I previously worked with Med-IQ* on their campaign educating people about depression. I jumped at the chance to work with them again, this time to raise awareness about obesity and the misconceptions surrounding it. After reading my post, please take a few minutes to complete the survey linked at the end. I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
On October 22 of last year, I had 75% of my stomach removed. After struggling with my weight for nearly three decades, I decided to undergo laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, also known as gastric sleeve surgery. This decision was neither easy nor quick, but it was the best one for me.
My journey with obesity and weight loss is long, bumpy, and full of (literal) gut-wrenching twists and turns. I initially had written a whole bunch of words chronicling the ups and downs, progress and regress, complete with years and weights and BMIs and such. But I realized that didn’t tell the full story — at least not a story others could relate to and that would make the points I want to make. So instead I doodled this whimsically twisty timeline/infographic thingie…
I said something about wanting to make some points. Reflecting on the last 30+ years of my life as it related to my weight and health — as well as knowledge gleaned from Med-IQ and a panel of experts† — brought me to a few illuminating conclusions.
Point 1: Obesity is a chronic disease.
The World Health Organization defines it as “excessive fat accumulation that may harm a person’s health.”
Obesity is not any of these things:
• Lack of willpower
• Lack of self-control
• A choice
• Indication someone is a bad person
• A way to identify someone
• The same for everyone
Point 2: People develop obesity due to genetic risk factors that are hard-wired to their DNA.
These factors can be environmental, cultural or behavioral. They can include stress, lack of sleep, certain medications, and foods that are low in nutrients and/or high in sugar and carbs. They are often tied to life events; in my case being bullied, leaving home, starting a new job, struggling with my identity, moving, relationships beginning and ending, becoming a parent, death of loved ones, and getting older.
I am not/was not a guy who got fat because of poor decisions, lived that way for 30 years, and then took the “easy route” and had surgery. My timeline shows that I consistently made good choices as well as bad, responded in healthy ways as well as unhealthy, and that I never, ever stopped trying and re-trying to be healthy.
Point 3: Supportive friends, family, and healthcare providers are vital to my health.
The inspiration to take the drastic step of bariatric surgery was multi-layered and came from multiple sources: the success my closest cousin had with the same procedure; the near-simultaneous recommendations of my therapist, weight loss specialist, and primary care provider; my husband, who knows I’m more confident when I’m happy and healthy — and that when I’m more confident, I’m sexier. And probably most importantly, my 9-year-old son said he would miss my big pillow tummy, but that he likes small pillows, too.
Point 4: There’s always more to learn.
Remember that survey I mentioned? Here it is, and why you should take it:
• It will help you examine your own experiences and thoughts about obesity.
• Links to several helpful resources are provided within the survey.
• Your input will provide important feedback to Med-IQ, who will use it to better educate healthcare professionals on what patients struggle with, what their needs are, and what approaches to weight-related health are most effective.
• BONUS: you could win one of ten $50 VISA gift cards!
Survey responses are anonymous and will be shared only in aggregate.
Enter to win one of ten $50 VISA gift cards
Once you’ve completed the survey, you will be asked to provide your email address if you’d like to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $50 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.
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Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides top-notch educational experiences for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. Learn more about them by visiting Med-IQ.com.
†ABOUT THE EXPERTS
Donna Ryan, MD: President, World Obesity Federation; Professor Emerita, Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Patricia Nece, JD: Chair, Weight Bias Task Force for the Obesity Action Coalition
Learn more by watching a Facebook live conversation between Dr. Ryan and blogger Summer Len Davis.