes other problems worse for you." does absolutely nothing. I don't know that it's my weight causing this, I don't know WHAT is causing it because I can't get any doctor to look past the fat for causes. It's not my weight when I have good days where I can do more things than on my bad days. If I had the same problems at 175 lbs that I have at 390 lbs, then I don't think it's weight alone that is the CAUSE. Yes, my weight MIGHT aggravate the problems, but I don't KNOW that for sure. And absent a way to lose weight and keep it off PERMANENTLY, I'm just shit out of luck, aren't I. So talking about weight and losing it get me absolutely nowhere, and if I try losing weight again, I could (and probably would, given the track record of diets) end up even worse off than I am now. I am so not going there. So unless you have something more constructive than lose weight and exercise, you don't have anything to say that I want to hear.
    And I do exercise, as much as I am able. Not that I have to justify myself to you, you don't know me, other than what you've read on my blog. And I don't know you either, since you won't post a name.

  17. vesta wrote "my then-weight of 350..." and mentioned that she regained it all PLUS 40 lbs. Which, if you do the math, is pretty much the number indicated on her homepage.

  18. Do you have exercise goals for yourself?

    Exercise doesn't necessarily have to do anything with weight/fat. But it really could make arthritis problems more manageable.

  19. lady jaye-

    "Now, damn it all, I just wish I was back at that 350 lb mark. At least then I could do a hell of a lot more than I can now."

    That was the comment I was referring to.

  20. Anonymous, are you willing to exercise when you are in severe pain? I'm not talking minor aches and pains here, I'm talking pain where if I have to stand for more than 10 minutes or walk for more than 75 feet, I'm crying because my lower back has cramped up, my legs are numb, and I can't fucking feel the floor. I've lived with this kind of pain for the last 20 years. Doctors ask me to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. For me, because I'm used to it, it's a 10. For someone who has not dealt with severe pain on a daily basis, they would rate it 15 or more. I can take 1500 mg of tylenol, or 1600 mg of ibuprofen and that doesn't even TOUCH the pain I feel. So most of the time, I don't even bother with pain medication, I know it's not going to work so I deal with the pain.
    Yeah, I have exercise goals, but obviously you don't know how to read, since you didn't see that I said I was doing yoga and using my stretchy bands. But that's not exercise is it, because I'm not walking blocks and blocks, right? I'm doing it sitting down, so it doesn't qualify.
    And damn right I get bitchy when someone presumes to know what I should be doing when they don't know me, haven't seen what I've had to deal with, and don't have a clue what I'm doing to try and improve my life.


  22. anonymous, I know what physical therapy is, I'm not stupid, even though I am fat. But to take advantage of physical therapy, you have to have insurance that will cover it, a doctor that will prescribe it, and the financial ability to cover the costs that insurance doesn't.
    Before I got married last year, I had insurance through work, but I didn't make enough money to cover the co-pays, so it was virtually useless. Now that I'm married, the only insurance I can get is TriCare, through my husband (he's retired after 20 years in the Navy) and I still can't afford the deductibles and copays. So yeah, physical therapy is out there and available, and might even help me, but if I can't afford it, it does me no good at all. So it's not just a matter of "physical therapy can help you, go get it". It's "where do I get the money to pay for it, how do I find a doctor to say I need it so my insurance will cover at least part of it, and what bills do I not pay so I can get it?"
    It's easy to sit back and say this is the solution to your problem when you don't have to pay for that solution.

  23. You mentioned you were applying for SSDI. How did that go? You should be able to get medicaid that way. Additionally there are hospitals that will see you for either extremely low co-pays or nothing if you qualify based on hardship, so you may be able to see a PT and a doctor that way.

  24. Thankyou for sharing your story, Mariellen. You've been through a hell of a lot (and still are!) and I wish you the very best.

    For exercise and pain relief, I've found that nothing beats a swimming pool. Ah... support... and resistance for exercise. It almost makes me want to not leave. I wish there were more around. Is there anything near you?

    I think we need more basic facilities and doctors who ask what the hell going on, not dangerous medical "solutions" and people who blame it all on teh fatz.

  25. cp - the only swimming pools I know of here are at the two motels (they're both indoor pools too), but it's rather spendy to use them much (damn it all). I do like to swim, though, will have to see if I can use one of them and then see if it will work into the budget (and damn the money considerations too).
    I'm all for better doctors and looking beyond teh fatz, for sure.


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