“Fatty, lard butt, butterball”, I have heard all of these words being spoken in reference to me. I am morbidly obese. This article examines the human side of obesity. It not only restates the health risks involved when someone becomes severely overweight but also hopes to show the things rarely mentioned when people discuss this issue.
According to the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between the years 2003-2004, 1/3 (64.7 million) of U.S. adults over the age of 20 are obese. A little less than 1% or 3 million of these adults are morbidly obese. There is a 52% increase in the risk of cancer for obese men and a 62% increase in the risk of cancer for obese women. According to this survey, there are over 112,000 needless deaths per year attributed to obesity in the United States.
Almost all of us have heard that being overweight contributes to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer. However, many other conditions are related to obesity. Among these are arthritis, sleep apnea, incontinence and yeast infections.
I weigh almost 400 lbs and suffer from many of the conditions related to obesity. I am in almost constant pain from the arthritis in both my knees and my back. I actually have to sit on the floor to clean my house. I take medication every day for high blood pressure and diabetes. My sleep is interrupted daily because I stop breathing. When I wake up I find myself gasping for air. with my heart pounding away in my chest. I cannot even roll over in bed without getting short of breath. I suffer embarrassment from both incontinence and almost constant yeast infections. Both of these conditions cause me to have a foul odor that cannot be masked by perfumes, powders or daily bathing. I am no longer able to have sex.
I am often in too much pain or feel too ill to engage in most of the activities that I use to enjoy. I spend most of my time indoors. My physical activity is extremely limited.
There are psychological issues related to obesity as well. Low self-esteem, depression and compulsion are among them.
I cannot believe the amount of food that I eat in a day. Often, I will eat when I am not even hungry. I eat because I am upset, depressed, bored, and happy or because I just have to have this or that. I have eaten to the point where I vomit.
I do not enjoy eating. I hate myself when I overeat. Every night I pray that the next day will be different and every night I beat myself up inside because it was not.
When I was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes and it still was being treated with lifestyle changes, I followed my doctor’s recommendations for diet and exercise to the letter. I lost over 100 lbs. and felt good about myself. All that changed when my husband and I separated. Now, no matter how hard I try or how determined I am; I cannot stop eating. I grow more depressed every day. I live in constant fear that today will be my last day. I am only 50. There are so many more things that I want to accomplish in life. I have 13 grandchildren that I would love to see graduate from college. I want to go back to work. I want to participate in the activities that use to bring me joy. I am not happy at all.
There are many social concerns related to obesity as well. Beyond the name-calling, finger pointing, stares and snickering; obesity has a negative impact on my place in society.
For instance, many people have a prejudice against obese people. They think that obese people are lazy and stupid. They do not understand how anyone can let himself or herself go. I have had difficulty finding employment and some physicians who hold these same prejudices have treated me differently. They ignore my medical concerns and just keep telling me to lose weight. When I go grocery shopping, I get stares and snickers when I buy cookies or ice cream for my grandchildren.
Fast-food restaurants, movie theaters, buses, airplanes, trains and automobiles are all designed for smaller people. I cannot fit in the seats so I do not go to movies or travel much. The seat belts in many cars will not fit me so I have to buy an extension to ride in a car. I have to use the handicapped stall in restrooms so I can fit comfortably inside it.
Beyond the public issues, I have suffered some embarrassing moments in private as well. I have broken chairs when I have sat in them. More embarrassing yet is when I become stuck in a chair and it rises off the floor as I stand up. It is hard to face a friend again when you have destroyed their property.
Common everyday things become quite difficult. I have a hard time bathing because I cannot reach all of my body parts. I have trouble dressing my self and cleaning my house. I am no longer able to work.
Obesity has isolated me. It is a horrible state of being. Although many people hold a stereotypical notion that fat people are jolly, I am far from being happy.
The best way to treat obesity is through diet and exercise. Psychological help to overcome the issues and causes of obesity may be helpful. There are medications that can be used in the treatment of obesity. There are also some surgical procedures available. Support groups like Tops and Weight Watchers are also available at a cost.
Although there are many treatments for obesity, access to them may not be available. In my case, I am not employed and I have no insurance. In my state, I do not qualify for medical assistance and when I applied for Social Security Disability, I was denied. Diet and exercise are my only recourse and so far, they have been ineffective.
Obesity affects over 64 million adults over the age of 20 in the United States. One-hundred and twelve thousand people die needless deaths because they are obese. Obesity affects all aspects of a person’s life (physical, psychological and social).
For me, obesity has devastated my life. It has ruined everything for me. The fight against obesity is a daily struggle that I fail at miserably. If things don’t change for me obesity will lead to my death.
Resources for this article were found here.