Monday, June 24, 2013

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.


  1. Hey Lori x

    thanks so much for this, I am forwarding the link to a friend of mine that thinks that maybe a operation similar to yours might be an answer for her.

    As you know I am tiny, mostly due to losing weight severely on a treatment for a liver condition. I was a LOT healthier when I was bigger, and I get a lot of funny looks when I tell people i am trying to put on weight.

    I am 11 stone, 5ft 7 and my BMI is way too high, even though the bones in my chest and my ribs are visable. of course its muscles from pole dancing that weigh so much, but you cant tell a doctor that....

    I need another stone to be healthy, at that point I will be obese apparently, by UK NHS standards. you know exactly what I look like... how insane is that?

    Kepp up the good work darling and I hope your health stuff starts getting better x

    you are fucking amaze x

    1. Thanks, Ruby!!! Hey, I wouldn't tell your friend whether she should or should not have the surgery. That's only a decision she and her doctor can make. Sadly, I can't even say I wouldn't do the surgery again. I'm still 100 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight...and I still slightly believe that all of those evil health problems were only seconds away from crushing the life out of me. fucks with our brains!!!!!! You are beautiful. :)

  2. I've always been thin, but I can identify with this as a pregnant woman, who for the first time is getting a ton of, completely contradictory, diet advice - all with the caveat that you'll basically make your baby brain-damaged or organ deficient if you don't Eat This and Don't Eat That. All of which was making me sick. I only started to feel well when I ate exactly what I wanted, when I wanted.

    1. S - everyone's an expert, huh...ugh...mind yer bizness!! That's what I want to tell everyone. haha!

  3. A very eye-opening read! I think part of the reason the AMA and general public are so quick to label being fat as a disease is that we see so many people that are putting on unhealthy weight. Calling it a "disease" is just one more Band-Aid solution that will do more harm than good. (I don't see people losing weight because it is now a disease.) At the same time, I know people who are more active than I am and still are "fat."
    I will think twice next time I see anything about obesity, thank you for your thoughts!

    1. Definitely a band-aid...and there's no quick explanation. Not for why many people seem to be gaining so much weight and not for how to "fix" it. That's why I just have to focus on my health. I do feel like our food as a whole is way less nutritious. And I think we need to focus on that...getting higher quality food into our bodies! I definitely need activity to feel good. I don't sleep well if I miss the gym for a month or more. But when I was fatter...350 pounds...I was hitting the gym 6 or 7 days a week! I definitely wasn't a couch potato. But my body is all whacky.

  4. I'm glad you shared your experience- more people need to realize that obesity isn't the problem- the things statistically correlated with obesity are the problem

    1. What do they say, correlation is not causation? :)