Tag Archives: obesity

Lost in Translation

Ok, folks, I am stumped.  I mean really stumped.  If you imagine me as someone that is very rarely at a loss for words…… well, you are spot on.  However, this is one of those rare (and valuable for many that know me) occasions, where words just escape me.  I know many refer to this as writer’s block; but, I am not sure that what I have is a clear cut diagnosis.  You see, I know what I want to write about, I know the thoughts that I want to reveal; however, I seem to be paralyzed beneath the severity of the feelings I want to share and the hope that they don’t get lost in the sensitivity of the topic.  I have missed my almost daily interaction with my readers and I have tried multiple times to write an entry on another topic until I could find the words that are eluding me……. but, apparently I have a one track mind that does not allow for a new subject to be broached until the current topic of my obsession has been cleared (this could be a problem!).  So, here goes it……

I stumbled across a new blog lately, Eat a Cheeseburger.  I like, borderlining on love, this blog.  It is spunky, clever and honestly, it makes a valid, much needed point.  The media’s obsession with thin, specifically the death-knocking-on-your-door-with-a-sledge-hammer kind of thin, is a message females of all ages are bombarded with daily.  This message takes a devastating toll on many girls and has been documented time and again.  I spent the last 18 months of my time in high school subsisting on a diet of jelly beans and rice cakes.  Why, you ask?  Oh come on, you know, it’s that whole sweet ‘n salty thing….. yeah, right!  I was desperate to be skinny.  My desperation was not as much a result of the media as it was from pressure I felt from home.  Either way, from a very young age we learn the “value” placed on being thin.

The “skinny message” must be falling on a few deaf ears though.  This is evidenced by the spiraling obesity figures in this country. Childhood and adult obesity rates are increasing every year and we are now seeing this trend in Europe and Japan.  And, you know what?  This trend has not escaped the media’s attention.  Have you seen FOX’s show More to Love?  This show is marketed as a “The Bachelor”  for girls that literally have more to love…… as in more weight.  I have been disturbed by this concept from the word go.  So, now the media, realizing the growing number of viewers who also have “more to love” are going to profit from a weight message that is just as dangerous as their get-thin-or-die-tryin’ escapades.

My new favorite blog’s most recent post discusses their “hope that women will not feel pressure to change the way they look just because they are given such a limited view of appearance from the media.”  My response – are we really only given a “limited view of appearance from the media”? I am not so sure. The contestants on More to Love present the morbidly obese view of  appearance.  FOX did not choose to use the average-size 12/14-American-girl (also ridiculously referred to as “plus size”) who in comparison to their The Bachelor counterparts definitely have “more to love”  AND offer viewers a realistic, healthy view of appearance.  Romanticizing obesity (I weighed 250 lbs during most of my 20’s), dressing it up and advocating an eat-what-you-want-and-dont-worry-about-your-weight approach is just as dangerous as blasting the dont-you-dare-eat-dont-you-dare-even-think-about-it look. There are crippling side effects of both extremes…… life threatening effects.

26 million people in this country are diabetic (95% are type II and the majority of those are obese) and 54 million are pre-diabetic.  80 million people, ALMOST ONE THIRD of the US population are affected by this disease….. the largest risk factor for diabetes? Obesity.  I couldn’t agree more with Eat A Cheeseburger’s sentiment of “hoping that women will not feel pressure to change the way they look just because they are given such a limited view of appearance from the media”; however, I hope that we can feel pressured to change the way we look because our survival is dependent upon it.  As I sat in a doctor’s office last week listening to the results of a CT scan that revealed a fatty and enlarged liver I was shocked by my physician’s stumbling, stuttering and complete decimation of the word ‘overweight.”  She was trying to explain that my weight could cause these results and she says, “your BMI is 28, so, you, are, um……o-o-o-o-o-overweight.”  This reminded me of when I thanked my OB/gyn for sticking with her yearly plea, “I need you to lose weight” and she told me that she had lost many patients over that plea.  What is going on?  We will listen to a magazine, to a TV show, to a blog, to our parents, or our friends……. but those that are charged with managing our health, well, their words, get lost in translation.  My docs don’t care if my jeans make my butt look big or if my big butt is just, well, BIG.  They only care if my big butt is causing my big blood glucose numbers. That is the only translation that matters.

I promise, I am almost there…… I am almost out of words for this entry and then you can load your cannons and fire away.  The entry that got all this started was again from Eat A Cheeseburger –Kids and Dieting: it’s not just the “media’s” fault. Having been skinny-by-starvation and morbidly obese and now being the mother a flawless 2 1/2 year old daughter……. I am beyond sensitive to how I raise her in regards to her body image.  Because of my own obesity induced health obstacles, I want her to understand the importance of maintaining a healthy weight…… for her health, NOT how her rear end looks in a pair of jeans!  So, when I read this entry and it asked the question, “If Mom is constantly dieting and obsessed with her food portions and her weight and is exercising like a maniac, what type of message does it send to her 4th grade daughter?”  I had a fairly strong reaction.  I am on Weight Watchers.  I exercise 6 days a week.  I test my blood 45 times a day.  I weigh once a week.  I can honestly tell you that I do this FOR MY HEALTH.  I do this so that I can witness as many days of this flawless creature’s life as humanly possible.  Somehow, this could be a harmful message to send her.  But, encouraging her to drink water instead of Woo-Hoo or to eat baked sweet potato fries instead of cheese fries, or to exercise, or teaching her to make healthy choices and that she can eat ANYTHING in MODERATION…… well, this message, too, could be lost in translation.

So, what is the alternative?  To not say a word?  To not teach a thing? To not live by example? I do not think that is right either.  For the first time ever, the current generation of children is not expected to live as long as their parents.  This is unacceptable to me.  I am her mother and for a long time I will be her compass.  I will find a way to teach her to love herself, to love herself inside and out, to love herself enough to make the choices that keep her healthy and yes, to love herself enough to change the way she looks if it will help ensure her survival.

I am not sure I have arrived at any great conclusion.  In fact, I am pretty sure I have no conclusions.  I am also not sure that what I have said hasn’t touched a nerve with someone else.  It is not my intent to pass judgement on anyone, it is only my intent to share my thoughts and ask that you share yours.

The Dishing Diabetic

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This is Your Brain On….. Fat?

Fried_20eggsLet me see if I have got this right……

Obesity is a leading risk factor for heart disease and heart disease can kill you?  Check.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for hypertension and hypertension can cause a stroke that can kill you?  Check.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for type II diabetes and type II diabetes, untreated, can lead to retinopathy (blindness), neuropathy (nerve damage that can lead to amputations), nephropathy (kidney disease), heart disease and stroke and most of those things can kill you?  Check.

Obesity causes severe brain degeneration and severe brain degeneration can…. WAIT, hold up just one second, severe WHAT? Being obese can actually shrink my brain?  Oh, this I gotta hear!

Apparently, a new study concludes that obese individuals, indentified as those with a Body Mass Index (BMI calculator) greater than 30, have 8% less brain tissue and their brain looks 16 years older than the brain of someone who is not obese.  The study goes on to say that individuals who are overweight (BMI>25) have 4% less brain tissue and their brain is 8 years older comparatively.  Brain scans of 94 70-year olds produced this study’s results.

This brain degeneration leaves the individual with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.  In addition, the areas that experience the tissue degeneration in obese individuals are responsible for planning, memory, attention, movement and executive functions.  In overweight individuals the affected areas are responsible for sensory functions.  The senior author of the study, Paul Thompson, says if you can eat healthy and manage your weight, you can significantly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s.

When you consider the growing list of health risks associated with being obese or overweight and realize that the World Health Organization reports 300 million people worldwide are obese and another 1 BILLION are overweight, it is easy to see that we have a problem of pandemic proportions.  Poor eating habits is the biggest culprit causing obesity.  The good news is that this is something that could be changed.  The question is how.

Do you remember those public service announcements where they put the egg in the frying pan and that very deep, very serious voice-over voice said, “this is your brain on drugs?”  Is the next step a PSA with the announcement, “this is your brain on…..fat?”

In the 6th grade, my class attended a Just Say No presentation (yep, the good ole Reagan Era).  The speaker told a story about an 18 year old drafted into the NBA who tried cocaine for the 1st time at a party, died of an overdose and never saw the fruits of a career playing basketball.   This story played a pivotal role in my choices for years to come.  Eventually we have to confront our food and drink choices just as we approach our decisions not to use other harmful substances….. eventually we have to see the fit vs. fat debate as a health debate NOT a vanity debate.  Do we need a national campaign?  Do we need a First Lady to come along and declare a War on Fat?  This may not be too far off when you read 5 Bucks for a Can of Coke. Is the government’s answer to tax the foods that are “bad” for us?  Will that be enough of a deterrent (tobacco tax has increased exponentially over the last decade with very little impact on the number of people smoking)? At what point do we make good decisions because they are good for our health?

This is a very serious problem and it is also a very sensitive one.  I am a type II diabetic who spent the majority of my 20’s with a BMI of 40. I feel that I have a responsibility to discuss the obesity epidemic and its bedfellows: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and now, brain degeneration. My perspective on this topic is from a type 2 diabetic, who has spent 1/3 of her life obese, who smoked for 10 years and spent the majority of those same 10 years completely sedentary with a total cholesterol count of 282.  I have been a fat girl and once a fat girl, always a fat girl….. no matter what the scale says (if you have been there, you know exactly what I am talking about….. that’s a topic for another post).  My approach to the obesity epidemic is devoid of judgment or discrimination….. I have been there.  However, no one can fight this battle for us, we, each one of us, one by one, has to decide that the health risks are just not worth it.

What do you think the answer is? What needs to be created or put into place that will welp reverse this deadly trend?

The Dishing Diabetic

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Test Strip Tyranny

I am going to step out on a limb here and say that having type II diabetes means facing a number of obstacles – emotional, nutritional and physical.  Upon diagnosis, the barrage of  emotions – shock, confusion, denial, anger, grief – is staggering.  It is not a stretch to say that life as you knew it is a thing of the past.  You now have to learn how to eat, drink, exercise, test your blood and the most optimal times throughout the day to do those things.  Nutritionally, you must learn how everything – food, drink, exercise, medication – will affect your blood sugar and how to modify each of those things address blood glucose readings that are too high or too low.  Physically, you endure the side effects of your new diet and the addition of exercise to your routine.  For me, I struggled to find the time to have type II diabetes and be a med student’s wife, a mother, a stepmother, and an employee.  This thing literally comes at you from every direction.  There is one source of constant feedback that becomes your lifeline….. your glucometer and test strips.  The ability to “TEST, TEST, TEST” (you will see this mantra on almost all of the diabetes message boards) allows a type II diabetic to know how their diet and their exercise affects their blood glucose levels without any side effects (technology is so advanced now that most of us don’t even endure sore fingers!).

I am going to go out on another limb and say that those that test are those that have made managing their diabetes and preventing diabetic complications a priority in their daily life.  Although the diabetic benefits the most from these efforts, the general population benefits as well.  Just research the biggest contributors to escalating healthcare costs in this country.  You will see the rising obesity rates and the dramatic impact they have on healthcare’s “bottom line.”  Anywhere you see the term “obesity,” diabetes, heart disease and hypertension (bit of humor: my sweet friend who is a nurse calls this the Texas Trio) are sure to follow.  The cost of diabetic complications is exorbitant to the patient, those that care for them and the healthcare system.  When you consider the financial cost and that 80% of diabetic complications are preventable it becomes apparent how imperative prevention is for so many reasons.  Prevention can not be accomplished by new legislation, healthcare reform, or by those that love a diabetic.  Prevention is up to each type II diabetic and those that are at high risk for developing the disease (pre-diabetics). Daily blood glucose testing is central to successful prevention.  It is a simple and painless method to help manage diabetes; however, always having supplies on hand may not always be so simple.

I recently called my pharmacy to refill my test strips.  I was told that my insurance company did not approve the request because it was too “soon” since my last refill.  WHAT?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  We are talking about little pieces of plastic that collect my blood.  We are not talking about pills, syrups, or anything else that could be harmful if not controlled.  We are talking about test strips.  We are talking about blood glucose management.  We are talking about preventing diabetic complications.  We are talking about decreasing the costs of healthcare associated with the 80% of diabetic complications that are preventable.  This just absolutely amazes me.  These things should be passed out like candy to diabetics.  There should be test-strip-bowls in every endocrinologist’s office just like the lollipop bowls at the pediatrician’s.  Of all the obstacles diabetics face, obtaining test strips should NOT be one. Those that test are those that have made managing their diabetes and preventing diabetic complications a priority in their daily life.  Those that test are making a responsible decision that affects their life, the lives of those that love them and they are contributing – with every single pin prick – to the effort to reduce the cost of healthcare in this country.

So, until my doctor puts out a test-strip-bowl, I am left with 2 choices.  1) Test no more than 3 times a day OR 2) end up going whole days without testing until my insurance agency gives my pharmacy the green light to dispense me my little pieces of plastic. I can tell you that neither option agrees with me and, I am going to step out on another limb here, I am pretty sure the thousands of people on all of the wonderful diabetic message boards would agree.  From what I can tell from these amazing folks, we are all working to stay off medications, to take less or be taken off medication completely, to lose weight, the lower our blood glucose levels….. to PREVENT the diabetic complications that are guaranteed if we do not successfully manage are blood glucose.  This management begins when we “TEST, TEST, TEST” our blood glucose.

This was more of a venting, slightly political entry.  I apologize if I have offended anyone.  Have any of you faced this obstacle and found a way to overcome it?  If so, please share.

The Dishing Diabetic

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