After the publication of yesterday's post, many friends have written, both publicly and privately, and some of you have posted here as well, in a loving outpouring of sympathy, empathy, and support. There has been much friendly encouragement and advice. Many people are expressing anger and frustration with the wretched state of our healthcare and insurance systems, and many have expressed disdain for the use of BMI to determine whether someone is healthy enough for surgery under a certain set of circumstances.
( I confess I find the latter puzzling as well, and perhaps one of my readers who is better educated medically than I can explain it. I understand the concern about respiratory issues, especially sleep apnea, while under anesthesia, although I do not now nor have I ever suffered from it; but I don't quite get the concern about the health and safety of the medical personnel who would be working on me. There are certainly people who weigh the same as I do, who due to their height fall within the allowable BMI range. How is it easier or safer to lift or roll one of them than it is me? I also want to make it clear that I was treated with professional courtesy, real compassion and caring by the lovely people at Texas Orthopedics. They went out of their way to help me --- one even checked with the hospital's own surgery center to see whether they might have a higher BMI limit, and whether my doctor was or could be credentialed there. )
Many people wrote to say they are undergoing the same battle --- most of them people I personally never think of as being in any way overweight, and so a humbling reminder that challenges with food and fitness are not restricted to those of us with unsuitable BMIs (yeah, I'm going to keep ragging on that for a while, bear with me). Many of those folks, like me, have fought it all their lives. We are not alone.
The healing and inspiration to be found in these sharings is tremendous, and each and every one is tremendously appreciated. But one, from a colleague who I had the privilege of working with not too long ago, made me cry. This colleague wrote:
"Anybody that knows you also knows that you will accomplish anything you put your mind to. But if I can just say, you ran your ass off during our show just as hard as everyone else in the cast, and you weren't any more winded or any weaker or any more anything than anyone else in the cast... and that kind of activity is not possible for someone who is too fat to have a knee surgery. You are a healthy person, regardless of how much weight you feel you need to lose. We have seen those people who are too fat for a surgery, and you are not one of them. Anybody who went through two rounds of P90X is not one of those people."
OK, I'm going to cry again just re-reading it.
I am a healthy person, still.
I didn't realize, until I read that, that part of what is making this so hard is that deep down, I felt I might have ruined what I worked so hard to gain, which was better fitness and health. It's embarrassing enough to have regained so much weight, but I've also deeply feared that my diabetes might come back. Most of all, I've felt like the Wizard of Oz, a big humbug. Here I am with this weight loss blog I've had for four years now, writing fairly openly about my experiences (except for the last few months, and yes, I've been feeling really guilty about that and trying to put a good face on it), and so determined to keep going, to get a grip, not to slide all the way into the abyss. And to be fair, I haven't ... but it's very scary.
Several people have pointed out that weight loss programs have a dismal success rate. It's true; I actually knew that from the outset and tried to factor it in; but I did hope to find a way to get around it. I really wanted to be one of the minority who manage NOT to gain it all back and thought I stood a pretty good chance of doing so. The deck is really stacked against us there, my friends; research bears it out. But this is in no way a reason not to try. Yo-yoing isn't good for you, but neither is the extra burden, and the bottom line is that everyone has to figure out what is best for them. You'll forgive the pun, but weight loss/management is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
But nevertheless ... I am a healthy person, still. Up until my injury, which happened on opening night of Falstaff, October 27, I was running, walking, or stepping on the elliptical machine for hours almost every day, with a few P90X sessions thrown in for good measure. Before that, I completed a four-week round of 10 Minute Trainer, a Tony Horton (aka P90X guy) workout --- I did three sessions back to back every day. I spent June cycling all over Princeton, including to and from rehearsals; in April and May I did Zumba, kickboxing, barre toning classes, and TRX suspension band resistance training every day at Ironflower Fitness (usually two classes a day); and February and March I was biking all over Sarasota and doing Power 90 (a P90X precursor) daily in my living room. It's not like I've been sitting on my ass eating bon-bons. And yet the whole time --- the whole, entire time --- I have battled an underlying guilt and shame that somehow I was not doing enough.
So maybe that's the real problem. I mean, I've tried to go the "focus on the fitness" route, tried not to worry about my weight, but it doesn't really work for me because no matter how much I'd like it to be otherwise, I don't like being fat. And when I was at my lowest weight, I STILL had an unsuitable BMI and lots of jiggly parts, and frankly, at my age, that's never going to change without a whole lot of plastic surgery. (The jigglies, that is). But I felt better then, I liked my clothes, I felt younger, and yes, strangers treated me differently. I want to get back there, and to do that, I have to figure out how to let go of the guilt and shame.
My mom said to me, earlier today, "I was really worried about how upset you were about the surgery, but I knew you'd figure something out. You always do."
Well, I have figured out the immediate plan; having rejoined my basic community gym today, I am going to get myself up there every day between now and January 24, when I head out on my next trip, and do Pilates, yoga, or the elliptical. I'm not doing anything fancy with food, just yet, other than doing actual meal planning and trying to make good choices. This morning at the farmer's market, I picked up fresh grouper and scallops, so this week's menu includes garam masala scallops with shredded brussels sprouts and lemon dill grouper with herbed zucchini. French onion soup, too, and leftover vegetarian noodle-less lasagna which I made so nobody would have to cook during my non-existent recovery.
Today, I feel better armed to face the challenge, especially with the healing truths that so many friends have taken the time to remind me of: that being fat does not necessarily negate being healthy. (There's proof that active fat people are actually healthier than skinny couch potatoes). That what so many of us are trying to do is really, really hard, and society as a whole does not support it in a meaningful or useful way. That weight regain happens. That the struggle to stay fit and manage food and weight is not limited to fat people. That those who struggle need to hear about the setbacks as well as the successes.
And I do feel better, thanks to the many people like my friend quoted above, who wrote words of support and told me I inspired them, who shared my frustration and anger at the healthcare system and at the stupidity of using BMI as a measure of health, who simply wished me well. Thank you. It may be a cliche, but it really does mean a lot to me. I also feel better for having some sort of plan --- not all-inclusive, but enough to get started, and getting started is the most important part, because it's usually the hardest. Keeping going is the second most important. And giving yourself permission to start over, as many times as it takes?
Well. As they say, priceless.