Another study was released attempting to debunk the idea that healthy obesity exists. I had lab work done in March and was boasting about my good health status as my normal lab results and other doctor appointments indicate all my vital statistics are well within normal range. I consider myself to be healthy, the medical test results are proof. I admit I slacked with exercise during the winter, but even after months of absence, upon my return to the gym I found my stamina and ability unchanged. However, according to these recent studies my accomplishment in achieving and maintaining good health is still not good enough. That despite normal cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, individuals affected by obesity are STILL at risk for future cardiac issues. Therefore the study recommends that doctors should emphasize healthy diet and exercise. *eyeroll* I do eat healthy and exercise, that is how I maintain my current “healthy” status. So a doctor lecturing me on diet and exercise will not help with my weight, which is due to Lipedema. Actually, the only “fault” most doctors find in my eating habits is that I drink diet soda. And the assumption is made that I might be consuming more calories by drinking diet soda, blah blah blah. Let’s be honest, 400lbs is not due to drinking diet soda. I do not understand the purpose of these studies to debunk the Healthy Obesity “myth”. Why not research the cause of the excess weight? It seems so unbelievable that people can be healthy while obese, then why attack the healthy status which are supported by medical tests, why not focus on the reason that despite having a healthy lifestyle some patients still have excess fat? Or why despite healthy diet and exercise, weight alone contributes to cardiac death? Or is the use of “cardiac event” just a scare tactic? I know many normal size, otherwise considered healthy people who died suddenly from a heart attack. Most coroners will tell you everyone dies of cardiac arrest, your hearts stops, you die. Patients affected by obesity already face weight bias in healthcare, and these studies seem like an extension of that bias into the research part of the medical world. There are known gaps in obesity research, perhaps it would be better to research the positive, the healthy so it can be replicated. Would I be better off if I weighed less? Of course I would. Is diet and exercise the answer for Lipedema? No, it’s not. We need more research of the cause of excess weight beyond the assumed poor lifestyle choices, and we need treatment options beyond those that control hunger or limit caloric consumption.
Ignite Fitness is THE FitBloggin’ keynote event. Five minutes, 20 slides, a whole lot of fun…yes, I am limited to 5 mins. Think I can do it?
Finding Sarah – Just keep splashing: My journey to health in the pool
Weighing more than 500 lbs, I began my journey to health by walking laps in a pool. I progressed to water aerobics and learned that water fitness was actually one of the best exercises for my lipedema and lymphedema. While my physical abilities may be limited, fitting on gym equipment and mobility, in the pool I have freedom with my movements (foot at shoulder level) and the ability to adjust the intensity of my workouts. I have taken classes at many gyms, my favorite being with “Coach” as we called her, thick accent and “more faster” commands. My first day in her class, at a new gym she advised “do your best.” She obviously noticed this was not my first class, and in the midst of an exercise as I was daydreamingly making “rolling” moves with my arms she dropped down into a push up on the pool’s edge so she was in face and yelled. “Faster, faster, faster.” Whoa? What happened to “do your best?” She obviously noticed I was not doing my best, which was appreciated, and funny as heck. My journey to health has definitely been full of waves, and even a rip current, but I keep on splashing. I am healthy, and my lymphedema has amazing improvement.
On a recent trip I was randomly selected to use the TSA Precheck lane at the airport and it was WONDERFUL. I didn’t have to take off my shoes, or remove my laptop or liquids from my carry-on. But best of all there was no full body pat down of my fat.
Thankfully, I had already initiated my application to get a known traveler number so I will be able to use the Precheck lane for all my future travel. This specific airport I only had to go through the metal detector, I am not sure how the Precheck lanes are at other airports but my hope is Precheck will reduce the need for full body pat downs. I know I am not the only passenger of size who has been submitted to some overly intimate searches of my person, due to fat or excess skin.
“Ma’am I’m going to have to pat down your thighs.”
I once thought the worse part of flying was having to take my shoes off, then TSA began using the new body scanners and I was subjected to a full body pat down every time I passed through security. For some reason these high power technically advanced security scanners think my fat is a possible threat to our national security? I actually do have more than 3 ounces of fluid in my legs, but it poses no elevated risk to anyone but me, as flying causes my legs to swell.
The pat down (more like quick strokes of the hands, but it is still touching) requires me to spread my legs enough so they can pat each thigh individually, front and back. They pat down both calves, and both arms. Occasionally, they pat down my chest. I come to expect it, and I step out of the scanner ready to comply. After all, the TSA agents are just doing their jobs. They have always been polite to me. I usually state that I have a medical condition that causes excess fluid in my limbs which is why the scanner alerted them to the areas, and on most occasions the agent has asked if her touching me hurts. It does not. Nor does it trigger any emotional effects. However, I completely understand that for many people such a search and pat down can create both physical and emotional pain.
So here is the chance to possibly reduce TSA pat downs, “possibly” because at any time a passenger can be subjected to additional screening by TSA. Also, as I mentioned I have so far only used the Precheck lane at one airport so I can not state with certainty that all use metal detectors verses body scanners. But I believe for now using the Precheck lane is the best hope we have to avoid a full body pat down of our fat and excess skin.
How can I access the TSA Precheck lane?
There are several ways to access TSA Precheck: randomly, via airline frequent flyer program, or having a known traveler number (KTN). The only way to guarantee use of the lane everytime you travel is having a known traveler number (KTN). In order to receive a KTN you must complete the application process for one of the Trusted Traveler Programs.
I applied for Global Entry ($100 fee) because I have a passport and hope to fly internationally more in the future. If you do not have a passport and only fly within the US you can apply for the TSA Precheck ($85 fee). All Trusted Traveler Program memberships last five years.
I applied online for Global Entry in January. I had to provide typical background information, my citizenship information (Passport Number), and pay the $100 fee. Within 24 hours I received notification that I was approved for the program and that I needed to schedule an in person interview within 30 days. I had 30 days to schedule the interview, the actual dates available for interviews at my nearest Global Entry location were in April.
I had the interview a couple weeks ago. I simply had to show up at my scheduled time with my approval letter and passport. I was asked to confirm some questions from my online application, and asked a few additional question. My photo and fingerprints were taken. The interview took 15 minutes. Now all I have to do is make sure my KTN is listed on my airline reservations and I will be able to use the Precheck lane at the airport security check point for all my future travels.
I realize for some the fee and background check might not seem worth it to use a “fast lane”, but I also know for many of us who endure the full body pat downs, it is more than worth it, not to mention no longer having to take off our shoes!
I grew up in America, in the society that hates fat people and yet I’ve never hated myself. I’m not sure how I missed the memo that I am suppose to dislike my body and myself for that matter not just because I am fat, but I gather because I am female. It seems most women, no matter the size, skin color, hair color, or education level have been taught to hate at least one thing about themselves. To feel they are lesser than others, and for that matter then engage in this competition to be “better” than those who all feel the same way?
Yes, so am I.
I am more confused by how I was able to avoid this self hate, and perhaps if I knew I could help others avoid hating themselves. It’s enough having society hate me for being fat, and then hate me even MORE for speaking up for myself against the hate. How dare the fat chick talk back to us? Or how dare the fat chick be happy? That’s not right, fat people are suppose to be sad and depressed! Shame on her for accepting herself and enjoying her life, that kind of example will never convince people that they should not want to be fat!
I make no apologies for being who I am, and loving who I am. If you cannot handle my reality then look away, but do not try to convince me that I am in denial.
People hate me because they fear being fat. They fear that if they become fat then society will treat them the way I am treated, or worse how they treat fat people. I have found the same hate from people who were once fat and have lost weight, they fear regain, they fear feeling the way they once felt about themselves. Why is being fat such a bad thing?
As I say, “Fat describes me, it does not define me.” Fat described my physical appearance, I do not hide from the “f” word. Sugar coating it by saying “pleasantly plump”, “plus size”, “fluffy”, “juicy”, “heavy set”, “full figured”, really does nothing to change my reality. After all, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.
I do not hate being fat because I base my self worth on more than my appearance.
I have always been fat, I will always be fat. When I made the decision to have gastric bypass surgery the surgeons estimated goal weight for me based on losing 50-70% of my excess weight was 220lbs. At 5’3″ and 220lbs I would have still been morbidly obese and qualified for weight loss surgery. Four years after surgery, and after my panniculectomy I did reach my lowest adult weight of 250lbs. I had lost half my body weight from 502lbs.
Wow, half my size and my life was PERFECT. No, actually my life then was not as full filling and exciting as my life is today writing this at 406lbs (my scale could actually register my weight this morning instead of OVRLD).
When I hit my “rock bottom” moment in April 2000, I knew I had to make a plan to change my life. I was morbidly obese, unemployed, and had not completed my college degree. While my weight definitely affected my life, it was not the source of all my life problems. Yes, part of the reason I had not completed my degree was because it was often difficult to walk to class, there were also many times I walked to the building and spent the night talking to my best friend in the computer lab instead of going to class. My problems were not due to my weight; my weight and my life problems were due to me not taking care of myself.
My plan was to get my life together, address my health, which included my weight, to finish my education, and overall be employable. At that point in time it did not include having a boyfriend or dating. Honestly, getting my own life back on track was enough work without involving someone else in the process.
I might have mentioned this before but patience is not a strength of mine. So instead of setting small attainable goals to reach in a realistic time frame I decided to jump in head first. I applied for graduate school and was accepted, this then prompted me to quickly complete my Bachelor degree. I also decided the weight loss I was achieving on my own was not going to be enough, nor quick enough, so I researched and decided to have weight loss surgery. Looking back the decision to address my health and pursue my education at the same time was not wise. This was the peak time of my lymphedema treatment and in addition to the appointments to have manual lymph drainage and compression wrapping on legs I was also often hospitalized for cellutitis and required IV antibiotics. Nothing says dedication like pulling over to the side of the road to self administer IV medication via mediport. I had to take a quarter off classes, and in others I took “incomplete”. As I said, I took on too much for me and my learning style and personal discipline to manage. Honestly, managing to walk around a hilly campus with my legs wrapped was quite an accomplishment. I probably just needed more time, perhaps another year to complete my studies. But instead, impatience me jumped shipped after two years and got a job. I planned on finishing my “incompletes” via e-mail. The professors agreed to the arrangement. However, when shortly after starting my new job I had a whole new wave of medical issues hit, and my life took a huge turn which actually lead to my current career.
My new job involved relocating to Miami, Florida. Life was getting better, or so I thought. Four months after my move I was hospitalized for cellulitis and a deep vein thrombosis. A few months later I suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) also know as a mini-stroke. Further tests revealed I had a hole in my heart that had gone unnoticed since birth. I had was on the scariest health roll coaster ever, and the issues had nothing to due with my weight. Although I am thankful that by this time I had my health on track or the stroke could have been worse.
In my journey, the weight I lost was not nearly as important as the strength I found in myself.
After a year of seeing numerous specialists and opting to have the hole in my heart closed, I then proceeded to have reconstructive surgeries to have excess skin removed. I also had to have a hernia repaired twice. The medical roller coaster involved more than just hospital and doctors it include learning to deal with insurance companies. I learned a lot, I had to fight a lot for coverage. I appealed and won on many occasions. It was a process I understood, I process others did not and I found myself helping friends and co-workers when they had insurance issues. I then decided to change careers and returned to college to get a degree in Health Services Administration. Graduation was timed quite well, just one month before my position at my job was eliminated and I was laid off.
It took me a year to find a new job, but I survived being unemployed. I learned to cut back on household expenses like cable. I sold items I no longer needed. I was resourceful, a problem solver, I focused on the positive: I got to sleep in for an entire year! All jokes aside, the new job was not as expected. I experienced weight and disability bias and was not being judged on my appearance instead of my skills and abilities. If you have read this far you will understand why I was not going to accept that type of treatment. I had not worked as hard as I did to improve my life situation to be judged on my appearance. I did not base my worth on my appearance and I was not going to accept others doing so. Of course the more I stood up for myself against the bias, the more attempts were made to knock me down. Having had successfully survived unemployment in the past I was not scared of what the outcome was going to be, I was not going to waiver on standing up for myself. That job ended as expected.
While all this was going on in my life, my weight was also increasing. I even had a revision to my RNY in September 2010, and still my weight is back up to 400lbs. I can debate the reasons, I can defend my habits, I can point to Lipedema and the still many unknowns about the condition.
I choose to accept it, no I’m not “giving up”…I am, as I always have, accepting myself.
Just as being fat was not the source of my life problems over a decade ago, regaining weight does not take away or diminish all that I have accomplished and challenges I have overcome.
I still have my education, I still have my resilience, my survival skills. I have a new sense of adventure. I have a new sense of purpose. I have someone very special in my life who supports, encourages and accepts me…he’s also very handsome and makes me laugh…oh and gives good back rubs.
A change in weight does not change all the good that I have in my life.
I still have fat arms, a big butt, and huge legs. However, I also still have a beautiful smile, cute dimples and an awesome personality. Those attributes cannot be measured on scale, and if they could that scale would most likely read “OVRLD” just like my regular scale.
Why don’t I hate being fat? Because I don’t hate myself, I never have and I never will.
Explored New Places
Speaking of dreams…. I decided to pursue mine and took a leap.
Went back to school to pursue a Masters in Health Law.
And restarted this blog to share my story…and share I did….
My story in OAC Your Weight Matters Magazine.
My story featured on ObesityHelp.com.
My story featured in Psychology Today.
Advocating for the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act and The Lymphedema Treatment Act.
Nominated for my advocacy efforts.
Had some fun along the way….
Made new friends…
Recycled the tutu!
Overall 2013 was a great year, one of transitioning towards a life of living my passion…I haven’t figured out exactly where I’m going but I’m enjoying the journey….and my plan for 2014….
Part Two of my The Bias Among Us series, read Part One The Bias Among Us – Success?
I have always received the majority of my post-op weight loss surgery (WLS) support online. I initially met most of my WLS friends on ObesityHelp, then had the pleasure of meeting them in person at ObesityHelp events. I have attended eight ObesityHelp events and two Obesity Action Coalition events. Most event attendees will tell you that one of the BEST parts of events is meeting other people and socializing. I know that even after 10 years in the community I enjoy events for the opportunity to catch up with old friend and to meet new friends. However, recently there has been some very disturbing incidents that have happened to me, and other long term post-ops that need to be discussed. Not much bothers me in life, but this is one of them, mostly because it totally zaps my mood, in the midst of enjoying life, socializing with others who “understand” the struggle of living with obesity I am reminded that some people still see me as just FAT, people who cannot see past my FAT to get to know the REAL me, to ask about my REAL journey, yet these same people claim to be “helpers”.
Last year at the inaugural OAC Your Weight Matters convention in Dallas, I meet many new friends. *wave* On the very first day of the conference a group of us were sitting in the lobby talking about our lives, not weight loss surgery, not weight…actually I have a very good memory, I was talking to another Sarah (spelled correctly with the H) about my job as she also worked in healthcare and was familiar with a company with whom I had just received a recruitment call. Suddenly, there was an interruption to my left, it was someone to whom I had never met asking me if I was pre-op and considering weight loss surgery, she came equipped with a pamphlet all about herself and her journey. She continued to tell me all about her weight loss, and how many support groups she speaks to about her journey. It was her sales pitch. Sorry I’m not pre-op, I”m actually many years post-op, yes I’ve regained. Yes, I know that despite having RNY and a revision I am still morbidly obese and qualify for surgery. I whip out my phone show my before picture, then quickly explain Lipedema and show my legs pictures and hope that’s enough to convey that I’m not buying what she was selling. And it was obviously enough because the person never interacted with me again the entire weekend. To me that showed her REAL intention was self promotion, not meeting me or getting to know me. If she really cared to know me, or the others sitting there, she would have engaged in the conversation, not interrupted then leave as soon as her sales pitch failed. This was further confirmed at the recent ObesityHelp Conference in Anaheim when the same person did not make any effort to engage in conversation with me, even after I reintroduced myself.
At the end of the very same conference it happened again. After walking my lap at the Walk from Obesity I went inside to warm up, Dallas was FREEZING that morning. So there I sit in my tutu and tiara and I’m approached by a fellow WLS patient and asked if I’m considering surgery, or am pre-op. Honestly, I don’t remember this conversation as much because I instantly started fiddling with my phone to pull up pictures. Why should I have to do this? I guess I don’t, I guess I could just be as rude as these people are and say something back to them verses explaining that yes I once weighed over 500lbs, see I used to be REALLY fat, now I’m just FAT FAT. I prefer the educational route, and at least this person was not trying to “sell” anything to me, they appeared to be genuinely concerned and/or interested in me and appreciated that I educated them about lipedema and lymphedema.
It is also troubling because the OAC Your Weight Matters Convention is NOT a weight loss surgery focused event, it is educational about healthy weight loss options, and advocacy for obesity. One of my favorite parts about the OAC is the work to make sure individuals have access to weight loss options “when they are ready.” During the weekend I met many professionals in the weight loss field, and not one of them approached me me to discuss my weight, so neither should regular attendees.
But Sarah, that was LAST year, get over it already, you’re too sensitive, these people are just trying to HELP.
No, actually some people are trying to get paid. I was recently scolded for speaking up against a comment I believed was stigmatizing against FAT people. I was told the person’s intentions were to help people, she has “found health” and just wants to pay it forward. Least we forget where we came from? I remember it fondly because I am almost back to where I started. Again the person trying to “help” also has a business marketed to post-op WLS patients, so let’s not confuse paying it forward to getting paid. I too have “found health”, my health might LOOK different than others’s perception of health, but I am healthy and I too help others. I have actually helped others for years to navigate the insurance process in order to get weight loss surgery and post-op plastic surgery covered. There is no weight or size requirement to help others, nor does losing 100lbs automatically qualify as a profession.
There is no weight or size requirement to help others, nor does losing 100lbs automatically qualify as a profession.
That recent experience is only one of the reasons I chose to finally write about this topic. Sadly, I have heard of several other incidents like the ones I experienced in Dallas, at other WLS events. Stories of long term post-ops or mid-journey post-ops being approached by fellow WLS patients and questioned as to why they have yet to reach “goal” weight (which who knows what someone else’s GOAL weight is????) or why the person hasn’t addressed their regain. Of course the person was ready to “help”, here just sign up for my program.
I have invited many long term post op friends to events in their areas only to be told “Oh, I’d LOVE to go, but I can’t, I’ve regained so much I’d be too embarrassed.” Regain happens, it is more common that most think or want to accept. Regain is also the very reason to attend an event. Events can provide education, rejuvenation, and motivation. However, all that can be diminished by a well intentioned person speaking inappropriately to someone about their weight. While I am strong and will just speak up about it and blog about it, it could and does really upset others.
I’m sure many of you reading this will be able to guess who these people are, I am sure their intention are to help as I am sure there are people who would benefit from the type of helpful services they offer. I am just not one of those people, and I feel obligated to point out the approach is inappropriate. If you want to help people do not shame them, also do not dismiss ME as a fellow WLS patient just because I am not a pre-op or in need of your services. You’re missing out on a potential awesome, cool, and funny friend. Most people who take the time to get to know the REAL me would agree, if not I’ll just delete their comments.
On the serious note, this is me being helpful. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help others, or starting a business to do so, however if you are going to enter into “people helping” career, you need to work on people skills. As I stated before, I dislike being approached by strangers about my weight. However, being approached by fellow WLS patients is even more upsetting.
- The WLS community is supposed to be one of support where people “understand” what it’s like to be obese. If you know what is it’s like or remember what it was like you know how mortifying it would have been to be approached about your weight. Also, in the WLS community you do not know if the person is pre-op, newly post-op, started at 500lbs and has lost 200, etc. We all come in so many shapes and sizes you cannot tell where we are in the journey by looking at us.
- Get to know the person. How can you help someone if you do not know them, know their story, where they are on their journey, their struggles? That is the question to ask “Where are you on your journey?” I was recently asked this by a vendor at an event and it was the perfect way to find out how their product might be useful to me without them making an assumption about me based on my appearance.
This year at the OAC Convention in Phoenix I once again met many many news friends. Several who do have businesses or are speakers in the community, but that was not their “pick-up” line, we actually had conversations about ourselves, our lives….the real roots of a support community.
National Health Blog Post Month Day 28 – A Time to Give Thanks
What’s the one thing you’re most thankful for? Write a list of three things that you’re thankful for, excited about, or inspired by.
I am most thankful for my fat. My fat is a part of who I am, more than just physically. My fat has made me stronger, kinder, and a more resourceful person. My fat makes me unique. Despite the challenges in life having Lipedema, and the excess fat, have presented I take every moment as a learning experience and I continue to move forward living the fullest and healthiest life possible.
I am most excited about 2014. I plan on attending several conferences, many to which will be first time conferences for me and I look forward to the information and opportunities.
I am most inspired by the new friends and fellow Lipedema patients I have made this past year.
As Dorie the Fish would say “Just Keep Swimming”, in my case in order to spread awareness about Lipedema, I’ll “Just Keep Talking”, sharing my experiences and stories. Today yet another opportunity was presented to me, it was quite a whirlwind afternoon. At about 11:30 this morning I received an e-mail from James at the Obesity Action Coalition asking if I’d be interested in participating in a BBC show looking for people to share their story of living with obesity at 1:30 PM. I immediately replied, “Yes”…then I inquired about some details like “what’s the actual topic of the show?”, “who else was participating?”. Within minutes a staff member from BBC called me to give me more details, and to ask more information about me and my experiences with obesity. Oh and he asked if I had access to Skype, sure I do!
The show was BBC World Have Your Say and the segment was in regards to the story of Kevin Chenais, 22-year-old man from France who was stranded in Chicago because British Airways said that at 500lbs he was too fat to fly. Virgin Atlantic stepped up and flew Chenais to London, where he then encountered another travel issue. I was very familiar with the story, and relieved to hear he was finally getting help to get home.
There I sat in my bed, in my nightshirt, hair in ponytail, glasses on.
Skype means video, right? Ugh, I can’t talk about obesity from BED…what would people think? Probably nothing worse than they already think, but anyway I quickly got dressed, brushed my hair, and put some make-up on. Then another BBC staffer contacted me via Skype to test my connection and I found out it was going to be a radio show. Whew.
I was instructed that the host would start the conversation but that they wanted the participants to just keeping talking in reply to each other, no waiting on the host to call on me for my opinion just chime right in with my comments. “Is that something you’d be comfortable doing?” That’s something I do all the time!
Here is the link to our conversation on World Have Your Say: (our segment begins At 31:20)
National Health Blog Post Month Day 18 – Three Truths and a Lie
Tell us three things that are true about you, your condition, your Health Activism, or your life. Now tell us a lie. Do you think we will be able to tell the difference?
1. I’ve been told “you are what we read about in medical books.”
2. I once showed up in person to my insurance company’s office to check on the status of an appeal.
3. The sight of needles makes me squeamish.
4. Anytime I get new insurance coverage I request a copy of the Plan Document and I read it thoroughly.
Take guess…which one is the lie?