So, yeah, it’s “been a minute” (to borrow a Southern phrase I learned in said “minute”) since my last blog post. Sorry. But this one is the whole explanation why!
Back in 2017, I shared this post about surgery I had to have because of a big ole fibroid making my life super, extra, mega miserable. That’ll give you a few more background details.
Where to start…
On Monday, August 3, I went in for a vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG). I wanted a hysterectomy due to all the hormonal awfulness, bleeding, and other crap that had been plaguing me for… almost 30 years. My OB-GYN said no; I was too obese.
Needless to say, I was pissed.
You see, and pretty much every fat person you or I know will back me up with similar experiences, I have a bunch of other medical issues—particularly hormone related, but also ADHD—that have been causing the obesity. Yet the doctors have been treating my fatness as a cause for the issues. One of the biggest symptoms of estrogen imbalance? WEIGHT GAIN AND OBESITY. But no, “If you just lose weight, it will fix itself.”
Those of you with more delicate sensitivities, ignore the next line.
Fuck that fucking bullshit fuckery!
Losing weight is not a means to fix existing hormone imbalances or neuroatypical issues. The weight is there because of those issues! If the issues don’t get addressed, you know what? YOU WON’T LOSE WEIGHT!
Unfortunately, added weight also exacerbates the issues.
So you get this fan-fucking-tastic cycle of a flare-up of issues causing weight gain, weight gain increasing flare-ups / symptoms, flare-ups / worse symptoms causing more weight gain.
And then there’s outside issues that exacerbate that—like stress.
Of course, having ADHD and bleeding heavily every month also increase stress…
You see where this is going, right?
So, why did I not go find a second or third opinion and a surgeon who’d do the hysterectomy anyway, which had a good chance of helping with the weight loss?
A few reasons…
1. Quite simply, I was exhausted. I was exhausted from fighting with medical professionals, I was exhausted trying to argue about yet another weight thing, and I was exhausted from all my symptoms. (Pain, hot/cold flashes, bleeding, brain fog, forgetfulness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, rage…)
2. My OB-GYN is actually a good doctor and the conversation didn’t stop at being too obese for a hysterectomy. She gave me a bunch of resources and research on how the VSG also affects hormones and a variety of other things. Here’s one, and another.
3. I have a fantastic psychologist for my ADHD who I was referred to for weight loss. She is also a wealth of information and will even pull up academic and medical journal articles for me from her JSTOR account! She also empathized with my frustrations and helped me work through those too. On top of that, she (and my also-fantastic integrative doctor my PCP referred me to) introduced me to the studies about gut flora and how that affects obesity, and how the VSG also does the equivalent of a hard reset on gut flora. (More on that shortly!)
4. I have some amazing and supportive friends who have also had gastric surgery who helped me through the anger and societally-programmed guilt of needing surgery for weight issues. Who also have access to lots of research and information on top of their personal experience.
So here’s another fun Trish fact that most people don’t know (I swear this is related!): When I was a baby, I nearly died of salmonella shortly after birth, so my system was flushed with a massive broad spectrum antibiotic. And then I spent a fair amount of my childhood sick, getting prescribed antibiotics, and getting fat. Part of the illness was undiagnosed allergies and asthma… and as I got older, got my first period, I got a lot of UTIs… leading me to need the Kill All The Things antibiotics whenever I got sick because your regular run-of-the-mills wouldn’t work… and I was allergic to penicillin.
Now… y’know what they do to animals to make sure they’re fat and have a high fat content throughout their muscles?
The pump them full of broad spectrum antibiotics from a few days after they’re born and onward!
You see, lots of antibiotics change the gut biome, causing obesity. And once that’s done while it’s all developing… there’s little chance of not being fat. Because it ruins a person’s (or animal’s) gut flora! (I told you’d I’d get back to this!)
Now, let me clarify something, and pay close attention:
Antibiotics! Are! Not! Evil!
Antibiotics have saved billions of lives and the world would be worse off without them. This is not going to be a rant against Big Pharma and antibiotics. (Maybe I’ll rant about Big Pharma later… but my Adderall is still working!) Had Baby Trish not gotten a big ole thing of broad spectrum antibiotics in 1978, 42-year-old Trish would not be writing this now. However, in the 70s, there wasn’t the finesse in antibiotics that there is now. Also, it was kind of a thing in the 70s, 80s, and into the 90s to prescribe antibiotics to fix everything.
And because I’m a research kind of nerd, here’s an article about early-antibiotic use and obesity, and here’s an article on antibiotics in meats and their effect on animals (and potentially humans, but that’s also not within the scope of this post.)
Over-prescription of antibiotics is a problem. But also not the main point of this post.
The main point is this:
Due to a not-uncommon mix of medical problems, many exacerbated by medical professionals treating weight like a cause rather than a symptom, three of my doctors suggested I had a three or less percent chance of losing weight on my own—if I made losing weight my full time job!
Once again, for those in the back who equate obesity with stupidity, laziness, lack of trying, a character flaw, etc:
If I made losing weight my FULL TIME JOB, I had a less than three percent (3%) chance of losing weight.
So I decided to go with the sleeve gastrectomy. All the research I’d done showed that it held significant promise to fix a lot of my ongoing issues by resetting both my hormones and gut flora. (Hysterectomy would only affect my hormones… but it’s not off the table if this doesn’t fix the hormone issues!)
I didn’t say much of anything to anyone about it because the surgery carries a stigma. “Why can’t you just lose weight on your own?” (See above research.) “Couldn’t you just try harder?” (See above research.) “Just don’t eat so many donuts!” (I had had exactly two donuts in two years prior to two days before my surgery), thank you very much! Also, see above research.) “Maybe drink fewer sugary beverages?” (I drink water, coffee, and tea… and often the coffee is with little to no sugar, as is the tea. Also, research!) “Are you sure you want to do that to your body?” (My body is doing way worse to me. Also RESEARCH!)
It’s exhausting. If you aren’t fat, you have no idea how exhausting it is already to have to deal with people ranging from wanting to be (ignorantly) helpful with (uninformed) good intentions to full-blown raging, shit-spewing assholes.
/sarcasm/ No, I’ve never tried to lose weight by adjusting my food intake, watching calories, exercising more, trying A-Z diet… Not once has it crossed my mind. Thank goodness you suggested that; you may have changed my life. /sarcasm/
Every. Damned. Day.
It was just easier to not talk about it. It was easier to just tell my family and friends who I knew would be the good kind of supportive. (As opposed to the thinking-they’re-supportive-but-actually-fat-shaming.) As I mentioned above, I was already exhausted from the symptoms of all this. I just couldn’t fathom dealing with having to talk to a bunch of non-medical persons who have no idea of my health history questioning my decision. And that exhaustion, as you all might expect, has just been ramped up to all new heights since it struck 2020!
So, I decided this, for sure, right after DragonCon last year, after chatting with one of those aforementioned fantastic friends. And thus began my odyssey of going through my hospital’s Weight Center. For the second time. As I tried the non-surgical program back in 2012 and managed to lose 20 lbs in a year, which outside of college, had been the most I’d lost in the shortest time ever. Until I was diagnosed with ADHD, and then getting the right prescription of Adderall and getting some cognitive behavioral therapy that matched how my brain worked had me lose 25 pounds in 6 months! (See how actually treating the cause makes a fucking difference?)
Going through the program again was frustrating… I already knew how to and was tracking my food, my food triggers. I already ate 80% of my food home-cooked, mostly from scratch, with higher ratios of healthy proteins, vegetables, and fruits as opposed to processed carbs. I already averaged between 6k-10k steps a day. I had a horse and worked out with her. I spent a lot of time outside doing work. I could hike for hours. I parked in the furthest spots so long as it was safe to do so and/or I wasn’t running terribly late (the lateness being an issue that has also, in fact, decreased since the ADHD diagnosis and treatment!) I was sharing tricks about awesome things you could do with zucchini and avocado that the nutritionists hadn’t heard of; I was giving homemade salad dressing recipes that impressed the nutritionists; and I expounded on the virtues and inclusion of fermented foods and easy home ferments.
I had done this alllllllll before… but I went through it again. It wasn’t until we got into the post-surgery diet that I really started having to learn stuff, and thus my ADHD brain was sated with an onslaught of new information.
In any case, as this is getting to be a very long blog post, I went through the program…had the surgery put on hold due to COVID-19 chaos…was getting worried as Scott does have another stint of extended work travel coming up sometime…
And then finally got offered the August 3, date… with two weeks’ notice, since they did actually listen to my concerns on timing and offered me someone else’s cancellation date.
Lemmetellya… prepping for all that, rearranging my editing and writing schedule and deadlines, making sure I had the time off to heal, making sure Scott could get the time off…that was an adventure and a half.
But it happened! And it went well!
So now I’m here on my liquid diet for the next two weeks, then a very, very slow introduction to regular foods… and I am hoping so hard that this does fix all the other (medical and health) things that are wrong with me!
All the other things that should’ve been fixed if medical professionals had listened to me and dealt with my issues (torturous periods, in particular) instead of either gaslighting me by saying “it’s normal; you’re overreacting” or assuming my fatness was a cause rather than a symptom.
It still pisses me off that I had to have weight surgery because weight treated like a cause rather than a symptom.
I still want to scream, “IF YOU JUST LISTENED TO ME AND DIDN’T JUST SAY ‘IF YOU JUST LOST SOME WEIGHT’…”
But retroactive fury doesn’t fix anything for me. Maybe it will for others.
Keep fighting. Do your research. If you’ve got kids who get periods, treat them seriously. Don’t treat menstruation like a taboo topic. Believe them if they say they are in a lot of pain, if they think they are bleeding too much. Be their advocates! Teach them to know their bodies and advocate for their health.
Unless more and more people start doing this, it will continue to be a problem. My mom taught me to be a good advocate; she went into every doctor’s appointment with a list and didn’t leave until every question was answered. I continue that habit. Still, it happened to me. Unless more people accept that “being fat” can be a symptom, not necessarily a cause, people with any extra weight are going to get substandard health care. Start changing that with your kids now. Start changing that with yourself now.
It will cut down on a lot of people’s suffering.
Until I manage to post again… be good to each other! <3