I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk, Inc. to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
Back in November of last year I began focusing more on my health by incorporating better nutrition and a bit more exercise into my life. I also worked with my doctors to treat my mental and physical health challenges, which included getting some much-needed pain relief injections in my spine and getting put on a combination of pills to help with headaches and depression.
Amazingly, this focus on self-care not only helped me to feel better, but it also had the added benefit of helping me to lose some of the weight I’d gained since the birth of my fourth son. I won’t lie – I was elated!
By early March, just around the time the world seemingly fell apart, I’d lost somewhere in the region of twenty pounds. That’s more than 10% of my body weight!
But then everything changed with the pandemic. Like so many others worldwide, I found my world turned upside down. Suddenly, I was a full time teacher to my children, I had almost no time to work on my business, stress was at an all-time high – and to top it all off, our fridge/freezer decided to die, and no one could come out to fix it for THREE WEEKS.
We had literally just stocked up on hundreds of dollars worth of healthy foods to see us through the rough beginnings of the quarantine, and it all had to be thrown out. By the time we were able to get it fixed, grocery stores were low on basically everything. Access to healthy and fresh food was limited, and as someone with a comorbidity, getting out of the house was a terrifying prospect.
I spent most of my time online, connecting with friends and family through the internet, commiserating with others who were experiencing this with me. It gave me comfort knowing I wasn’t alone. But it wasn’t long before I noticed something that bothered me a little bit.
As I perused social media, I saw an alarming number of new memes and jokes being passed around with people talking about how fat they were going to be once quarantine was over. The idea was that when stuck at home, the only obvious thing to do is eat junk food. I saw thin women I consider friends taking photos of themselves in “fat suits” pretending to have let themselves go. It shook me.
I’m not someone who cares too much about being overly politically correct, but when it comes to matters of weight, I – despite appearances – have a very thin skin.
Obesity is a disease. I have shared my thoughts on the subject before, and I stand by it now more than ever. Simplifying it into a cruel joke for internet points by suggesting that people get fat by simply eating badly for a short time is unfair and untrue. While unhealthy eating can definitely play a part in weight gain, there are many factors that go into a person’s experience with weight gain and obesity
For me, the current situation has meant a weight plateau, though my eating habits have not changed. But while I have not lost any further weight, I also have not gained any either. The idea that simply maintaining my weight can be seen as a WIN is totally unfamiliar to me, but in these uncertain times, I am celebrating it as a huge accomplishment.
The truth is that for many diseases, there are no true cures. The best you will get is stability. If your disease is progressive, then every day it doesn’t get worse is a win. Obesity is something I have navigated since my teenage years. Sometimes I do myself no favors by making poor choices with nutrition or in low activity levels. Other times I practice good self-care by working diligently to feed my body exactly what it needs. And the truth is that whichever one I choose, sometimes the result is exactly the same.
Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Through discussions with them, I have come to understand that obesity is a chronic disease, and it has nothing to do with a lack of effort or willpower.
Through my work with Med-IQ, I have learned so much, including how to recognize my own power in my medical care. I have learned to advocate for myself and ask for help when I need it. Back in November, I walked into my doctor’s office with a list of issues I wanted to finally address. From pain to chronic fatigue to headaches to an inability to lose weight, my doctor listened to each problem and worked with me to find suitable help for each one. I had never done that before.
In the past, I have listened to that inner voice that told me that all of my problems were of my own making. I told myself I was fat because I was lazy, and I was in pain because I was fat. When I started seeing obesity as the disease it is, I was able to change that inner voice and ask for help managing my disease – just like I would if I had any other well-known issue.
I can’t tell you how changing my thinking has changed my entire life. Even if I “only” continue to maintain my weight for now, I’m perfectly happy. That is still twenty pounds I don’t have to carry around anymore, lowering my blood pressure, cholesterol and other comorbidities, and that could make a difference in the severity of Covid-19.
In fact, I’ve taken up some new hobbies during quarantine to keep me more active. Things like woodworking have allowed me to be handy around the house while also building up muscle strength. Since the CDC recommends staying active at home, I’m going to do all I can to make it happen!
If you take away nothing else, know this – weight is complex. But it is not the only factor that matters. Obesity as a disease is important because of how it impacts things like blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall body fat composition, because these are things that impact your health. Your weight is literally just a number, and it changes based on so many factors.
Right now, I am focused more on how my clothes fit – last summer, I couldn’t even wear my favorite outfits because they just didn’t fit! But this year I’m already enjoying them. They’re even a little loose!
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