An Obese Woman Responds

My recent comments about obesity as both a health issue and an overall economic issue generated quite a number of responses.  Some people wrote, detailing medical histories that made it impossible for them to get down to a normal weight.  While there are always exceptions, I wanted to share with you a seemingly “impossible” situation faced by a woman who weighed over 400 pounds.  She knew that losing weight was going to be very difficult, but she made the changes in her life that kept her on the path to good health, and she’s a real inspiration to us all (I’ve not included her name, for reasons of privacy):

Dear Dr. Laura:

I am an obese person.  Two years ago, my sister asked me to have surgery.  I did not want to have it, because I was afraid of the risk.  I did not know how heavy I was, because my doctor’s scale limit is 400 pounds.  I promised my sister I would change my behavior, but not go on a diet.

I went to the doctor and got some information and a health exam.  Then I began to make plans on changing my behavior.  [In the past], I was not eating breakfast or lunch.  I was so hungry when I got home, I would eat easy fast food instead of taking the time to prepare food.  I would also binge late at night.  The doctor suggested I no longer skip meals.

First change:  I eat breakfast and lunch.

Second change:  Drink before eating.  I drink water, and, for flavor, sometimes Crystal Light.  I learned that when the body needs something, it is not specific.  It just says “I need,” and “stomach feels empty.”

Third change:  Choose better foods.  If heart tells brain “I need nutrients,” and stomach tells brain “I am full of garbage,” the brain sends the message “empty stomach.”

Fourth change: Thinking of food in a different way.  It’s neither my entertainment nor my entitlement.  Better food will get me up the stairs at work.  At 200+ pounds overweight, life becomes stationary.  Nutrition can replace that.

Fifth change:  Reduce the amount of food.  The doctor suggested that I keep a log of my food and drink.  I wrote down everything for two weeks.  I was eating more than I thought.  Over time, I reduced my starch in half and then in half again.  Today…I do not plan food or write it down.  For me, I would be thinking of food too much.  I eat set breakfast and lunch meals.  Dinner is now something that can be made in 30 minutes.

Sixth change:  Move more.  Your nagging worked.  The doctor suggested low impact exercise over a long period of time.  No jack rabbit starts and stops.  I can’t sustain walking out of water, so I walk 1 hour in water and backstroke 1 hour, six times a week.  I get stares.  I stare back.  I am not ashamed.  I have changed.

There is no diet for me to break from.  The only thing left is to feel the frustration.  It renews my dedication to my life change.  The first two years, I lost 70 pounds.  It’s the first time in 15 years I have not gained weight.  I have been exercising for a month.

Thank you, Dr. Laura, for all your nagging.  I wish I would have started earlier.  The last two years made it possible.  It gave me a foundation of nutrition that sustains me while I move.  I now move more and eat less.  I can hardly wait until next year.

Thanks again for the kick in the butt.