Monday, April 25, 2011

'The Elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about' - LONG post!

I had a comment posted on my blog titled ‘For what it's worth - my take on the 'Battle of the Bulge' story on 60 minutes 17.4.2011’ that I wrote on the 19.4.2011. Here is the question…

‘a question i have wanted to pose for a long time that i would like you to answer an maybe give me insight on what other people would say is . . well why wait so long? why not start losing weight at 100kg, or 150kg or well i don’t know just earlier....before it got so far out of hand, and as a friend of a person on this track at what stage should you talk to them seriously about it? its like the big elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. . but when should a friend and how - if you have any tips. . . its not like i want to stage an intervention i just want to let her know that i am worried and that i will do anything to help but i dont want her to push me away or get the wrong idea. . hope its not to personal but please offer an honest reply (or blog because its a broad topic)’

Somewhere at some stage in the last 100 posts that I have put up, I have written about why I waited so long but, without going through each one and quote myself, I’ll go back to the start.

After the twins were born (perhaps just before my wedding which was in August 2008), I decided that I wanted to look a t getting lap band surgery. I decided that it was time because I had stepped on our bathroom scales a month or so before and they said I was 170 odd. After I I stood on them again a month or so later, they didn’t register. I was devastated. I knew they went up to 175kg so, I knew I was over this amount. I just didn’t know how much. After seeing my Doctor and getting a referral for Dr Winnett (who my Doctor just found by chance when he googled the closest surgeon who performed lap band surgery), I phoned Dr Winnet’s rooms to make an appointment. She asked me if I had private health insurance. I didn’t. I found out that the waiting list for lap band surgery was 3 years. I asked if it was based on a triage system. She said no. I was devastated. I wasn’t able to see Dr Winnett for at least 6 weeks anyway as he was so booked out but, I made the appointment anyway. In the mean time, I organised private health insurance cover (something I intended on doing before I turned 30 anyway to avoid extra fees etc…).

I missed my first appointment with him. I am not sure why. I think it was a classic CBF factor. I didn’t even call to cancel. I had other things going on in my life. I was admitted to Hospital back in August 2009 as I was diagnosed with severe post natal depression. I spent a total of 6 weeks in Hospital over the space of 4 months. It was a really tough time. My weight was one of the last things on my mind. At that time, I felt as though I had more important things to concentrate on.

I came out of Hospital on medication. I made another appointment with Dr Winnett. I can’t remember when this one was to take place but, I didn’t attend. Once again, I didn’t even call to cancel. Come to think of it, I also made an appointment to go to a lap banding seminair (you can find one in your state or territory here I didn’t attend it. Nor did I call to cancel. At this stage, I still had no idea how much I weighed. No idea at all. I just know that I was very defensive about my weight. When I had blood pressure taken, I’d insist that they could use the normal sized cuff rather than the large – just one of the other things that made me feel a bit more normal.

I went back to work in March 2010 after 4 and a half years of Parental leave. This was a very scary thing to do. I had initially taken leave to lose my weight. That was my big goal. A that point, I realised I was a lot bigger however, I didn’t realise that I was around 70kg more than what I was when I left. There weren’t a lot of people that I knew at work and the ones I did know hardly recognised me. I had to arrange to get a ‘fat arse chair’ as the normal ones hurt my back. Things were going well. I had come off my medication (with support from my treating psychiatrist) and was functioning a lot better than what I had for some time.

People did bring the issue of my weight up with me from time to time. I would just answer back that I was happy with who I was and what I was doing and I would lose some weight when I was ready. Now was not the time for that. I still had no idea how much I weighed.

Long story short, I ended up getting migraines on a daily basis. They were so bad. I saw my GP who prescribed medication which sometimes worked but sometimes didn’t, I drank heaps of water, I did do a little bit of walking, I got prescription glasses which made such a difference but didn’t get rid of the headaches. I ended up going to Epworth Private Hosptial and they needed to give me an MRI. When my Neurologist asked me how much I weighed, I said around the 180kg mark. He said he wasn’t so sure that was right (he didn’t say it in a rude way) but stressed the fact it was important for me to find out how heavy I was to make sure I could lay on the bed for the MRI. That’s when they weighed me. I didn’t weigh on one set (they went up to 200kg) so they had to find another set. And their scales said I was 222.9kg. I was DEVISTATED. Some people have said that I knew but I was in denial. That’s not right at all. I had no idea how much I weighed. People around me had noticed that I was putting on weight but, I had no idea I weighed that much. I made an appointment with Dr Winnett that afternoon for the week after I got out of Hospital. I didn’t miss that one. The rest is history.

I have struggled with my weight my whole life. I went to weight watchers as a teenager. I tried Jenny Craig for a few weeks at 17. I tried starving myself. Making myself throw up. I am sure I have mentioned this in one of my blogs as well but I used to wear a belt under my clothing that I wore for at least a year or 2 and I wore it as it made me feel skinny. It gave me a waist. I have a permanent indent from this belt on my stomach to this day. At 100kg, I did try to lose weight. At 150kg, I was still trying. At 165kg, just after I’d arrange to go on my leave from work, I applied to go on the biggest loser (series 1) and as part of the application process, I joined an online forum to find other people who had applied to see how they were feeling or if they’d heard anything back from their application. On this forum is where I met my Husband, Brad. He had also applied.

We decided we’d lose our weight together. We did okay for a while. We were eating the right stuff and doing it together. I am not sure where that went wrong. Brad created a forum that was around for a few years full of people who also wanted to lose weight. A lot of these people had also applied to go on the biggest loser. I still keep in touch with a number of these people today. We were all on a mission. A few of us succeeded but, not many of us. It was almost at times like the blind leading the blind! I love those girls and am proud of our determination and will to ‘hope’ to succeed.

I guess to answer the first part of the question is I have personally tried to lose weight at each of these awful milestones. 100kg, 120kg, 150kg, 160kg, 175kg and then ‘god knows what’ kilos. And I did so without a lot of success. That’s why I turned to lap band. I only speak for myself when I say this but, I have been trying to lose weight for the past 17 years. And I am 31! I would quite often lose weight when I applied myself and tried as hard as I could. Some things work and some things didn’t. Once again, I only speak for myself but I don’t think a day goes by where an Overweight person doesn’t think about their weight. Whether it’s when they walk past a mirror and see their image or if it’s when they can’t do their pants up or to the other extreme where they don’t fit into the drivers seat of a friend’s Car.

I have often compared my case of being overweight to someone who smokes (I gave up almost 4 years ago so, I do speak from experience). You are a smoker. You do it although you know it’s bad for you. Perhaps you have a spouse or Children or some close friends who have bought up your smoking with you and you’ve just shrugged it off. You might cough up phlegm. You see the ads on TV and on the packets. You watch experts speaking on the implications smoking has on the community and the health system. But it’s just something that you do. You might want to give up desperately but until that time comes, the time when YOU’RE ready to give up rather than everyone else around you being ready for you to give up, you’ll continue to smoke. It’s the same with being Overweight. Until you’re ready to make that commitment to choose a healthy lifestyle and find the determination and momentum to succeed, you’ll continue to remain unhealthy and Overweight. It’s something that you do for you, not for others around you.

I guess this is the answer to your question about your friend. There’s nothing wrong with bringing the issue up with them. Gently speaking to them about it. Tell them that you’re worried about their health. Let them know that others are worried. I am not sure if you’re in the position to do so but even suggest that you’ll go for a walk with them twice a week. Do they know what is the right thing to eat? If not, perhaps speak to them about the basic food groups – stay away from fad diets. If you don’t already know, and they’re comfortable in telling you, ask them why they think they’re overweight. Ask them how they feel about being overweight. Often it’s more than what meets the eye. And they might not even know why they are the way they are. That’s when you might want to suggest they speak to someone about it. A good place to start is (this is assuming you’re in Australia). You owe it to them as someone who cares about them to try and do anything you can to get them over this obstacle, big or small.

I have someone close to me who is dangerously overweight. He is close to the weight that I am now (185kg or there abouts). I am scared about what is going to happen to him if he doesn’t do something soon. I can see that his weight makes him feel like crap. It has sucked the confidence out of him. His self esteem is quite low. He doesn’t realise how much his weight affects those around him. I have offered EVERYTHING to try and help him. I would do ANYTHING for him to just wake up and realise what he is doing to himself. I have spoken to him about it (as early as last night, actually) and I talk to him about the benefits of losing some weight – even 10kg. His shirts would fit better, his pants would fit better, he’d be able to walk a bit more comfortably. He’d feel more alive. I have thought about an intervention. Getting those around him who have raised the issue with me (there have been at least 10 people who have spoken to me directly about it) but, I don’t think that would help.

I’ve spent HOURS talking to this person. Everything I say falls on deaf ears. It’s frustrating. And I feel as though the person is incredibly selfish. It effects them but it also effects those around them. And they don’t care. And that’s what makes me mad. I have said this to them as well but, it’s just another thing that they just ignore. And what can I do about it? Nothing. Just sit back and wait for them to have their moment and just hope that it’s a moment like a small stroke or being diagnosed with diabetes or something like what I had, needing a simple MRI done on the brain that leads them to be weighed and hopefully it scares them enough to wake up and realise that they need to change.  I hope it's not a moment that takes them away from me or their Children and their family.

I think the worst situation a person can be in is when they used to care about losing weight, they used to have the drive to want to change, they used to try different diets every few months or make a commitment to themselves to ‘start on Monday’ only to fall over on Wednesday lose that will to try. They stop showing emotion about it. They stop crying about how big they are. How they feel about themselves when they look in the mirror. How they no longer bring it up with anyone. I think that’s when they need the most help. And that’s the position I was in before I decided to change. Let me emphasise the ‘I’. I decided to change even though others around me had decided that it was time for me to change, I finally made the decision to do something about it.

I hope this has helped somewhat. I hope this has answered your question. And I hope your friend gets help. It’s good that they have someone like you in their life who wants to help them. They will thank you one day :) – I am sure of it.

Happy 100th blog, folks! xo


  1. would this person you are talking about know it was them if they read this?

  2. They will know it's about them. They are a regular reader so, I know they'll see it.

  3. 1 of 2
    Here is my take on this question:-
    I have always been big. In kindergarten through to grade 6 I was the heaviest person in my class. I remember when they weighed me in grade 6 I was 72kgs.
    I played netball regularly and I rode my bike or walked everywhere and was able to keep up with my skinnier friends. Every holiday I would constantly be in the pool swimming.
    I was academically smart, and my dad used to reward me with ice-cream when I did well on my reports.
    Between 8 and 11 years of age I had a lot of turmoil in my life which caused me to seek comfort in food as I didn’t have the people around me to support me the way I needed.
    Then high school came. I was bullied almost from the moment I set foot in high school. It tore me down and even to this day (over 20 years later) I am scarred.
    The first two years of high school I can only describe as a living hell. I cannot tell you how many times I was brought to tears. It was almost on a daily basis. The next couple of years I just existed, attempting to avoid confrontation and just get by. I got hit by a car which messed up my ankle which resulted in me having a lengthy recovery period where I wasn’t too active and I was forced to stop playing netball.
    I changed schools in Year 11 and for most of the next 2 years I tried really hard to not put myself in a position of vulnerability so no-one could hurt me. Whilst this in concept worked, it was also an incredibly lonely place to be for the most part. Food was a good friend during this time.
    So if I was the “fat” kid why didn’t I do anything about it?
    Well I didn’t have support. My whole family at that time was obese. I had plenty of people who would tell me that I was fat, but no-one who could show me and support me in how to change that. I didn’t really have reliable friends. A lot of people really used me as a doormat and I accepted it. My self esteem was also so incredibly eroded that it just didn’t occur to me that I deserved to be healthy, that I deserved to be treated with respect and that I could do it myself.
    I really think by the time I got out of High School the damage really had been done. My life between 18 and 21 was a blur between existence and depression. I was so busy working two different jobs and trying to study for Uni that there wasn’t really time to devote to me.
    When I started my first real adult job the effects of my obesity became apparent and posed an issue. I got a job in a call centre and three months into the job I could not walk up to the shops because it would make my back hurt very badly. So I started swimming again, going to the gym and working out and doing aqua aerobics. I even tried a couple of diets which didn’t work. I would go to the gym 4 or more times a week and really didn’t see much of a benefit. So I eventually fell off the rails and back to my old habits. For the next few years every so often I would try again with fitness and diet with much the same result.
    Over the next 8 years a lot happened. I fell in love. I got married. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I was also diagnosed with an Anxiety disorder and Agoraphobia which created a constant up-hill battle in regards to getting healthy. I also found out I have arthritis in my neck and back which also challenged my efforts. I attended a lap band information session and got the process ->

  4. 2 of 2
    -> started to have bariatric surgery but decided that it wasn’t right for me. I made the decision that I have used a band-aid approach to my life and this has not worked for me. I’m not suggesting that lap band is a band-aid, what I mean is that for lap band to be successful you need to be fully committed to changing your life, making the sacrifices necessary and be both physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for it. I was not. I also have a bit of a phobia about having something foreign inside of me.
    So why haven’t I done more about my health?
    Well, I believed I was a victim. When people put you down enough it gets to point where even if you don’t believe it, subconsciously you ask the question. I believed that I wasn’t worth the work or effort it took. I didn’t have my head in the right place.
    Hopefully I do now.
    For the last 2 months or so I have been diligently exercising and making steps to improve my diet (without trying to totally deprive myself as I know I won’t stick to it if it is so restrictive). I know for me, it will be a long process and I know that instead of becoming frustrated at the lack of progress I need to look holistically at my health. Even if I don’t lose weight, going to the gym and swimming, makes me feel better mentally. I feel stronger physically. It allows me to be more active and gives me more energy.
    I also have other options for working with my challenges – there are traditional therapies that can assist with balancing my hormones. There are exercises I can do to make my back and neck stronger and more resilient. I’m also paying more attention to myself so I know when I can push just a little bit and when I need to pull back a bit. I no longer want to use my challenges as excuses for inaction though and that is the fundamental change inside of me.
    At this point, I am still not ready to have lap band, however I have given myself a timeframe that if I can’t make myself healthier myself that I will look at it as an option.
    And just in case you are curious, I think at my heaviest I weighed about 180kgs. I am under that now but not by much.
    I wish everyone the best of luck on their individual journeys xx

  5. Anon, thank you so much for sharing your story. From reading what you have said, it sounds as though you have come a long way from where you were a few months ago. Well done and keep up the good work :) I am so proud of you for what you have achieved so far. And it’s great to hear that you are reaping the benefits of exercising – it’s a hard habit to get into but once you do, it’s certainly worth it :) I am inspired by the fact that you are doing it the way you are. It’s great that you attended the lap band seminar and that you know there other options available for you if you need them. By the sounds of it, you’re well on the way to succeeding in the more preferred way of losing weight – determination, motivation, ownership and willpower. Thank you once again for sharing xo good luck on your journey.

  6. I have been big my whole life and it just crept up on me and I did not know it was happening I probably did not care if I did know I am still big and am not ready to do anything about it it makes me sad. Reading your blog is a comfort I know I can do something when I am ready I hope I am ready soon.

  7. author of oriinal question: thank you both,it has given me alot of drive to help my friend to change their lives. my quick question though is how will i know if i have gone to far? if she's not ready to hear it? i have noticed she has cut other people out of her life who . . well may not have gone about it so tactfully. i dont want to be one of those which is why i have waited so long but i just dont feel like a good friend if i let her go on much longer. as above made me realise i want her to want it for herself . . you know?

  8. That’s only something you can answer – I guess if you know how others have gone about it in the past, do the exact opposite to what they did. Emphasise to her how much you care about her and how you want to help and how you’ll be there for her every step of the way. Just be gentle and tread cautiously. You would know if you’ve gone too far. Every person is different.

  9. For me, I just didn't think about the way my weight was slowly creeping upwards over the years. My weight never impeded me from doing anything so it was easy to ignore. It was giving birth and realising I needed to do everything I could to live a long and healthy life for my daughter that I finally decided I needed to get serious BUT getting serious did not mean a lap band in the first instance. I only got a lap band after lots of hard physical work...

  10. To the author of the original question:- Sometimes it does take a massive "shock" for change to occur. I know, as an agoraphobic that it wasn't until my friendship with my best friend fell apart that I really wanted to change my life. It still took months after that before I was mentally ready to do it though.
    I guess it also depends on the type of relationship you have with that person. I know, years ago (!), that we had both discussed our weight challenges with eachother. I also know that after she had her twins and had put on quite a bit of weight I mentioned it to her again because it did become concerning. That said, we have that kind of relationship where there is very little that is off limis. I guess you need to ask yourself a couple of questions: 1). What kind of weight gain are you concerned about? I mean if someone weighs 80kgs and is overweight it is totally different if they are 150kgs.... 2).Can you sit and watch your friend's health decline? 3). Do you want to be friends with someone who does not care about themself enough? 4). Can you remain friends with someone who gets worse not better?
    I guess answering those questions should help you make your decision on how you want to go. I wish you the best of luck :)

  11. By the way, I meant Steph and I had discussed our weight!

  12. Hi folks, I told Steph I would post this for her, so here goes!! Like all of you I have struggled with being 'the big girl' most of my adult life! I wasn't always really big, but I'm tall and broad shouldered, a swimmers frame I think it's referred to!! At 17 I met my husband, fell in love and married 3 months before I turned 21, life was pretty good. My DH (darling hubby) is my height, quite stocky in build, but one of those blokes that eats and never gains a kilo (you know, the type we all hate). Within a year of being married I was very overweight, and after two years it was much worse. I was very unhappy, eating anything that stayed still long enough, and because we were still so young ourselves he didn't know how to help me. We fought A LOT, I cried a lot, and I ate a lot! I went home to my parents for three months, he came back and got me, ultimately he loved me and didn't care that I was big. Life continued, I lost some weight, gained it back blah blah blah, you all know the drill!! Five years of married life later and my first friend from school (I had a few, still see them to) was getting married, we were invited, I had nothing to wear and ended up ringing saying we had another engagement we couldn't get out of, we spent the night at home. I told her years later and apologized, she's a friend and understood thankfully, the pics looked lovely, another very 80's wedding lol!! My sister in law had a baby, whoa did cause a reality check, we hadn't discussed this yet! Did we want kids, yes I did, apparently so did DH, hmmmm, I'm fat and can look pregnant without trying!! Went to Jenny Craig (not the first time) but lost 25kgs, good effort! March of 87 and I'm expecting blessing number 1, gain a heap of weight, eating for quads I think!! April 1990 blessing number 2 arrives, May 1991 here is blessing number three. I call them blessings for a reason which will become obvious!

  13. Continuing, life after blessing 3 got messy for a year or more on the marriage front, I won't bore you with details but to say we struggled was an understatement! During this time, my darling Dad was diagnosed with cancer, and was gone from our lives within 6 weeks, broke our hearts! What did I do? You guessed it, I ate my sorrows!! Life resumed to what our kind of normal was, kids at school, part time work and housewife duties, the norm. We bought ourselves a little getaway place in the bush and went for weekends, it was lovely. Disaster stuck again in 1997, my dear Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, a radical left breast mastectomy was performed 3 days after her 67th birthday! She fought it with chemotherapy and radiotherapy for three years, but October 2000 saw her lose the battle, again our hearts broke, at 63 and 70 my parents were to young to die and I was crushed. And so I ate! One weekend at the caravan, it was hot at around 9.30pm and the kids would not go to bed so we went for a walk to the lake. We were at the bottom of the hill and a summer storm started brewing, awesome lightening strikes over the lake then those great big fat rain drops!! DH and the blessings started to run up the hill to get shelter and I followed! From his vantage point DH watched me heave myself up the hill, then grabbed my hand and we scooted kids back to the van, dried them off and they went to bed. We sat outside talking and for the first time ever in our marriage DH spoke about 'the elephant in the room'. He said that as he watched me try to get up the hill, my face red and panting from the effort, he realized that if something happened to me he didn't know where a hospital was, he was thinking a heart attack! This darling person has never called me fat, tells me he loves me still, and has never seen anything but the 17 year old girl in me that he fell in love with, but that night I scared him. He told me he didn't sign on to raise three kids alone, and that I had to get some help, and it was the best wake up call I could have had. With our history of cancer (remember my parents?) and all the other things that affect the morbidly obese (cause that's what I was folks) I was tempting fate daily! So with the support of DH and the blessings I underwent lap band surgery, I dropped 54 kilos, and yes I've gained a few back but nothing that bothers me at 51! Next year I will watch blessing number 1 marry his beautiful girl, I will watch blessing number 2 as bridesmaid and blessing number 3 as best man for his big brother! And in a few years DH and I hope to be grand parents, and I might have missed all this and more if he hadn't talked about that damn elephant!! Good luck with you own elephants, I hope this helps you all talk about them. Blessings on you all, peace love light and all that jazz kids!!!

  14. I am just fat because I can't stop eating. I enjoy my food. I am 460 pounds and don't know where to begin my road to health.