I love label makers. I love to categorize things and put them in the same drawer, take a collection of books and put them all on the same shelf, sort office supplies and place them in compartments in my desk. I love searching the categorized aisles at the store find just the right product. We humans naturally label things. We naturally make patterns and put things in categories. We do the same thing with people. This label, obesity, is my most unfavorite label.
Feelings check: **Sigh** Every time I see the word, obesity, it makes me feel very sad. And I don’t just have morbid obesity, I have, wait for it—morbid (severe) obesity. I know it’s a label. I know it’s a medical term based on specific data, however, the word, obesity, carries a stigma. Unlike with other stigmas, mental illness, learning disabilities, being born into poverty; obesity, morbid obesity, morbid (severe) obesity all carry this unwritten inner dialogue, the unwritten inner dialogue is, “You made yourself obese. You could have prevented it. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you control your eating? Why don’t you exercise more? You’re nothing. You’re fat. If only you were more disciplined.” Sure, I can choose to not identify or agree with this inner dialogue, however I wear my label. I can’t hide it. It’s there, in the rolls of belly fat.
It seems odd, but if I’m honest, one of the things I’m afraid of after my surgery, is being thin. Believe it or not, I remember days in my late teens and 20s when I was thin, and received compliments on my appearance and whistles as I walked down the street. That objectifying, is the part of being thin that I’d like to avoid. I’ve grown to accept my ‘heavy mom’ identity. I’ve grown to love who I am in spite of how I look. Embracing myself at any weight helps me to embrace others. I don’t want to simply be loved for what I look like. These are qualities I treasure. These are qualities I cherish in other people. In a way being heavy, has made it so I have to love and reach out— in spite of labels.
So why not just stay obese? Well, there are the complex effects of long-term obesity and comorbidities and specifically the effects of diabetes, that convince me to go ahead with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB). There are many articles on the subject of Long-Term Mortality after Gastric Bypass Surgery at New England Journal of Medicine. “Diet, exercise, and medical therapy have not been shown to be effective in treating severe obesity in the long term” -see more at Long-Term Impact of Bariatric Surgery on Body Weight, Comorbidities, and Nutritional Status.
In my January nutrition meeting, the most impacting take-away was that I need to chew my food to applesauce consistency. What? Have you tried this? Whether you realize it or not, chewing and swallowing is pretty much involuntary. We don’t think, “Oh, chew 1, 2, 3, 4…25…30, yup, applesauce consistency, swallow.” No, we don’t think. We’ve learned from a young age, just how much we have to chew our food in order to not choke. That’s it. Simple. Chew. Swallow. Repeat. There’s not a lot of mindfulness involved in that. However, I’m supposed to change over 40 years of eating habits. Here are the three steps of mindful eating: 1) tuning in to the physical characteristics of food (Oh, this salad is really crunchy. Mmmm.) 2) tuning into the repetitive habits and processes of eating (Sit at the table instead of standing or sitting in front of the TV.) 3) tuning into mindless eating triggers. (Even though you’re starving, Joy, wait until you get home instead of eating in the car.) I definitely eat mindlessly. Can I get a “Hells yeah!” from the moms in the audience? If we’re honest, most of us eat mindlessly. We are surviving this thing called Life…come on. Can I get an “Amen?”
So back to label-making. I’m going to think of it as what it is, a label. I can rip off that label and make a new one, right?