It’s interesting to read what the professionals think about the problem of obesity, and fascinating to read real-life stories from those suffering. It’s doubly meaningful when the two are combined. Our latest Bariatric Buzz posting combines the two – a feature from ‘A Post-Op and a Doc’ about the what you hear when the word obesity is mentioned. Do you simple hear the word FAT? Or do you think further ….
Feature courtesy of A Post-Op & a Doc
OBESITY AND FAT. When you hear “obesity,” what’s the very first word that comes to your mind?
That’s the word I heard for YEARS, which explains why I felt such shame whenever I went to the doctor for help with depression, exhaustion, and pain. Not surprisingly, my experiences at the doctor had become extremely negative (like my attitude).
A typical doctor visit went like this:
FIRST: Put me on a scale; move the big block 50 pounds and the small block 20 pounds to the right. Remind me of the huge number.
NEXT: Squeeze my arm into a blood pressure cuff…pump until it hurts and tell me my number is high.
FINALLY: Escort me to a room to put on a gown that is too small, and tell me to wait for the doctor to come in so he can ask me if I’m aware that I’ve gained 20 pounds since my last visit.
ALL OF THIS because I needed to refill my anti-depressant. Wow, everyone already knew I was depressed BECAUSE I was fat (!) –– at least…that’s what I thought. But make no mistake: the doctors never seemed to go out of their way to disabuse me of the notion that I was FAT BECAUSE I WAS BAD. This is not to say that all doctors wagged their finger in my face to tell me how lazy I was — I did that all by myself – it’s just that, many doctors didn’t understand the disease enough to talk to me about it in a way I could hear.
They weren’t equipped to get past my mental and emotional defenses to work out a treatment plan that would help me live in remission. I felt ashamed and they didn’t change my perception.
Here’s the thing: I can’t remember anyone ever talking to me about OBESITY AS A DISEASE. Obesity was a shameful word that signaled defeat and hopelessness; it was a death sentence that the world could see…especially when the word “morbid” was added to the diagnosis. It was a definition of me as a person…it was a nail in my coffin.
But, I wanted help for my FAT. And, in order to get that, I knew I’d have to (enthusiastically) “accept” the diagnosis (shameful as it was) of “morbidly obese” to qualify for bariatric surgery…and that meant I had to admit I was more than just a failure…I was a FAT failure.
OBESITY was a terrible word for FAT and FAT was a terrible word for ME.
Fortunately, my story doesn’t end there. Over the course of the past decade — due in no small part to tireless efforts of people in organizations like Obesity Action Coalition and Obesity PPM – I’ve begun to see a radical shift in attitudes and behaviors within the healthcare community. I’ve begun to see professionals embrace a deeper understanding of obesity as a DISEASE that negatively affects a person’s head, heart AND health. In other words, “OBESITY” as a disease of indictment is losing traction in favor of a diagnosis that treats the whole person…at least among healthcare professionals.
Unfortunately, many (dare I say, most) PATIENTS continue to view OBESITY as a criticism of themselves as people…which is understandable, considering the steady torrent of insults most people experience as a result of a condition they don’t understand themselves. But, many in society are afraid to acknowledge obesity as anything other than fatness and laziness because doing so might excuse people for their role in their own condition! And, that’s true. Some people may revel in a diagnosis of obesity as a disease so they can blame everyone and everything for their problems. But that’s a choice everyone must make for themselves.
No matter how you see it, OBESITY is a confounding, deadly, horrible, complex disease not caused by a SINGLE behavior (overeating or eating the wrong things). Obesity is a systemic disease that affects the entire person. When one system fails…others fall like dominoes.
Fortunately, I’m a positive person, so here’s what I wish: If you struggle with the DISEASE of obesity, I hope you begin to understand that EXCESS FAT (weight) is a symptom, not a diagnosis. I hope you begin to accept accountability (not blame) for your role in managing (or not managing) your disease, while acknowledging that some contributing factors are beyond your influence, and others are within your influence. I hope you begin to recognize that obesity affects more than your body; it affects your heart in every relationship (the ones with food…loved ones, family…friends…and yourself); It affects your head (each time you write-yourself off as a failure…each time you decide you deserve what you get…each time you believe an insult — that you probably hurled at yourself); it affects your spirit…rendering you hopeless, helpless, angry, worthless and resentful.
Obesity is NOT a simple DISEASE…but it is manageable to varying extents, IF you decide to move beyond FAT (excess weight) as the sole descriptor in the diagnosis. Obesity is a COMPLEX disease that requires COMPLEX treatment on ALL fronts — Physical, Mental, Emotional…and yes, Spiritual.
OBESITY does not equal FAT. The perception that FAT IS OBESITY makes about as much sense as saying GAS IS A CAR.
Respect yourself enough to let go of the shame associated with defining your diagnosis by the characterics of a singular symptom (FAT). I understand it’s hard when the world SEES that symptom and defines you by what they see…but like cancer or diabetes, or any other disease, the goal is to treat the symptom(s) so you can better manage the condition.
You may have excess fat as a result of your obesity…but you are not FAT…You are negatively affected by a disease that requires healthy and continuous treatment — not condemnation.
Treat the symptom of excess weight…but don’t ignore the other stuff…it matters in the long run.