It’s not OCD: It’s how this disease needs to be managed

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I wrote three weeks ago about my decision to have a second bariatric surgery to help control my weight.  It’s now been two weeks since I had a procedure known commonly as a ‘gastric sleeve’ (see my two-week post-op selfie!)  This is a procedure done laparoscopically that involved reducing the size of my stomach.  The procedure is not reversible.

So, my history for new readers.  I went on my first diet when I was fourteen years of age and have been yo-yoing since then.  I’ve taken every diet drug and been on every diet you can imagine. I have been big; I have been small; and I have been every size in between.

At the age of 31, I weighed 113.5kg and I decided that I needed to take some definitive action.  I went on the Lite and Easy program and managed to get down into the healthy weight range – and even stay there for a while.  It was a total killer to keep that weight stable.  I would get up at the crack of dawn and get on the treadmill to walk uphill for 40 minutes every morning.  And every afternoon after work, I would get on the bicycle for 20 minutes.  I weighed myself religiously on a Thursday morning.  In spite of my best efforts, the weight started to come back on slowly.  I would lose it, then gain it, then lose it again.

Fast forward 8 years, and sitting at 93kg, I decided that I needed to do something drastic to avoid getting back to the dreaded 100+ club.  I was trying everything.  I even overcame my fear of being seen in public in bathers, and started going swimming 4 times a week. But, alas, that didn’t help the kilos to drop.  My GP was supportive of me getting Lap band surgery.  We had discussed other options, but I wasn’t keen on something permanent.  I went to see a surgeon.  He didn’t say no, but he didn’t say yes.  He told me to go away and think about it and come back in 2 months if I still wanted to proceed.  I came back and we set a date, just a few months shy of my 40th birthday.

The band worked very well for me in the beginning.  I did everything I was told to do, monitored my portions carefully (OK, I weighed everything), increased my exercise and weighed myself, again religiously.  I got down to 62kgs and decided that I would be happy to stay between 62 and 64kg.  Every Thursday, I would check.  If I was 64kg then I would need to eat less in the coming week, and if I was 62kg then I could potentially have an extra bit of chocolate.

Eventually – and I mean after several years – I got sick of this constant monitoring.  I decided that it was OCD and that I needed to eat like a normal person.  Oh, boy was I wrong.

Although I was still in the healthy weight range, the weight started to come back.  Then I got injured and couldn’t exercise for 8 weeks.  And this was closely followed, by trouble with my band.  Foods that I had no trouble with once, were no longer going down.  I was sick nearly every day.  I didn’t know how much I had actually eaten, and I started to consume ‘easy’ things like smoothies to avoid the problem.  And while this was all happening, my hunger increased (a lot).

Eventually I exceeded the healthy weight range – and by the start of this year I was over 80kg.  In just over two years I had put on the better part of 20kg.

Two weeks ago, I sat in a hospital bed feeling decidedly ordinary with terrible nausea.  I reminded myself that the gastric sleeve was not a step taken lightly, but the next one on a very long road I have travelled to make sure that I stay healthy.  And as I have over these past weeks, and will continue in the coming weeks, I will continue to do what I am told and the ‘extra’ weight will come off (again).

However, it wasn’t until earlier this week that I started to contemplate what will happen next.  There I sat watching the second episode of The Obesity Myth on SBS.  I had heard in the first episode, the week prior, that there are a number of genetic factors at play when it comes to obesity and that it is a disease that needs to be treated like any other.  However, it was not until this second episode that it really hit me that obesity is a disease that has no cure.  Even when I am not actually obese I am still, indeed, a person with the ‘obesity’ disease.  I will never be cured and I will need to fight – with myself – to keep the disease at bay for the rest of my life.

The Professor at the Austin Hospital in The Obesity Myth was very clear.  The people who succeed at keeping the weight off monitor everything they eat, exercise every day and weigh themselves regularly.  This is not OCD.  Rather, this is the way that people with this disease have to live.

I have to say that this is the first time in thirty years that I have accepted my lot.  That is, I understand that what I need to do is not obsessing but a simple fact of life for me.

Wish me luck!

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