I’m not mad about anything I’ve done or not done this week. This week has actually been a pretty okay one, considering it’s period week, my hormones are crazy, my sleeve is gurgly and acidy, and my calories have been over 900 (but under 1000) each day. My protein intake has been pretty high, I’ve walked quite a bit every day (3 miles plus most days), and I’ve been good about getting in my water. I’ve also decided to start taking an antacid before breakfast and dinner to help curb the acidic tummy. It seems to be working.
So what has got me so incensed?
Tonight we watched the last episode of “My 600-pound Life.” The episode we saw was about a woman named Penny.
If you haven’t seen this series, it’s about folks who are severely morbidly obese who seek surgical intervention to try and lose weight. They come from all over the country down to Houston to be placed in the care of a bariatric surgeon. Surgery and other appropriate medical interventions happen, and then the film crew follows the patient around for the year after their surgery to track their progress.
At the beginning of the episode, you see that Penny is bedridden due to her size–530 pounds–and other health conditions (she appears to have lymphedema). She does everything in her bed: eats, sleeps, bathroom business, everything. Her husband enables her by providing her with all manner of junk food and fast food, in any quantity she wants, whenever she wants. He also waits on her hand and foot, providing her no incentive whatsoever to get up and do things for herself.
When it is announced that she is going to come to Texas to have bariatric surgery, a city ambulance and paramedic crew are dispatched to move her from her hospital bed to the back of the family’s minivan so that she can be transported from Maryland to Houston in a continuous roadtrip with few to no stops.
Penny and her husband arrive at the hospital, where she is met by the doctor and then undergoes a medical evaluation. She is weighed, and then the doctor explains to the viewers that she must lose weight prior to surgery. She is put on a 1200-calorie a day diet, and over the course of a month, she loses 40 pounds.
Apparently, this is evidence enough for the doctor that she can lose weight, so he decides to proceed with surgery. She undergoes a sleeve gastrectomy–the same surgery that I had.
For the remainder of the episode, you see that she does not actually lose any more weight–in fact, she gains weight post-op. She freakin’ GAINS WEIGHT.
And here is where I flip my shit about this whole thing…so I’m just going to let it fly.
She admits that for her to have surgery, her family’s financial resources have been tapped, and that people have donated money so that she could even HAVE surgery.
She refuses to comply with the doctor’s request that she begin walking immediately post-op. She refuses to cooperate with the physical therapist sent to her family’s temporary apartment and doesn’t make any kind of progress toward being mobile.
And then there’s the eating and behavior…oh, this is rich.
So she gets to have surgery, and then REFUSES TO CHANGE HER EATING HABITS AND FOOD BEHAVIORS. She says at one point, “They didn’t tell me I had to lose weight before I got here.”
WHAT THE FUCK. I mean, REALLY?
You weigh over 500 pounds, are going to have major GI surgery, and don’t think you have to lose weight prior to your procedure? What la-la land do you live in?
And then you don’t follow the diet your doctor prescribes you to eat so that your new stomach has a chance to heal, and you have the opportunity to lose weight? You have major surgery on your stomach, and want to eat the same crap you ate before that led you to having surgery in the first place?
I don’t get it. Seriously.
Once she was home, where the fridge and pantry were stocked with nothing healthy…wow, just…wow. Watching her serve herself meals was unbelievable. My husband and I watched, mouths agape, as she ate entire dinner plates full of food. And none of what she ate was anything that would help her to lose weight.
Through her actions and words, it is clear that she is unwilling to change her behavior in order for the surgery to work. She refuses to walk, refuses to comply with the dietary requirements, and refuses to make her post-op appointments. Yet she claims that she “has been trying really hard to lose weight,” refuses to set any weight loss goals for herself, and scoffs at any suggestion that she eat more healthfully and become more mobile (she even calls the information the dietician shares with her and her husband “bullshit.”). During the year that the TLC camera crews followed her around, she ended up 5 pounds heavier than her pre-surgery weight. No weight loss whatsoever post-op.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
But then I realized what I was seeing.
Penny is truly ill.
She doesn’t realize that she has found comfort in being the size she is, and that change away from that norm for her is scary and requires a great deal of commitment and hard work. I think her doctor said it best: she makes herself out to be a victim. And rather than fight for a better quality of life, she is content to remain as she is–bedridden and dependent on someone else to care for her.
I just find it infuriating that someone would take such a fantastic opportunity to gain health and independence and piss it away because they refuse to change. Fear of becoming like her was a small part of what motivated me to have surgery. Fear motivated me more than anything because I was afraid of my weight continuing to spiral upward. I was afraid of being put on more diabetes medicine. I was afraid of not being able to do anything I loved to do because I was afraid of becoming immobile. I was afraid I was going to be the fat lady riding the cart at the grocery store because I wouldn’t be able to walk. Hell, I was afraid I was going to die.
If that doesn’t motivate anyone in my former situation to act, I don’t know what will. Obviously, fear of death doesn’t motivate this woman enough for her to want to change. She doesn’t want to change, and that is the saddest thing of all.
One thing is for sure: I will NOT complain about the little gains I’ve had in the past 6 months. I will make my appointments with the gym as frequent as I can, because I want to make sure I work this tool I’ve been given the best way I know how. Watching her struggle with compliance made me feel better about my own experience and reinforced for me that I am doing this the right way for me. It also reinforced for me that I am healthy and getting healthier, both physically and mentally. One day at a time, right?
Also, watching her story made me grateful that I chose to approach this path holistically–I am taking care of my physical and mental health. I recognize the importance of mental healthcare to this process, and can’t emphasize enough the work on one’s head is just as important as the work on one’s body. Remember, the surgeon only operates on your stomach, not your brain, and your brain needs the most work of all post-op.
This is going to sound awful but I predict that when they do their usual “where are they now” episodes a year from now, Penny will be dead by her own hand and mouth, and her husband will be her accomplice.
I was a protein beast today, getting in 109 grams of protein, 44 carbs and 37 grams of fat. My calories today were 943. All week they’ve been over 900 but under 1000, so not horrible. I know some of it was due to the fact that I ate quite a lot of beef this week–I always do the week of my period to make up for the iron I lose during the week. Next week I’m going back to turkey, chicken and fish. We had some wild Coho salmon for dinner tonight which was really good. I’d never bought it before but had read that it was a good variety to eat. It was a deep red color and cooked up really nicely in the oven. It turned out to be a very mild salmon variety, and I’ll definitely be buying it again. I’d like to eat more fish during the week, so I’ll be trying to incorporate more fish into our eating here at home.