I’m going to start a little series off called Melissa…
This post has been on my mind for a long time. Obesity is a very complex thing. It can’t be reduced to a few simple things like eating too much and not getting enough exercise. Let’s not even mention that what works for one person will not necessarily work for everyone else. The set of circumstances that lead to some of us reaching the point of morbid obesity are different for each individual. I think we’ve all wondered at one point, ‘why me?’ why do some people have a much easier time managing their weight than I do?
Why do some of us end up morbidly obese and others not? Fundamentally, it has to be noted that we are all different in terms of our biology. The environment we grow up in has a huge influence on our biology and there seems to be a greater propensity for some people to get to the point of morbid obesity. It’s a complex topic that needs more research because the more we know, the better we can understand why it’s happening.
The health implications of being morbidly obese are serious. I was a very healthy morbidly obese person, had great blood pressure, no obesity related co-morbidities etc but in all honestly I felt like a ticking time bomb. Obesity is a risk factor for so many things like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and that’s just scratching the surface of a very long list. One of the main reasons I chose to have weight loss surgery was to reduce risk of these serious illnesses. I wanted to get it sorted before I developed any co-morbidities and damaged my body even further. Weight loss surgery is currently the most reliable way to deal with morbid obesity but it’s a heck of a solution to have to resort to.
I did not fit the typical behavioural profile of a morbidly obese person and so a lot of the assumptions people made about me and what I ate were wrong. Surprisingly, although not surprising to anyone who’s been overweight, I didn’t sit around eating chips, drinking fizzy drinks and having fast-food all the time. I ate a fairly good diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, meat and other good stuff. We ate out maybe once a week but overall my diet wasn’t too bad. In my consults with my surgical team beforehand the only glaringly bad thing that I had in my diet was soft drinks and energy drinks. My son was still quite young and I had developed a bit of a reliance on Red Bull.
I did realise at the time my portion sizes were too big but that was something I was actively working on reducing. Looking back though I think this is one of those not so simple factors that ended up contributing negatively on my weight. When I was a child I was always encouraged to eat all of my dinner up. If I didn’t eat all of my dinner I wouldn’t get anything else, not that we had dessert often, but you know. I think being trained to do this as a child overrode my senses and over time I got used to ignoring when I was full because I would keep on going to finish everything on my plate. This might seem small but I do think it’s a significant factor that helped create conditions for morbid obesity to thrive.
As a child I did not at all enjoy physical activity. I much preferred to stay inside and read a book. I would do anything when I was at school to avoid doing PE class. While I do remember my parents encouraging me to go outside I didn’t see them exercise regularly. It just wasn’t something that I grew up with it being a part of everyday life. It took me a long time as an adult to get to the point of seeing exercise as something I enjoy and wanted to work into my usual routine.
I really like and enjoy food. Food is a great comfort, it’s closely tied with how we celebrate and socialise, and I like using it as a creative outlet. I guess you would say I’m a foodie and prior to my weight loss surgery I always thought bigger/more was better. I’ve had to re-learn my relationship with food and re-evaluate its importance in quite a few contexts. I’m still a foodie after my gastric bypass but now I savour the few bites I do have instead of eating everything in sight until I’m absolutely stuffed. I’m sure the degree to which I loved and focussed on food in the past did not help my weight.
These are just a few of the many, many things I think contributed to my weight getting to the point of morbid obesity. There are many societal structures and conditions that have contributed as well as the physiology unique to my body. There’s heaps of smaller things like living in a city that’s much more suited to travelling in a car than walking or public transport, the easy availability of cheap high calorie foods and stigma and bias towards obese people that create conditions for obesity to thrive. If you want to read more about this I really recommend the book Fat Science by Dr Robyn Toomath which I have reviewed on my blog previously.
It’s really simple, obesity is a complex and multi-layered issue. You can’t boil it down to diet and exercise, it’s just not that simple of an equation for many of us. It will be a different mix of factors for each of us too. We are all shaped by the lives we’ve lived, our genetic makeup and a whole heap of other stuff we’re probably none the wiser about. Have you ever wondered what got you to the point of being morbidly obese and considering weight loss surgery? What do you think those factors were for you?
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