World Obesity Day

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Today is World Obesity Day. I have been obese – my BMI was 48. Normal weight range for my height is 62-70kg approx. On many charts I am still slightly overweight, and that’s ok.

Weight loss surgery saved my life, but it is not a cure. I am an addict and always will be. Some people would argue I am a “recovering addict” but I am not so sure. The struggle is real, daily, and hard. Bloody hard.

I have tools I can use, including my tiny stomach, and a host of psychological tips and tricks. The harsh reality, though, is my head craves the dopamine hit food gives me. Food is my best friend & comfort, and my solution to everything – shame, anger, boredom, tiredness and so on. Some days I won, some days I lose – some days I chose the dopamine hit.

A drug addict can survive the rest of their life without another fix, an alcoholic can avoid ever tasting alcohol again. I have to face my drug of choice – food – multiple times a day in order to survive.

Next time you see someone who is obese, please don’t judge them. They might be mortally ashamed (yes, fat shame kills us because we avoid the medical system). They might have already lost 1, 10 or 100kgs. They might be booked in for weight loss surgery or trying to fund it. They might have had surgery, regained the weight and are wondering if suicide is the only way out.

Obesity is not just about the food we put in our mouths. It’s about our society, childhood deprivation (especially of maternal love), environmental factors, poverty, and much more. Please don’t judge. Please do support.

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3 years ago

Today it’s 3 years since I had weight loss surgery; C bypass to be precise, also called a mini bypass. It was meant to be RNY Bypass but I had so much internal scarring it couldn’t be done. My surgeon, Atul, prefers this operation but it’s not popular in NZ.

My highest weight was 139.9kg and my lowest post surgery was 60kg, which wasn’t a good look. I got so low, not by trying, but because I got incredibly sick and was in and out of hospital including a brief stint on life support.

I’m back to exactly where Atul (and the surgeons in New Plymouth who treated me) said I should be – 75kg. Some days my head tells me that the gain means I have failed and will get super fat again. But the sensible part of me knows that is not true. The reality is I was too thin, it didn’t look good especially for my face, and I felt frail.

We’ve been talking about our mental wellbeing on a FB support group and I just commented that “All of us – fit or not, at goal or not, plastic surgery or not – have to find a place where our bodies & our heads are comfortable and that we can maintain without weight/fitness being the main focus of our lives – because that’s not really living”.

At this weight I can eat fairly normally in a high protein, healthy fat & low carb way. I don’t exercise because of my physical limitations so can’t rely on that for extra control. And my weight is not the biggest thing in my life.

I am incredibly grateful to Atul; I believe he saved my life and I continue to save it by doing the right things. I am still a food addict, and chocolate is my crack, but I have the tools to manage no. So grateful…

 

Skin, again … and self acceptance

Warning: weight loss, plastic surgery, half dressed photos (you’ve been warned…)

 

I seem destined to be honest about skin post weight loss surgery. I had the conversation again yesterday with someone who has been very successful post WLS, had some work done, and is considering more. I think she looks sporty normal, but her reality is different to mine. My question was “when will you be ok with who you are?” –  “when will it be enough” or words to that effect. We had a good talk and it helped both of us. I’m so grateful for her honesty.

I wrote about my skin at the beginning of last year here, and my opinion is essentially the same now. I posted a photo on a private WLS FaceBook page this morning and commented that “My thighs are less droppy than they were, but very loose skin. Same with arms. Neck is turkey-ish & boobs are basically empty socks with a rock in the bottom. My stomach is the bad bit. Because of past botched surgery it’s very uneven – the apron is heavy and low. It’s encased in strong undies in this photo. (and of course my poor damaged knees mean bandy legs!) But it’s ok enough for me. My body works despite the shit I handed it over decades. Sure I use a walking stick a lot of the time, but I do 4000-6000 steps most days, work fulltime and have a good life. Fully dressed I look normal. Anyway who seems me not fully dressed is aware what lurks beneath and doesn’t mind (well, my sister has never said she minds lol)”

I’m heavier than last year, so less floppy skin, and my middle is fatter. I think overall I’m better off for it. I’d like to lose 5kg again, but it’s not a ditch I need to die in.

I think the message is – be ok with who you are. We are so often kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

As with last year’s post I have been hesitating to hit the publish button – but then I think of bikinis, Walmart shoppers, and the fact some people need to know this. If you don’t like seeing the photos, stop reading…

 

 

Ok enough in my own skin

I’ve been chatting with a friend about the spare skin that comes with significant weight loss. Deciding or surgery, or not, is a big deal and impacts on your physical and mental health.

In my case, surgery isn’t an option because of the risk of ending up on life support again due to my dodgy airway. I doubt I would do it anyway. I’m ok enough in my own skin most of the time.

I also support those who feel the need to get it fixed so they can move on; I think there’s balance needed though. When you’ve abused your body so much you need weight loss surgery, your body is never going to be perfect and that needs to be ok for your mental wellbeing. (I may be wrong on that of course – maybe perfection is possible?)

Small Dylusions journal. Paints: Chopped pesto, Lemon zest, Periwinkle blue. Stencils: Teardrops, Diamonds in the rough, Shutters. Stamps: Dyan’s alphabet. Other: Tim Holtz tall text stamps, Distress Ink, Archival ink, white gel pen, Pitt Big Brush pen, Distress collage medium. 

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P!nk – Courage

I’m still recording the music I love in my art journals. I enjoy the process, but also it tells people a lot about me. Music is a huge part of my life; I listen at home, in the car, at work, while I cook…
This is P!nk’s Courage. It speaks to me because maintaining my weight loss means having the courage to face all the reasons I overeat. The courage to dig deep emotionally, face my fears, feel emotions instead of smothering them with food.
This page is in my large Dylusions journal. Inks: Peony blush, Bubblegum Pink. Postbox red & White Linen. Paints: Peony blush & Funky fuschia. Stencils: Teardrops, Star struc &  Diamond in the rough. Stamps: Dy’s alphabet. Other: Archival ink, Distress ink, white gel pen.
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No, it isn’t easy

Trigger warning: abuse, weight loss surgery.

I’m still recording the lyrics I love, this time it’s P!nk’s (Hey Why) Miss You Sometime. No doubt she was writing about a partner but, for me, this could easily be about food. Yes, food – chocolate, savouries, ice cream. OMG Sante Bars!

 

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I had weight loss surgery, three years ago this September, and have lost over 70kg. It probably saved my life. But here’s the thing – I’m still a food addict. Surgery is a tool, not a cure. The line “thousand nights I’ve said goodbye, almost lost my mind”. That’s me and chocolate. Chocolate is my answer to grief, pain, shame, embarrassment, loss, fear, boredom, loneliness; anything and everything.

For me, food does two things. It smothers my emotions, and I’ll do anything to avoid feeling emotions. I’ve lived most of my life carefully flat. And, as an addict, certain food gives me a dopamine hit and my brain lights up with sheer joy. That’s the hard truth of it.

On book I’ve read on addiction suggests pain and shame is at the heart of all addictions. For me, the pain and shame stems from low-level but damaging abuse as a kid by a friend of my father, and an abusive first marriage. Now’s not the time to write more about it, just putting it out there and parking it for now.

Despite the weight loss surgery, and a lot of work on “fixing my head”, maintaining a healthy weight will be a lifelong journey for me. If you think weight loss surgery is an easy out, think again.

And, to finish. I love people, love people’s bodies and think all bodies should be honoured – including fat ones. I don’t hate fat bodies, far from it. My father died of a heart attack at 65, Mum died slowly over more than a decade – my decision to have surgery was to try and avoid what happened to them, and a recognition that I could never lose weight on my own. I have *no* judgment of other people’s bodies.

Hiding the details

When I journal, it really is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Currently I’m using a Dina Wakley mixed media journal, which I love, to “download my head”. If you’ve been foll wing me a while, you know I’ve had weight loss surgery and as part of that journey have faced up to my food addiction, abusive first marriage, miscarriages etc.

All my feelings get poured out into my journals, and I share all my pages, but some of that I don’t want others reading – and don’t even want to re-read myself because the psychologist think that creates a ‘loop’ in your head.

How do I write down the hard stuff, then share it safely?  There’s a number of things I do:

  • Cover the writing with a light coat of gesso or Tim Holtz Distress Paint
  • Put it in a sealed pocket or enveloped attached to the page
  • Cover it with printed tissue paper, such as the Tim Holtz range
  • Use scribble writing – this is my go-to

I did the background with Tim Holtz Distress paints and StencilGirl stencils, and the tag with Andy Skinner stamps using Stampin’ Up ink and a red Tombow, then wrapped some red cotton round it. I used a thick black Pilot pen for the journaling and added some messy burgundy and red cotton under the tag with Tombow glue to ground it a bit.

technique

This page talks about some hard stuff we’re facing at the moment, and how I feel about it. It’s personal and involves other people – it’s not just my story – so I needed to think about their privacy too.

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Inner thoughts

When I’m getting ‘stuff’ out of my head I often use this Dina Wakley journal – it has 4 different types of media in it and I really like it. The writing on this is about my weight loss, the ongoing struggle to be in the right head space, and the reasons I eat as an addict.

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Of monsters and men

Anyone else a fan of “Of monsters and men”? They’ve got some great music, but that’s not what I’m writing about. Last time I blogged I talked about scribble writing in my journals because, although I’m pretty open, I don’t share everything for the reasons I wrote about then. 

(Trigger warning: abuse, domestic violence)

I follow Grant Shimmin on Twitter and he wrote an excellent article this week, which has made me speak out a bit more. If you follow me, you know I’ve had weight loss surgery and as part of the journey I’ve done 2+ years of counselling and am still unpacking the shit in my head. Part of that is realising how awful my first marriage was – something I carefully hid from myself (and others). When we separated most of our friends were completely unprepared because we seemed so fortunate except for my infertility.

My ex-husband wasn’t a monster. He was an ordinary man who could be difficult and had mental health issues (severe, crippling depression). It’s really only this last six months or so I have started to admit I was abused. Not physically, but there are ways to abuse people where the scars aren’t obvious. I am dealing with the impacts of that abuse now thanks to counselling and other support.

Does Tony know the extent of the abuse? No. Will I tell him the details? No. He fell in love with the product of that abuse – I don’t mean he was/is abusive. Far from it; he’s one of life’s gentle supportive people. But the things that make me “me” – behaviours, actions, ways of being – are a product of that abusive relationship and he’s dealing with a changing me. That’s enough for anyone.

As I said, people were shocked when we separated. Because men who abuse others – physically, emotionally, sexually and financially – men who rape and attack – get away with it because of their seeming normalcy. They don’t wear a sign saying “hey, I’m a monster so be careful”. My ex was probably Tony’s best friend, we all used to hang round together. He had some great friends, who are no doubt very loyal and would say I’m lying – one of the reasons I have never spoken up, and also out of respect for his kids.

When the Courts, media etc say men have “acted out of character” or are “good men who suddenly snapped” they are wrong; this narrative enables men to keep abusing, and silences victims. I know from personal experience that abuse is insidious and increases over time, but often remains hidden because of shame and an attempt to maintain a sense of (admittedly damaged) self. When women say they’re abused, believe them. When someone says a good man “snapped” call bullshit…

 

 

Recording the hard stuff

I was talking with someone on a FB group page and they commented that you can’t journal the hard stuff because others might read it. It means you can’t share the page, so others don’t get to be inspired by your art.

I disagree; I’ve always journaled the good, bad and ugly in my scrapbooks and art journals. As an ex scrapbooking teacher, I’ve always shared my art in person and online.

Sometimes I write it all out so it’s legible and figure, if I share the hard or ugly stuff, I might help others get through and be able to tell their stories. We can all help create safe places for others to share their experiences, especially around addiction, mental health and abuse / domestic violence. I’ve never felt my life has to look perfect in order to share online.

But, even for me, there are things I don’t want the world reading about. Sometimes it is just too raw, other times it’s because it would compromise another person in some way. Often it’s about my food addiction, addictive personality, Tony’s health or my relationship with others who support me (or have similar issues) that I’m wanting to talk about.

When I want to record things but don’t want it to be legible, I use “scribble writing” so I get it all out of my head, but no one can read it. I usually start in the middle of the pages then work up and down, so the lines aren’t consecutive, and make sure the writing is loopy and overlaps. If’ you’re a scrapbooker or art journaler I’d encouarge you to record it all, it’s very healing.

For the record, this page is about some of the head struggles I’ve had this week, more than 2 years post weight loss surgery, what I’m doing about it, and the support I get from people.

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