Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm a healthy fatty

I have an announcement to make.  I am overweight.  No wait, I'm obese.  Yes, according to my BMI, which is almost 35, I am considered obese.  No, that wasn't the announcement.  

I'm healthy.  It can't be true, right?!  Fat people can't be healthy.  But I just got my blood labs back from my doctor's office and I am perfectly healthy.  

My blood pressure was 117/81.  Sure the lower number might be a bit high, but it's still in a normal range.  

My TSH (thyroid) is 1.43 (normal is 0.34 - 3.5).  My thyroid hormone was normal.

My cholesterol was 180 mg/dl (normal is less than 200).  My HDL (the "good" cholesterol) was 64 (greater than 50 is normal).  My LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) was 97 (the desired value is less than 130, or 100 for heart disease or diabetes).  My triglycerides are 97 (normal is less than 150). 

All of my vitamin levels were normal.  This is the first time in the nine years since I've had gastric bypass that all my vitamin levels were normal!!  YAY!!!!

The only remaining issue is that my CRP is still elevated -- 4.3.  Normal is under 3.  However, I have learned that elevated CRP doesn't automatically mean inflammation of the heart.  It just means inflammation in the body.  So maybe my foot issue and all the swelling is causing the elevation.  I can have it re-tested after surgery.  CRP is, however, supposed to be the best indicator of future heart attack when all other numbers appear to be at normal levels.  So...hmmm.....

Anyway, although that last part still concerns me somewhat, I am happy to report that I am a healthy fatty.  I am still working on eating healthier foods because I know that's how I'm going to get through this foot surgery without weight gain.   

I know I've been writing a lot about health and fat lately.  It's on my mind a lot.  I hope to soon be back to the regularly scheduled programming of pole dancing and having fun!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let me explain...

I recently wrote about the health problems I had post-gastric bypass. I realize that my title may have been misleading. I recognize that my health problems aren't simply related to being "skinny." 

So many factors make-up "good" or "bad" health. For me, now that I am malabsorptive, I will always have a difficult time getting the nutrition my body needs. Genetics play a role. Heart issues run in my family. Environment. Age. Healthy food habits are important. Exercise is very important. Yes, even weight can play a role. But weight is NOT the only factor that determines health. 

I guess I just worry that classifying obesity as an official medical diagnosis is going to open the door to more diet pill prescriptions and weight loss surgery, which is NOT the easy way out. Skinny doesn't mean healthy. I wish insurance companies would put a higher value on health.  

Sadly, stomach amputation IS the most successful weight loss tool available. Diets reportedly fail 95% of the time, meaning 95% of people gain all of their weight back (and more) within three years (some will argue it's all in the willpower but they are generally statements made by a person who has never been obese -- no, losing 10 pounds doesn't count). It's hard to find accurate gastric bypass numbers (not skewed to the negative by people who are against the surgery or skewed in the other direction by companies offering the surgery). From what I can gather, the average weight loss surgery patient maintains 50% of their weight loss at ten years out. Considering the surgery has really only been popular for ten years, I can't vouch for the accuracy of those numbers. I personally know people at every stage. I know a few people who have maintained their "goal." I know a couple of people who have gained a lot (if not all) back. And I know a lot of people like me, struggling with 25 to 75 pounds of weight gain, but still fitting the bill to be a "successful"/average weight loss surgery patient. 

My only wish is, for those who DO decide that weight loss surgery is the right choice for them, that they go to therapy to figure out why they over-ate. For compulsive over-eaters like myself, I DO consume too much food. I'm not going against HAES or making a judgment call. I admittedly do not have healthy food habits. Nine years post-surgery, I am finally trying to deal with that. 

So, since I know I have not been very clear. I AM trying to be an advocate for Health At Every Size. That is, I want to make healthy choices for myself, both in the food AND exercise departments. I want to fight the stigma and shame that society has put on fat people. We don't have to all be friends but you don't need to tell fat people to workout then call them cows when you see them at the gym. Also, I personally don't need a high five or unsolicited diet/exercise advice. I'm just like everyone else at the gym. Have respect and treat people like you would your favorite grandmother. You don't have to want to look at them naked but you do need to treat them with respect. Telling us we just need to eat that exercise...get off the couch...and otherwise guilt and shame us doesn't help. Your concern isn't needed. You can keep your opinions to yourself.

So, sadly, even in the HAES community, there is some judgment of each other. We are all on our own journeys to be happy, healthy and to accept our own bodies. I understand that many are against weight loss surgery (and for understandable reasons). That is not a decision you can make for someone else. I can't even say knowing all the health problems I have now that I wouldn't have made the same choice to have surgery. I just don't know. What I do know is I did make the choice to have surgery, I'm still fat and so now I'm just trying to learn how to be healthy. I'm a work in progress. I still often think about being thinner than I am now. I can't apologize for it. Society has told me my whole life that I'm not right. I'm still getting comfortable with the fact that no one is "right." No one is perfect!! 

My hope in writing this is that people will understand that I don't need judgment about my life choices. I really enjoy being part of the weight loss surgery groups so that I can help educate people about my reality surrounding surgery. I also enjoy being a part of the HAES/fat acceptance community. I am learning so much and loving the self-esteem that oozes from so many of these ladies. I hope some rubs off on me.

So, there you have it. Full disclosure. I am part of two communities who have VERY different views. And I appreciate those who have accepted me knowing my history. I created a group on Facebook where those who have had weight loss surgery can talk about Health At Every Size. Please join me if you too are dealing with regain and want to discuss it in a place where there is no judgment. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Open House: Entangle & Sway

On Friday, I went on an after-work adventure in San Francisco.  I stuck around the City to check out Entangle & Sway's open house.  I have long been Facebook friends with E&S owner, Nikki Brady, but we had yet to meet in person.  I always meant to make it to previous open houses, but have always been wary of coming into the City on a Friday night.  Well, now that I work here and have had some public transportation experience, I felt like the time was right.

Located in an adorable neighborhood near the Presidio in San Francisco, I almost wasn't expecting to open the door into a dance studio.  They are a female-only studio with an emphasis on learning sexy moves and building self-esteem.  They only have two mirrors for those learning advanced tricks, and they turn on red lights when they dance.  It really allows students to get out of their heads and into their moves.  

There was a showcase, which included both students and instructors.  I really enjoyed each and every performance.  I am missing pole since my foot has been injured.  I have also stepped away from "sexy" moves in the last year or so.  I felt very inspired to get back into it.  

I was talking to a fellow local poler (well, newly local...Amy only moved here from Boston recently) about the pole community in the San Francisco Bay Area.  There really aren't a ton of studios for such a large area and we aren't anything like Los Angeles or New York when it comes to being pole-crazy.  I really am excited to support local pole studios so that we can have a happy, healthy community that promotes growth.

Thank you to Nikki and her girls for sharing their pole love with me last week!  I hope to make it out for some future workshops after my wonky foot has healed!  If you are in the San Francisco area and are looking for a studio, please check out Entangle & Sway!  

If obesity is a disease, then why do I have more health problems after losing 165 pounds?

Obesity was recently classified as a disease by the American Medical Association (AMA).  Being part of Fat Activist and Size Acceptance groups, you can imagine that this is causing some waves.  You might have thought that us fatties would be stoked to be classified as having a disease and therefore have proof in hand that we are unable to control our circumstances.  This is not exactly the case.  Even if it is proven that diets and weight loss trickery doesn't work 95% of the time, therefore showing us that most of it *is* out of our control, it doesn't have to be classified as a disease to prove it is so.  Does that even make sense?

As you may know if you're following my journey, I fully understand that not all fat people are unhealthy, just like not all thin people are healthy.  Fat doesn't equal automatic health problems.  In fact, at 350 pounds, I didn't have health problems.  No diabetes.  No sleep apnea.  No high blood pressure.  No high cholesterol.  Nope, my thyroid isn't broken.  Nothing.  I was informed over and over that those things were going to happen to me.  I was GOING TO DIE.  It was just a matter of time.  I was promised.  (By the way, I know thin people with those health problems, so I guess they're not just for obese people anyway.  And thin people die too, just so you know.)  I'll never know if those health issues were going to materialize.  I was told that I had an enlarged, fatty heart and the only way to fix it was losing weight.  So I opted for gastric bypass surgery 9 years ago.  I lost 165 pounds. 

At my lowest weight, I had low blood pressure and low blood sugar.  I lost a ton of hair and had no energy.  I would randomly pass out if I stood for too long without moving (going to concerts, one of my favorite activities, became a lot of fun).  Once I even passed out at work, just sitting at my desk (losing consciousness, by the way, puts you at risk of losing your driver's license).  I put on a little weight and those issues resolved themselves.  However, I get my blood tested every year and even at nine years out, I am still deficient in some vitamin or another each year (generally B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron...).  I am now dealing with a very painful bone spur in my foot, which is most likely a by-product of calcium absorption issues.  

My best friend and me at 8 years old...she's 3 days older than me
Sadly, though, I know I had surgery, not just to be "healthy," but to be thin.  I battled being fat my whole life and I just wanted to fit in.  Even at my lowest weight, I wasn't skinny.  I'm 6 feet tall now.  There is no time in my life that I was ever considered small anyway.  So, classified as a disease or not...I really can't help my circumstances.

Anyway, there are a couple of good articles/blog entries about this subject, so please feel free to read them below.  The first is Ragen's blog, Dances With Fat.  I like how she works toward people not feeling shame for anything.  Not for being alive.  Not for being fat.  And not for having any disease.

The next begs the question, if obesity is a disease, why are so many obese people healthy?

Cheers to that.  Although, I do still take slight issue with the BMI reference in that article.  BMI isn't exactly an accurate picture of anyone's health either; it is only an out-of-date height-to-weight ratio.  Bodybuilders and athletes can easily have a high BMI because they have a ton of muscle mass.  Just like calories in versus calories burned isn't an exact science.  But whatever...  We know we aren't working in a perfect world. 

I know I have blamed a lot of my pain on my recent weight gain.  Someone had posted a comment on one of my blogs basically asking, what IF your pain wasn't weight-related?  I mean, she's right.  I'm still 100 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight.  Sure, I'm also nine years older, which might also be contributing to my issues.  (Just like I didn't have much cellulite at 27 years old and 350 pounds but holy moly, at 36 and 250 pounds...hello dimply thighs!!!)  Or maybe some genetic or other health issue that I don't know about is wreaking havoc on my body.  It doesn't have to be fat.  I am just so conditioned to blame my fat for everything.

Side note:  Did you know I'm a sweaty beast?  I blame my fat for that.  Yet my mother tells a story of wrapping me up in a blanket at six months old, looking back at me in my car seat and seeing beads of sweat on my little nose.  Apparently I've always been a sweaty beast.  Fat didn't cause that.  

Anyway, I don't know if I have a very strong opinion on the AMA declaring obesity a disease.  I just know that I have personal experience with the fat versus thin and healthy versus not debate...and no one can tell me that being skinny is the way to fix all of your problems, health-related or otherwise.

I started a group on Facebook where those who have had weight loss surgery or are considering it can ask questions.  Often those of us who have already had surgery, but have battled some weight gain, are ashamed to talk about our issues.  I wanted people to have a safe place to talk about surgery, how it has affected their life and still try to appreciate that their body is what it is.  The group is called, "Where WLS and HAES co-exist peacefully."  It's still a small group but we are growing.  Please join us if you are wanting to make peace with your body.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Surgery is on the books...

The surgery to deal with my bone spur is scheduled for August 8th.  I'm frustrated that it's so far away but realize it will be here before I know it.  I'm anxious to get back to my life and activity.  

I will be off work for about a month.  I work in a very interesting place.  No one really cares about anyone else.  No one notices if you dye your hair a crazy color.  And no one really gives a shit when you tell them you're going to be gone for a month.  Oh, except the person who is going to get the phone calls from the attorneys who are going to hate the temp that ends up at my desk.  It's kind of sad, really.  I've never worked somewhere that is so uncaring about its employees.  It actually works out to my advantage though, since that means I don't have to feel even a tiny bit guilty about not being here.  It works both ways.  Don't get me wrong.  There is a small group of people here that I like...but I would call them more like comfortable work acquaintances.  I don't have anyone's cell phone number and haven't gone out for drinks with any of them (save the MMA fight I did attend with some was a lot of fun and I kinda wish we did more things like that).  It's hard to like your job and be motivated to come to work when you don't care about many people there.

I froze my gym membership already.  Everything hurts my foot.  Cycle.  Yoga.  Even swimming.  But doing nothing hurts my foot as well.  I was having a hard time motivating myself to go to the gym when I was in pain for the majority of the time I was there.  No reason to keep paying for something I'm not using.  

I won't be able to go to therapy during my time off.  My therapist is in San Francisco.  I go on my lunch hour.  If I'm not going to work, I can't really BART into the city just for an appointment.  Maybe we can do a Skype sessions part of the way through my time off.  I really like my new therapist.  We have worked on some breathing techniques to help with the anxiety.  Now I'd like to fix my brain so I stop obsessively eating food.  I realize its a process but jeez, hurry it up!

I have already had to drop out of my Sean Michael pole class on Saturday.  This makes me the most sad because I really enjoy his class.  But my foot is just not having it.  I was ending up so swollen and in pain on Saturdays, so I figured if I have to wait another six weeks for surgery, and every day is a little worse, I need to be doing as much as possible to stay off my foot and keep the swelling down.  It looks like I'll be taking almost two months off from teaching.  I really enjoy teaching and I will miss my class.  A LOT.  I do hope this helps me come back and be an even better teacher.  It has been a few months since I have felt like I could even teach properly.  

It looks like I may be in a moon boot for the Pole Expo/Vegas trip in September.  This should be interesting.  I'm signed up for two classes.  One pole and one non-pole.  I have no idea if I'll be able to do either.  They are paid for, though, so I'm showing up.  If anything, it will be nice to get some activity and fun in right before I return to work.   

I've only gained about five pounds since this fun started last year.  However, I have gained three inches in my waist.  That's pretty frustrating.  Since I'm not exercising much, I'm trying to control my weight with food.  That's hard when stress and anxiety make you want to eat.  I guess the fact that I haven't put on 25 pounds of stress weight should be considered a victory. 

So I thought my surgeon would be removing the bone spur.  This is apparently not the case.  He said that is a much longer recovery.  He said he will be loosening the plantar fascia so that it no longer touches the bone spur in my heel.  He said in his entire career, he's only had to go back in and remove the bone spur once.  I sure hope he's right.  I'm tired of being in pain.  I want my life back!!!!!!  

Friday, June 7, 2013

June Blog Hop: Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Pole Dancing...

This month's blog hop (check out the link to other blogs HERE) is about what we wish we had known before we started pole dancing.  I'm sure there will be plenty of posts about how we didn't know how addictive it would be, or how expensive it would be, so I thought I'd write something slightly different.  (You can also read our leader, Sheena's post about ideas HERE.)  My blog will be: What I wish I had done differently after I started pole dancing.  

When I started pole dancing, I was in the beginning stages of re-gaining weight (for the second time) after my gastric bypass surgery.  I had started a new relationship, and was working from home (after being in an office for years).  Within six months of starting to dance, I also moved into a new place.  I had a lot of things going on, a lot of stress, and I misdirected my anxiety.  

I wish that after I took that very first class on December 2, 2009, I had taken my health and fitness more seriously.  I am not knocking my newly-acquired Health At Every Size beliefs, but I don't think it is disrespectful or improper to say that, regardless of the number on the scale, I did allow myself to stop working out as much and I started to eat a lot more fast food (which helped me gain all this weight in the first place in college).  HAES believes everyone has a right to be treated with respect regardless of their weight, while acknowledging that bodies are entitled to healthy foods and that movement is good for most bodies.  

Anyway, as I started working from home, I really let my gym schedule get out of whack.  I stopped working out with my super awesome gym partner who kept me motivated.  My gym eventually went out of business and I just stopped going at all for awhile.  I have now gained 50 pounds over my personal healthy weight goal (about 25-30 of those pounds were gained since I started pole dancing).  

I didn't initially stress about some of that weight.  Shoot, the two months I did silks, I put on 15 pounds, and I was pretty sure a lot of that was muscle.  My weight has been somewhat stable for the last two years but my friend took my measurements recently and I'm bigger.  A lot bigger.  That means my "muscle has turned to fat" (no, I don't believe muscle actually turns to fat, however since muscle is purported to weigh more than fat, I can acknowledge that if I have lost muscle tone, and gained fat, I may in fact weigh the same but could have gained inches).  Sure, I kinda felt like my clothes were tighter but I guess I didn't really notice it.  But now I'm hyper-aware (and it's a constant struggle to try to accept myself in the HAES way while still trying to bring myself back to a healthy place). 

I realize that there are some things my body needs (and I feel will help me on the pole).  I need cardio.  I am not doing advanced tricks, so I feel like I shouldn't be heaving and breathing like someone who just finished a marathon after dancing a 4 minute song.  I need yoga.  I am not flexible, and yoga is a requirement.  With all the surgical scars on my body, yoga is probably the one thing I should never go without.  I feel like weight training is essential but I do consider pole my weight bearing exercise.  Last of all, the core is key.  Having to give up my pilates reformer class was one of the biggest bummers of being broke and commuting to work every day.  

So I wish I had not given up on myself when I started to pole.  My downer attitude has nothing to do with pole (and pole has probably kept me from truly going to a dark place many a day!!).  But I do wish I had continued to work hard at the gym, which made me a healthier, happier person.  I don't wish to be skinny, but I do wish to be in good health again.  

I did have a bad week this week (thanks to my bone spur) but have been attending cycle classes 1-2 days a week, yoga 1-2 days a week and pole 2 days a week.  In the mornings before work, I do some exercises for my foot that have me doing things like calf raises.  I do hope to turn that back into core workout time soon.  I have been battling this painful bone spur for almost 9 months now.  I do hope as that gets resolved (probably looking at surgery this year for it), I can fully get back into my schedule and make myself into the pole dancer that I have always dreamed of being. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ever met a fat doctor?

A friend from work forwarded this lovely article to me today.

Geoffrey Miller, who specializes in evolutionary psychology, tweeted on Sunday: 'Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don't have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won't have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.'
#Truth, huh?  No one with a few extra pounds has ever finished a dissertation and become a doctor?  That's funny.  My boyfriend is carrying around a few extra pounds and he finished his dissertation.  
Miller is right, though.  I mean, I don't know how lazy fat asses get up and face each day [please read the sarcasm here].  I know I certainly don't get up for cycle at 5:15 AM twice a week, or attend two to three weekly yoga classes.  I couldn't possibly teach pole dance on Mondays or take a pole class on Saturdays.  I don't commute two hours a day or work a full-time job.  I don't constantly make plans on the weekend to see my friends, go to birthday parties or help with fundraisers.  I don't do my own laundry, do the dishes, clean the house, grocery shop or run errands.  My fat most definitely wouldn't allow me to do all of that.  He would be one of those haters who whine about how fat people need to get off their asses and go to the gym so they aren't fat.  Then would talk shit when he sees a fat person working out.  We can't win. 
As absurd as Miller's comment is, I actually don't mind when people out themselves as bigots.  Now I know who to avoid.  Chik-Fil-A hates gay people?  Awesome.  That's their choice.  I choose not to eat there.  Abercrombie hates fat, ugly people?  Cool.  I don't need to spend my money there (not that I could for myself, considering they don't make past like a size large for girls but I used to buy gift certificates for the teenagers in my life).  
I know there are many arguments about why it is inappropriate and unacceptable for companies and public figures to make bigoted comments, but I feel like at least they are making themselves known.  It's those sneaky bigots you need to watch out for.  
You know the ones...  They start with good intentions in their own mind.  They tell you that you have such a pretty face (but are thinking: and such a fat ass...).   When they try to set you up on dates with their friends, they go on and on about your amazing, sparkling, funny personality (which will undoubtedly make up for the horrible, ugly, fat body you're about to unleash on them).  I don't need anyone to make excuses for me.  There is a ton of shit wrong with me.  My fat is not on that list.
Fat is fat.  It's not a contest.  I'm fatter than some people and some people are fatter than me.  Someone in one of my fat acceptance groups on Facebook made a great comment and I feel like a fall into the same category.  Not small enough to be considered "normal" sized but not large enough to be "BBW."  I'm somewhere in the middle.  Not always even accepted in the fat community (especially since I've had gastric bypass).  Meaty.  That's what I've taken to calling myself lately.  I am aware that it's super annoying when someone who may have 10 pounds to lose (in their mind) walks around talking about how fat she is.  I also know that even if you do "only" have "10 pounds to lose," it sucks to have tight clothes and feel uncomfortable.  I do try to be wary that I'm not insulting anyone else while I'm talking about how my fat back biscuits are pissing me off.  At the same time, me picking on my own fat isn't degrading anyone else or their fat.  I don't need anyone to comment on my weight.  It is my own issue.  Don't point out I look chubby and certainly don't point out that I look skinny today.  I'm no longer taking that as a compliment.  For some reason, my fat thighs...meh, ok...jelly belly...meh, fine...but the back  Not a fan.  But fat is fat and I try to talk about it as matter-of-factly as that.  Oh look at this fat roll.  Nope, not fishing for a "compliment" of "you're not THAT fat," just talking about how this particular fat roll is in my way for the moment.  Oh look, I moved it and now it's no longer an issue. 
I am also still using Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr to push #myfatwashere.  Sometimes I take photos of myself around San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area.  Might be my face.  Or my meaty arm.  I may be riding BART.  Possibly doing yoga at Grace Cathedral.  I've even braved a couple of bikini shots (yeah I get it, I've had plastic surgery so my front parts don't look that "bad").  All photos are showing that my fat takes me all kinds of places.  So if you're interested in joining the fat revolution of proving that fat people can do fun stuff, please feel free to use that hashtag.  I have been checking up to see who is using it.  I've only seen a few photos so far and I'd love to see more. 
Anyway, thank you Geoffrey Miller for outing yourself as a fat bigot.  If you ever do anything cool in your life, I'll make sure I continue ignoring you, just as I plan to do today (after this blog is posted, of course).