Friday, May 14, 2010

A weighty history

Warning- this will be long !
I want to share with you today my own weight story- or the reason Why I weigh what I do in spite of following the advice that has brought so many others to weight loss. I include pictures from my life to illustrate what I am talking about here.
Something hit me yesterday as I was reading blogs of those also struggling with weight. While the vast majority of folks on this road were at one time thin and became obese for a variety of reasons, I have never been a thin person. Not even for a minute.

I was born at 8 lbs and by the time I was a month old ( pictured above) I had chubby arms and legs and dimpled knees. I spent my early childhood in very active pursuits, eating normal amounts and varieties, but weighing infinitely more than I should. My sister who was 18 months younger than me would eat pounds of cookies, cakes, sugar and she was a very thin to normal sized kid.People would often tell me that if I would follow her example, I too would be thin. My sister and I would both laugh, because we knew the truth. Appearances can be very deceptive. Here we are at ages 4 and 2

I began school in the first grade (skipped kindergarten for some reason) weighing a whopping 200 lbs. My grandmother said it was because I had concrete bones, because while I was heavy, I did not look like I had 200 lbs on my frame.( I think scales have hated me all my life and operate differently once I step on them) This is what a 200 lb first grader looks like.

I spent my childhood running, playing with all the other children , and for summer vacations as a family we would camp and do wilderness backpacking. As I grew older we began taking canoe trips into the wilderness that boarders Minnesota and Canada. I ate normal, was very active, but still my weight krept up for no apparent reason. Here I am at 9, and puberty is begining to take hold

I went through high school as an overweight person, walking 5-10 miles a night with my friends just for fun, swimming with the park district swim team and my weight continued to creep up. My mom would put me on various diets ( Stillman, calorie counting , Aydes reducing plan, exercise classes) and nothing worked. I did manage to become severely dehydrated once and wound up in the hospital emergency room needing tests to check for kidney failure, but I never lost any weight. Here I am as a Sophomore with the same sister who was now a Freshman after a concert we sang in

When I was 18 I began to develop facial hair- not a light mustache, but a full on beard that required daily shaving.( I still have it) My periods stopped for a year. The medical communities answer to this was “lose weight and all will be fine”. I attempted Weight Watchers for the first time , lost 20 lbs and then the weight loss stopped in spite of following the program to the letter. The weight came back and never left. Here I am at 21 with Bob. It is the earliest picture of us together

When I was 22 I married my soul mate , and we intended to have children right away. He came from a family of 6, I came from one of 5 and both had branches of our extended families that had 10 or more children. It seemed all you had to do was have a man shake out his pants in your vicinity and pregnancy would result. Here I am on our wedding day with some of my best friends at the time.

Our first year passed, and no baby and once again a full year without a period, so I went to consult my Doctors to see if there was a problem. The answer was Clomid,a fertility drug, with the express warning that if I conceived while on this drug I would have to abort . ( excuse me, but WHAT ??? Why in the heck am I taking this and how can it be a fertility drug if I would have to abort because of it ???)Made absolutely no sense to me, and the single month of Clomid made me completely insane. I decided to pursue other avenues instead of going through that torture again.( Incidentally, they have changed their minds about babies conceived on Clomid, and I believe The Gosslin sextuplets are a result of that drug) The Clomid did produce one affect though- weight gain ! I blossomed to 290 with it’s aid. My younger sisters all began to have children, and at least if I could not be a mom I got to be a great Auntie ! Here I am with my oldest niece, close to 300 lbs

I was also told at that time that I must go in for stomach stapling to lose weight or I would be dead by age 30. Not based on a measure of blood pressure, cholesterol or anything beyond the number on the scale, which before Clomid was 260. (Incidentally I said no to the surgery, and at age 51 and 240 lbs, I am very much alive, thank you). This picture was from sometime during those infertile years

Years passed, no baby, no hope till one day I stumbled upon a Naturopath who seemed to have a radical idea. Excess weight is not only a result of what you eat and how you move, but a metabolic reaction that is caused by a malfunction in the ovaries. Normally a woman produces an egg every month of her adult fertile life. Through a complex hormone sequence, beginning in the pituitary gland, hormones are released that send messages to the thyroid, adrenal glands, liver and ovaries, and when the proper blend is released, a follicle in the ovary ripens and an egg is produced. If the egg is not fertilized it will be sloughed off with her monthly bleeding( along with the lining to the uterus which has been building up in preparation for an embryo to implant). In this malfunction, the ovary produces follicle after follicle, which fail to release an egg, but turn into multiple cysts. This in turn sends a further chemical reaction to the entire body, basically saying produce more of this hormone, less of that "and from here on out we will interpret _ as _". This malfunction is called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS for short. For reasons not totally understood, the root cause may lie in the metabolic process of the body, and a diet increasing fats and proteins but decreasing starches can help bring the body weight down, ease the hormonal cycle and bring the body to a sense of normal function. PCOS can cause infertility, hirtsuism( excessive hair growth), severe acne, elevated androgen levels( makes your body look more male than female), Metabolic syndrome, increased risk of miscarriage, heart disease, diabetes and ovarian cancer amongst other things. Weight loss will not cure PCOS, for there is no cure. It can, however, make conception and a healthier metabolic make up possible.

I followed this advice without an official diagnosis, lost 110 pounds, at long last conceived and after a stillbirth had a healthy son,( who is in the above picture at 4 months old in a baby backpack that I loved to carry him in while we went walking). PCOS was not done with me, for after that pregnancy I went on to conceive and miscarry 4 more times , and with each pregnancy my metabolic situation has gotten harder and harder to budge. After my last miscarriage a very compassionate GP discovered that I have an elevated androgen level and an ultrasound revealed that I did indeed have PCOS. It was not news to me, but I appreciated having formal confirmation at last. Weight loss is something I keep striving for because if I never try, I have indeed failed, but if I keep trying I am at least still in the fight. I also do it to be a mentor to my son, who gained a massive amount of weight due to food texture issues that manifested through Autism. We are dealing with a whole different faucet of childhood obesity. PCOS is still a factor in my life , and is making the transition into menopause interesting to say the least.

I read blogs about those who were thin, gained and they express the shame and disappointment they felt in themselves for gaining weight. I have never had that feeling , and often wonder what these people would do if they were blessed with this body condition ?. My body, for whatever weird reason, has made me larger than life for the entire time I have been on this planet. It was not laziness, bad habits, emotional eating, binging or any other thing outside of two small almond sized organs residing in my lower abdomen that caused my weight. On the upside, without them I would have never been gifted with my son, so it’s not all bad. People have made comments and judged me in the past because of my weight, but I never let it bother me. Long ago I seemed to have learned a truth that Wayne Dyer speaks of, and that is that your opinion of me is none of my business. This means I am genuinely happy within my skin, and that I am so much more than what the outside state of me would indicate. It does not mean I do not try to change that picture , because I genuinely love a challenge. I love to tackle things that people say are impossible or that simply cannot be done. Bring it on !


Marisa (Loser for Life) said...

You are such a strong woman, Diane! I love that you are always searching and trying to find what works best for you and not just letting the docs determine it.

Glad that you are happy being YOU! Everything after that is just bonus :)

Liz said...

Terrific post! I also suffer from PCOS and have been on Clomid. After 2 years of trying to get pregnant my husband and I said enough. 6 months later we requested a sperm analysis on my husband just to satisfy our curiosity. Found out he has zero sperm count all along. The dr. never suggested the test, ever. Just put me on clomid to be miserable!

Life does go on with PCOS.

The Incredible Shrinking Family said...

Marissa- thanks! I don't think of myself necessarily as strong, but more like a stranger in a strange land , and there is a lot to be said good about that condition !

Liz- I feel your pain ! It used to be that the very first thing that was done in a fertility workup was a sperm analysis, but sadly the fix to that is not as profitable as the procedures and drugs used on women to treat the problem , so it is little considered these days. Truth is in most cases the problem lies with low sperm motility , sperm count or such things. Different vitamins can correct the problem as well as other non surgical answers. Low or zero sperm count can sometimes be addressed through these methods as well ( high levels of zinc , vitamin A and C through foods like seeds, apricots, oranges and so forth). All it takes is one strong sperm meeting with a fertile , healthy egg at the right time . The rest are just kind of back up singers ! Clomid is a nasty little drug ! Birth Control pills can often help calm down PCOS, but many women do not discover that they have it until they begin to seek fertility help, and then birth control is the last thing on earth you want . You are correct- life does go on with PCOS. Know however that PCOS is a factor long before and after fertility is an issue, and it can make life changes interesting to say the least !

skinnyhollie said...

You are such a strong woman!

I, too, have been fat since the day I was born, and also had the pleasure of having a skinny sister two years younger who ate TWICE as much as me with no consequence. Wow... so glad someone else knows how I feel. It was torture.

Is there a test for PCOS? It might be something I need to check into. I have suffered with ovarian cysts for several years, but avoid my ob/gyn because I am afraid he will recommend surgery. I keep saying, "I just want to lose weight first." But when you mentioned facial hair, I thought - wow... I have that, too. It might be something to check out.

Thanks for being so open!

The Incredible Shrinking Family said...

Hollie, PCOS in your case is a DEFINITE possibility ! I do not know what the current procedure is , but when I was tested it was bloodwork and a trans- vaginal ultrasound. Elevated levels of androgen were one of the marks of confirmation, and the presence of multiple ovarian cysts were another. I think the clue to getting a diagnosis is knowing just what symptoms to bring to your Gyno - or better still your internist. If you go in telling them you struggle with weight, have facial hair and any kind of irregularities in your cycle they will run bloodwork. Sometimes the symptoms occur in thyroid abnormalities ( and it seems that PCOS does a number on the thyroid long term). Years ago the treatment was removal of a slice of your ovaries, but since then they have discovered simpler treatments. Metaformin is one course of action, birth control pills are another. I opted to go with a strictly low starch diet to lose weight and get pregnant ( no more than 3 servings of fruit per day, 2 servings of bread or beans, 2 servings of dairy, 2 servings of 8 oz of meat) and the weight moved until I got pregnant, and then what worked in the past no longer worked. Check with your doctor- you always have the right to refuse any course of treatment suggested that you do not feel comfortable with and for almost any drug or surgical therapy there are alternative paths to consider once you have a definate diagnosis. And while PCOS is simply one reason for a real battle with weight, it is simply one of many, and a medical evaluation can uncover the reasons , bringing a lot of peace of mind. The human body is a very complex thing, and one size does not fit all for anything- especially weight loss ! For some of us , it is more chemical than calories in and out, and working with that particular chemistry brings not only results but a great sense of peace of mind. We are not flawed, lazy or stupid- we are simply spiritual beings undergoing a human experience of a wide variety of possibilities, ans because of that we are beautiful.

spunkysuzi said...

Thank you for this post! I never realized what pcos was. What a battle it is for people who suffer from it.

blessedmama said...

You are simply amazing. It's been a couple of months since I stumbled across your blog, and I've kept coming back because of your sense of humor, your optimistic outlook on life, your resiliency and strength when it comes to your son, your continual journey of getting healthier, and even because you homeschool like me. Your story so proves the point that no one should judge another or think they figured out why someone has a weight issue or any other kind of issue. How brave of you to print this. I am so glad the Lord has blessed you with Nick and with such a loving husband. You deserve them, and they deserve you. Blessings!

The Incredible Shrinking Family said...

Suzi- sadly it is one problem that receives very little attention and many women who deal with it spend years thinking that they are somehow bad or lazy or so forth because of their weight, which will not budge no matter how many times they diet, exercise or so on. The weight is just a symptom of a much more complex problem, but few Doctors connect the dots , so to speak and find the root cause.

Blessed mama- Thank you, but I am just an ordinary woman who puts on her pants one leg at a time like the rest of us. I think all of these things were gifted to me in order to prepare me to be the exact mom that Nick needs, and the perfect wife for Bob ( who I think is pretty darned amazing). One of the interesting challenges of the whole human experience is getting past what we are lead to believe by appearance and "conventional" wisdom. Once we do , we seem to uncover pretty miraculous things that hide in our blindside. Makes the whole business of life a very interesting journey indeed !

blessedmama said...

Yes, and each of these experiences and the people that are with us through them, only enrich our lives the more. :-)