Monday, November 15, 2010

Thoughts on Obesity and Aging

This isn't the sort of blog where I ruminate deeply over posts, drafting and editing and revising and finally publishing. Nope, these are my actual thoughts as I have them, haha.

I was thinking about WLS last week. Really, it's all I think about. I am reluctant to have it. I don't want to introduce new side effects into my life: hair loss, heartburn, gallbladder problems, etc.

But...what's the trade-off? And really, what am I adding? Several months ago, I *did* have to go to the doctor for gallbladder pain. I had an ultrasound that did not show any stones, but I didn't have the more conclusive follow-up test. We skipped that, because by then I was no longer having the pain (and haven't had it since).

But the reality is that I am female, fat and forty. It is not out of the realm of possibilities - heck, it is even *likely* that I'll have gallbladder problems. And post-surgery, my doctor puts you on some gallstone resistance medication for a few months. Maybe I won't have problems. And if I did? Really, it's not the end of the world.

As far as hair loss goes, well, one of the reasons I dread that potential side effect is because I already suffer from it. Twice over recent years, I've taken a migraine medication (Topamax) that can cause hair loss. For me, both times, it did. And it takes MONTHS after stopping the medication to stop the hair loss. It's creepy. I have been off that medication for quite awhile now, and I am still losing a lot of hair. I don't know if it's from the med, or stress, or the Natural Instincts hair color I'm using. But, I'm surviving. It is annoying, and it creeps me out, but it is not the end of the world.

Pain. Pain is another side effect. Uh, hello, I had three babies without a bit of pain medication. Sure, I cheated on that third guy and adopted him - but I was there when he was born and his delivery did not hurt me one bit! But with my second, he was in there sunny side up (WHAT IS THE MEDICAL TERM FOR THIS) and crooked, and at one point in the delivery I got up and said I was going home, so tired and frustrated I was...but no pain medication. Sure, I was at the midwife's house and the most she had on hand was probably Tylenol, but I did it!

I also had an L5-S1 spinal fusion in 2004, and you don't know pain until you've had a spinal fusion, I think. Ouch. So I can handle five little laproscopic incisions and some stomach pain.

But what I was really thinking about was getting old. I was telling a friend that I *want* to believe I can take the weight off without surgery. But I am forty, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a life and death battle with my weight. And life and death is exactly what it's become.

You don't see elderly obese people. I told my friend I finally realized it is not because they all figure out how to beat the weight as they age. It's because they die. And I'm not even talking "elderly" as 70 or above: you don't see many 60 year old obese people.

There is a woman I worked with in the building here. She was super morbidly obese. She ended up in one of those motorized scooters. When our employer started covering WLS surgery a couple years ago, she said she was the first person to sign up. First, she had to do something - maybe it was lose a little weight. We're not close, and I don't see her often, so I don't know the details. All I know was that I continued to see her around the building in that motorized scooter...until I didn't.

Now, it is possible that she had the surgery and lost so much weight, I just don't even recognize her when I pass her in the building. But I think it's just as likely that she died. I don't know, and it's not important, because this is about me and *my* struggles with obesity, not hers. I don't want to die of obesity. As a single mom to young kids, I can't say that I am always completely enamored of my life. It's exhausting. But eating myself to death is not a road I'd like to take.

I get inspired by these women who take off tremendous amounts of weight without surgery. Their discoveries, struggles and victories are very inspiring and thought-provoking. But I always wonder about their future. Do they keep it off? Once all the challenge of losing it is gone - do they maintain it? I am as competitive as hell, so I can get engaged in a good battle to lose. But, then? When the challenge is gone, so am I. What about all these Biggest Loser contestants? I think there's good reason they don't do many "Where are they now?" stories. My guess is most of them are right back where they started. I know this game. I've played it my entire life. In the past, I've been a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" success story, too. I've lost 70 pounds more than once through sheer willpower and determination alone. And even 70 pounds lighter - I faced all the same struggles and challenges I do now. But I repeatedly gained the weight back, and more.

I don't have room in my life for "more." If I keep pushing my weight upwards, as I've done this month with quitting smoking, I will kill myself. I've reached maximum capacity, I'm afraid.

So, while I'm not thrilled at the prospect of surgery to overcome my weaknesses...well, I can live with it. *Want* to live with it.

I've got a new perspective on "taking the easy way out" with surgery. I've never been one to take the easy way out. I got my first "real" job the moment I was legally able, I worked full-time during my senior year, I earned my associates, then bachelor's, then master's degrees while I worked full-time. I had three kids without pain medication, I fought hard to save my marriage and threw my husband out on his butt in the middle of the night when I realized I was the only one fighting for it.

I don't cop out, I don't take the easy road. It's ridiculous that I would continue to be so hard on myself over this decision. I am trying to save my life. I am trying to HAVE a life. I'm having that freaking surgery and I don't give a damn what anyone thinks or says about it, or me.


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