Tag Archives: HAES

Resurfacing

Debbie says: Have you missed Lynne’s voice around these parts? Laurie and I certainly have

Lynne Murray says:

I am starting to come back from several months of sickness. I had to seek out medical care even though a house-call doctor visit took a big dent out of what was once my savings.

I’ve been without medical insurance more often than not in my life and now I can’t afford more than Medicare, Part A–so, no coverage for doctors, tests, etc. That was not a problem so long as I wasn’t in intolerable pain. Only in spring of this past year did that situation arise. I had wounds that were not healing and pain that kept me up at night.The doctor was helpful and open to collaboration and experimenting with different strategies to improve my health. He didn’t say that the slow healing might be due to diabetes, but he took my blood and the test result was that I do indeed have diabetes.

I would say that we don’t have a history of diabetes in our family, but we don’t have a history of regular medical care in our family, so who knows? Anyone I might ask is dead already.

As a fat person who already deals with some disabilities, I felt like the diabetes diagnosis was an indictment. The doctor agreed that I would work on lowering my blood sugar first without medication.

I looked for resources. I didn’t want to talk to people I knew or met about diabetes. I didn’t want any advice, I wanted facts, but some people nonetheless shared strange suggestions with me, like it or not. One woman, who was terrified that she would develop diabetes after watching her mother’s horrible death from it told me her doctor advised her to lose 40 pounds through calorie restriction (a soup diet!) and walking. The doctor told her to stay away from the gym until she had lost the weight because the increased muscle mass would get in the way of her weight loss goals. This incredibly stupid prescription ranks very high on my list of least helpful doctor’s advice of all time.

After looking at and discarding several books, I found Jenny Ruhl’s website and her book, and they really resonated with me.* She writes:

I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998. Since then I’ve kept my A1cs in the 5.0-6.0% range using the techniques you’ll find explained at [the website], where you’ll also find extensive discussion of the peer-reviewed research that backs up the statements you read here. …

While people with diabetes often are seriously overweight, there is accumulating evidence that their overweight is a symptom, not the cause of the process that leads to Type 2 Diabetes.

Even so, it is likely that you’ve been told that you caused your diabetes by letting yourself get fat and that your response to this toxic myth is damaging your health.

Blaming you for your condition causes guilt and hopelessness. Even worse, the belief that people with diabetes have brought their disease on themselves inclines doctors to give people with diabetes abysmal care. They assume that since you did nothing to prevent your disease, you won’t make the effort to control it. So they ignore your high blood sugars until they have lasted long enough to cause complications and then they prescribe the newest, most expensive, potentially dangerous but heavily marketed drugs, though the drug-maker’s own Prescribing Information makes it clear that these drugs cannot lower your blood sugar to the levels that reverse or prevent complications.

Ruhl examines all the scientific literature with a clear eye and demonstrates a viewpoint close enough to my own Health at Every Size philosophy to make sense to me. She demonstrated to me that such approaches to lowering blood sugar have been around on the internet for some time:

The advice you will find below is an edited, updated version of the excellent advice written by a lady named Jennifer, which she posted for many years on the alt.support.diabetes newsgroup. It has helped thousands of people bring their blood sugars down to the level that gives an A1c test result in the 5% range. Note: The Jennifer who wrote the advice is not the Jenny Ruhl who maintains these pages. (Home/How to Lower Your Blood Sugar)

Her suggested method of lowering blood sugar included beginning by eliminating most carbohydrates, and adding them back, testing your blood sugar with a meter one then two hours later, and adding back the ones that have the least effect on you personally.

Ironically, all my early years of dieting proved useful during the first part of severely limiting carbohydrates. I reached back through the decades to all the times when I had changed my eating patterns overnight. Easily done.

A week later I finally got my hands on a blood sugar meter and test strips and started testing. The numbers were low and they’ve gotten lower, so I am hopeful to be able to manage without medication. The stakes are high enough that so far I am motivated to do it.

Ruhl writes:

Almost everyone diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes has a long history of trying to diet off weight and failing miserably. If you believe that your health depends on even more dieting, it is easy to give up hope.

But it turns out that a diabetes diet is very different from a weight loss diet of the sort you can see illustrated in the photo above. The point of a diabetes diet is not to lose weight. The point of a diabetes diet is to bring your very high post-meal blood sugars down into the normal range. You can eat as much food as you want on a diabetes diet, as long as the food you eat is food that doesn’t raise your blood sugar. (Diets/A Diabetes Diet is Different from and Easier than a Weight Loss Diet)

After the initial “get rid of the usual carbo suspects” purge, I called upon my post-dieting years of learning to respect, listen to and nurture my body. The challenges were unexpected–e.g., figuring out how to get enough fiber without the standard carbohydrates. Health food web sites offered some strategies (high-fiber-low-carb crackers, ground flax seed, etc.).

I was too sick with the infections that I’ve been battling to develop any cravings. Around the same time I was figuring out what to eat, I started on a particularly aggressive antibiotic, so low carb eating was only one goal–the other was to get through the day without throwing up.

For most of the past year I haven’t able to think or engage with ideas very effectively. Even reading posts on Facebook was sometimes too much.

In the past few weeks, my mind seems to be clearing! I could tell that my energy was coming back when I encountered a woman who came to my house to get a household item I was giving away on Craigslist. She showed up unable to lift the 22-pound spin dryer and demanded rope. I managed to get some thick string and helped to tie it to the wheeled suitcase she proposed to use to haul it home on the bus. I helped her because clearly, getting her out of my space without the free item she had come for would be more difficult. During the time I helped her, she produced a grubby piece of candy and offered it to me for some unknown reason. I made the mistake of telling her I was diabetic and she unleashed a torrent of fat-shaming remarks until I lost my temper and told her that my body was none of her fucking business. in those exact words and a rather loud voice. She looked around (the door was open to the hallway) and said something about neighbors. I told her I was cutting the string and she should tie the last damn knot and go on her merry way.

I was still angry for a long time after she left. Then, somehow, I managed to switch my mind onto another track. For the first time in months, I started to ponder some plot problems in a manuscript that had seemed just too much to pick up for the better part of a year. Surprisingly (to me anyway) I thought of a solution and I went ahead and started writing it.

Doing that reminded me why I write fiction. It takes me into another life even more powerfully than reading (which is pretty powerful). I was afraid that writing might not come back, but it has!

So here I am, still wounded, and not back 100%, but starting to surface.

* Jenny Ruhl doesn’t have separate URLs for the different essays on her sites. The name in parentheses after her quotations tell you where to find the context on bloodsugar101.com)

The Unexpected Body

Debbie says:

When two different regular readers refer us to the same link (and a third to the source material), they’re probably on to something. It’s exciting enough that Prince Fielder (is that the best name ever for a baseball player?) was the cover model for ESPN Magazine’s “The Body” issue.

Fielder posed naked, in his tattooed glory, in a pose designed to showcase, rather than downplay, his pot belly. The issue features many other interesting (including some nonstandard) sports bodies.

Better still is Leigh Cowart’s analysis at The Concourse. First of all, she gave me the term “The Unexpected Body,” which I feel like I should have heard before, but is new to me. Cowart says,

The unexpected body is one that looks out of place in a sport, the grown-up version of the kid who always heard they had ‘a good heart, but the body’s just not there.’ They defy society’s narrow expectations; they make everyone eat their words. …

People expect certain kinds of bodies from certain kinds of athletes, with each little pocket of competition tending toward a preferred morphotype. Opposite Balanchine’s ideal ballerinas, with their small heads and sloped shoulders and long feet tacked onto their whisper-light frames, football likes men who are broad and tall and thickly draped in muscle, the largeness of the frame superseded only by the voracious nature of the appetite required to maintain—never mind bulk-up—such a massive organism. Basketball, on the other hand, has a known affinity for an ultra-tall, ultra-lean body. …

But baseball is somewhat more relaxed in the body department, thanks in part to the diversity of positions. There are durable, muscular catchers; shortstops with those fast-twitch, spring-loaded legs; third baseman who are sturdily built yet lean enough to snap and twist at the waist. Who would look at Babe Ruth, Ichiro Suzuki, Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds, Yu Darvish, and Yasiel Puig, and assume they were all professional athletes at the highest level of the same sport?

As a small-time, not especially knowledgeable, baseball fan, I find this fascinating. I have seen vast differences in height, leg length, stockiness, etc. on the baseball field, in a very different way than one sees it in soccer or basketball, and never given it a second thought.

Cowart goes on to talk about Fielder:

There’s an audacity to Fielder’s athleticism. That he could be so unusually large for the game and yet still play it well, combined with the fact that he appears to give not a single fuck about the former, make him an easy favorite. He’s an 162-day-a-year reminder that cultural body norms are almost always short-sighted and lacking, at the very least. With his exceptional mass, his sloppy but enthusiastic running, his swing that spans wide and arching, and his frantic mid-run dives, Prince Fielder embodies so much of what’s great about the game. He’s our ultimate fat baseball player.

I’ll stop quoting now, but the third part of Cowart’s article talks about the social media reaction to the picture. Unsurprisingly (if you’re a body-image activist), at least some people in social media lost their shit when they saw Fielder’s belly. Despite the man’s remarkable track record, many people can’t see him as an athlete and see his pot belly at the same time. One of my “favorite” tweets is:

How am I going to explain Prince Fielder’s Body Issue cover to my children

— Matt Collins (@RedSox_Thoughts) July 8, 2014

Well, Mr. Collins, I would suggest, “Doesn’t he look wonderful?” Someone at the link suggested, “Children this is what confidence and normalcy look like. May you always feel comfortable in the skin you’re in,” which works for me too.

The unexpected body, it seems, is not just unexpected but incomprehensible. As a nation, we are so convinced that fat is antithetical to athleticism and good shape that we don’t even know what to do with the combination when it is shown in unmistakable glory.

Kudos to ESPN for using Fielder’s photo. I just hope every fat kid who wants to be a baseball player sees this picture (and doesn’t have a father who can’t figure out what to tell their kid about an athlete’s pot belly).

Also thanks to Lizzie Fox and Lynn Kendall for the pointer to Cowart, and Steven Schwartz for the pointer to the ESPN issue.