Fix my tummy, fix my head.

I’m writing a few posts about my health issues. I explain this all over and over again to friends and acquaintances, and with some big recent developments I want to start sharing the info online.

Primarily, it’s to inform people I’m lucky enough to have care about me, I’m not trying to reach a wider audience but obviously this stuff ain’t a secret. If you haven’t read it yet, please read part 1: The problem with my head.

If you wish to talk to me about what I write, please do so via twitter: @antheaw, or on Facebook if we’re friends there.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a problem with my weight. Stemming from adolescent insecurity about a changing body and sprouting out through the rest of my life, it’s become something I live with.

Suddenly, it’s become something that concerns my health and my ability to live a full and normal life – but not for the reasons people normally associate with weight loss such as diabetes etc etc.

(Seriously, if you haven’t read part 1 yet, you really should just nip over and do that here: The problem with my head, then come back. Everything will make more sense.)

It’s funny, weight is such a hard thing to speak frankly about. We’re cultured to be ashamed of any size but the currently acceptable “normal” as if it’s some great secret that isn’t plainly visible when you so much as look at a person.

Since learning more about body positivity in recent years* I’ve become so much more comfortable in myself and in relating to others too, which includes being able to speak more freely and unashamedly about what it means to be overweight, how it affects me and others, and the fact that it’s not all bad! I no longer assume that all fat people are unhappy, are lazy, are disgusting – what horrible associations.

This makes it a hell of a lot easier to say, you know what, I’m not a completely hideous fat person. I’m a fat person, and I have many awesome qualities about me and some of those do include parts of my body.

Being ok with being fat from an aesthetic perspective is why I’ve been so offended in the past when drastic measures to “fix” myself and lose weight have been suggested. Sure, I have worked at a number of ways to lose weight in order to be more fit and better able to enjoy things in life, people of all sizes face those challenges.

Gastric bypass surgery was suggested some time ago, and I was skeptical but did some reading. I learned that it’s fairly drastic surgery that basically re-routes your digestive system and eliminates part of your stomach, it’s virtually irreversible and patients will rely on vitamin supplements and only tiny meals for life. What a horrible notion! I was so offended that I was encouraged to so drastically change my otherwise healthy body for the mere vanity of losing weight and “looking better”. With healthy test measures, there was just no reason for it.

And so I continued my life long pattern of losing some weight, feeling good, regaining it with interest and not feeling so good. I eventually came to the realisation that I didn’t want to put effort into losing weight any more as every time I tried and worked at it, I ended up larger and worse off than when I had started.

I have tried a lot of things. I’ve tried Weight Watchers (twice), I’ve forced myself to rise at 5:30am every weekday and get my butt to the gym for months while I watched what I put in my mouth very carefully. I stopped caring what a scale told me and tried to focus on how I felt.

When problems with my head were so mysterious I wondered if foods had an impact and systematically cut out caffeine, refined sugar, processed foods, meat, dairy, all animal products, gluten… I resolved to “lifestyle changes”! That were “forever”! And sure, some things made me lighter, but always, always I gained weight again, and always more than I had lost.

When my neurologist told me that I needed to lose weight to try and resolve the hypertension in my head, I didn’t hate him. He advised me to see a nutritionist but instead I thought long and hard and quietly. I thought about having gastric bypass surgery for the sake of having a life again.

I reached out to a new acquaintance who had recently posted her story of weight loss surgery bravely online, and asked her some questions. I pondered and searched online and read a lot before speaking to my family and some very close friends.

Now that I was living a half-life, crippled by migraines, and now that I had hope of help with that, the surgery wasn’t such a ridiculous idea. I spoke to my GP who wondered why he hadn’t suggested it himself. I spoke to my neurologist who lauded it the “best idea”. After reassuring me that I was unlikely to suffer any ill effect to my eyes from my condition (YES!), the opthamologist told me that bariatric surgery was an excellent long term option, and that these days they know much more about it and that patients do very well.

Lots of highly qualified people reassuring me that in my case, this (still scary) step is a good one, really helped.

After breaking the news to my parents, I was lucky enough to have their full support. My mum came to Auckland to join me at the information seminar held by the private surgeons’ office about the different types of surgery and their effects. I had decided to go ahead and have surgery on my tummy to (hopefully) fix my head.

Progress towards surgery next time, thanks for reading x

Further reading:

Part 3: Let’s do this thing