The Texture Of Things

Today is the greatest

May 23rd, 2007


**update below

For those of you reading this on Wednesday morning:
Hi. I’m currently being cut open. Ah, good times. Egad, I do love me an IV drip. I hope they remembered to turn the oxygen on. Oh – yup, there it is. Fresh, like air from a giant can. Aaahh. Oh my. Are those stitches? Already? Guess it’s time to go home!

For those of you reading after Wednesday morning:
Hi. I got cut open. Possibly I need more drugs at this moment. Possibly I’m sleeping. Depending on how much after Wednesday morning you are reading, I might be playing beach rugby, but that’s unlikely since I’ve never in my life played rugby anywhere. I don’t even know how it’s played. Anyway, I hope you are well. Hell, I hope I am well. Thanks for stopping by!

And since we’re in the temporal neighborhood of the greatest day of the year, please go see the following LOLCat. I know LOLCats are not everybody’s thing, but remember – you’re doing this as a personal favor to me, and really, I hardly ever ask anyone for presents.

nom nom nom

You have three days to visit that link before it, um, implodes, or something.

**Updated: As of 8:30 p.m., I am not dead. It was all very weird, but in the end, the news is good. Surgery went fast and early, though in any other world, that’d be a bad thing, I think. Now, to find some ice cream and a sofa to crash on.

Take That, Hernia!

May 18th, 2007

LL Kat J

and THAT!
pew pew pew

um, yeah, i’m tired and achy and busy. i don’t imagine i’ll get another post up for a couple of days, but i couldn’t stand to have the fat rant at the top any longer.

for the record, i’m not on a ledge about this, or anything. will explain later, or sumpin’.

plz enjoy these LOLCATS.

The Language of Fat, Part Three (Finally)

May 14th, 2007

Again with the picking up from where we left off

I am trying (repeatedly) here to get back to internalized language, and I find the connection hard to reveal even to myself. The negative, internalized language comes from so many places – upbringing, culture, individual personality, etc. – that is hard for me to make it clear to anyone besides myself how being fat can make a person feel like second-class citizen, from the inside out. This difficulty is why I’ve hesitated writing this a dozen or more times.

I have also procrastinated because, frankly, I am too aware that I undertake additional risks with this surgery, directly related to what one of my doctors called my “elevated BMI.” For example, if they have to convert from a laparoscopic procedure to an open incision because, essentially, I’m fat, then my recovery will be longer and harder, and whose fault is that? Although my weight problem might be due to a lot of factors, ultimately the buck stops here and I know it.

In the end, I guess I’m not sure what the moral to this story is. Perhaps it is a lesson we can take to heart about all people – that what appears on the outside is not the whole story.

Years ago, when I was watching ER in reruns, I found myself particularly moved by the opening scene of the episode wherein Dr. Greene floats through his last day working in the ER. He has brain cancer and has given notice that he is quitting.

The scene opens with Greene outside in the ambulance bay, shooting hoops. Carter comes out, clearly flustered by something. When Greene asks him what’s wrong, Carter reveals that “Blue Bertha” has died. “Blue Bertha” was a regular patient with emphysema who always came in for treatment but would never implement her treatment at home for any meaningful length of time.

Carter’s exasperation is clear; he wants to know why she wouldn’t do something as simple as quit smoking or some other some-such, for sake of her health. Zen-like, Greene replies, “As hard as it was to treat Blue Bertha, it was harder yet to be Blue Bertha.”

Greene is right. We can never know what it is like to carry Blue Bertha’s burdens, so it is incumbent upon us to treat her as we would hope to be treated – as an individual, if not with understanding, then at least with a little respect.

The Language of Fat, Part Two*

May 14th, 2007

Picking up from where we left off

Imagine a hypothetical instructor in a classroom, returning hypothetical papers to hypothetical students in their seats.
the aisle between rows of desks is roomy – no thought relating to size and space crosses the instructor’s mind.
on another day during another semester, the aisle is not as roomy – the instructor thinks, “Hm, this seems tighter.”
she meets difficulty walking between desks – she thinks, “I don’t fit here so easily.”
she is unable to slide between desks at one point in row – now “I don’t fit here anymore.”
she hesitates to attempt going all the way down the row – she ponders, “I might not fit there. Should I try it?”
she tries it and meets a too-tight squeeze – “I shouldn’t have tried it.”
she hesitates to attempt the row a second time – “I won’t fit there. I don’t fit there.”
she does not try anymore, finds another path – “I can’t.”

Repeat over time until she cannot fit down any aisle in the room. She must find a new way to return student papers – perhaps have them come up to lectern? Meet them at the door?

These are small changes, but they inform more than just the first 10 minutes of class; they guide a fat person’s thought and self-talk by restricting her/his actions.

“I can’t” means “I don’t fit,” which becomes “I can’t because I don’t fit.”
“I can’t because I don’t fit” becomes “I shouldn’t try that way.”
“I can’t because I don’t fit” becomes “It’s not for me.”
[add to this internal monologue seeing other people, presumably thinner people, taking that path, which leads to a sense of exclusion]
Ultimately, “I can’t because I don’t fit” becomes “I’m not allowed to because I will fail because I am fat.”
“I fail because I am fat.”

With a mindset like this, is it any wonder why an already challenging feat like losing weight (and keeping it lost) is so difficult for people? Sure, I am probably projecting on the majority of overweight and obese Americans- no, I am projecting – but I cannot be alone in this. I cannot be the only one to have negative self-talk floating around in her head. But in case I am, let me return this exercise to me alone.

It was only a matter of time before “I will fail because I’m fat” and all its attending negativity would lead me to “I’m so fat. If I can’t manage to be not-fat, why should I deserve cute shoes/ pretty clothes/ a cheap swimsuit/ a dessert after dinner/ and so on? Really, why?” Which brings me back to my surgery.

Yes, if you’re reading this and anticipating that I actually hesitated scheduling a surgery that three doctors agreed I needed but that I felt I didn’t deserve because I’m fat, you’re right. Yes, I’m scared of dying, of a long recovery, of the pain not being fixed, of finding out it is all in my head, but that is not the whole of it. The rest of it is that, well I don’t know. How can my modicum of pain (however regular or debilitating) warrant the money and effort this surgery will require? Beyond the actual operation, I’m going to need a lot of help from people for weeks. Weeks. I don’t know how or when to ask for help for little daily stuff (HG can attest to this), how the hell am I going to do this? Why the hell should I put so many other people out? For what?

True – the endometriosis and the scar tissue could happen to anyone, but the hernia? Caused when I slipped on some slush while loading the tot into her car seat. Probably it was caused by my being out of shape, by my being fat. How exactly do I not deserve the hernia as punishment for not correcting my weight problem? How exactly do I deserve to have it fixed?

Of course I know I deserve this surgery, like I deserve any other medical care, like anyone in need of medical care deserves to be treated. If it were any other medical problem, I would not hesitate to have it fixed. Wonky-looking mole? Might be my fault for not using enough sunscreen, but I’m damn sure getting it fixed. Injury from an accident? Regardless of how the accident happened, I’m getting the broken part fixed – No Question. But this, somehow this is different.

*The continuation of this post will appear sometime today or tomorrow. Please stay tuned.

The Language of Fat, Part One*

May 14th, 2007

Funny thing about being fat is that although it is an external condition, it is concomitantly an internal one.

Take for example my upcoming surgery (just over a week away, but who’s counting really, no, not me). I found the following a few days ago in my drafts folder. I wrote it back in late February/early March, and when I read it now, I see an attempt to deal with and move forward with my surgery.

She said, “You are the Champion of Putting Things Off”

One of my students called me out on something a few weeks ago, and as shocked as I was to hear her say it, it wasn’t long before I realized she is right.

Last year, I developed a pain on the right side my lower belly that came and went with my period. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it seemed false, fake, possibly in my head. So, because I am a “let’s wait and see” person when it comes to my own health, every time it subsided I would ignore the possibility of its return. And it returned. Every month, on schedule and with increasing severity and duration.

Ultimately, I did go see a variety of doctors who each ordered their own tests – blood tests, a cat scan, a colonoscopy.

The cat scan results showed that I have a hernia, but the obstetrician, the gastroenterologist and the surgeon agree that it is not the source of the pain. Probably it is scar tissue from my c-section joining forces with my appendectomy scar tissue for the power of evil, possibly to defeat Spiderman. Or, it could be endometriosis. Or, it could be both. Yay me.

When the cat scan results came in last October, I told my students that I might have to have surgery during our semester. It would suck and it would screw up the calendar of due dates, but we would get through it. Ultimately I backed out of getting the surgery because of the holidays, how would I lift the tot (who was not ready for the all-out “Mama doesn’t carry you anymore” business), waiting for the change in health insurance as HG’s company got bought, and because I was scared. Am scared. Like unable to move, stay-small-so-the-wolf-doesn’t-see-me scared.

I don’t feel this way all the time, but I look at my inaction and I can come to no other conclusion. I must be putting it off for a reason, and it can’t be solely the reason my student offered.

No, of course there is more to it than being scared, and being fat plays a major role in it.

Some background is in order here. I have not been fat my whole life. As a kid, I was relatively skinny, though I did have a round tummy. Naturally, because I am a girl in America, I went through my 6th grade year thinking I was fat. I look back now and I was just uncomfortable in my own skin as my body grew and took on that gangly pre-teen body. I was on the slender side of average as a teen, mostly because we never had food in my house growing up, so I rarely ate dinner. After my brother died, I quit eating entirely out of grief, and at one very scary point (for me), I found myself at 5’6″ and 111 pounds. I think that was my junior year in high school.

As I started to handle things more easily and headed into my senior year with an eye on college for the first time ever, I recovered my appetite and regained my lost 15 or so pounds. And then I met Husband-to-be-though-we-had-no-idea-then Guy, we dated, and I went to college. It was in college that my lack of food knowledge reared an ugly head. I didn’t (don’t) know how to cook, I have no idea what eating healthy or even healthier means, and I had gone so long with poor eating habits that I’d lost touch with true hunger and fullness cues. What exactly is a portion size again? So I quickly gained my freshman 15. And then my sophomore 10. And then my junior 10. And did I mention I had two senior years? It’s true, but I kept it to a single senior 10.

I highlight this progression of numbers for the purpose of underscoring the gradual but constant change my body went through. My brain went through it as well, but the change can be measured in language rather than numbers.

*This multi-part post was inspired in part by a post by KLee. It is divided into pieces since my word press theme has a problem with long posts. Sorry in advance for cutting this off mid-thought. The continuation of this post will appear sometime today or tomorrow. Please stay tuned.

Big Post Brewing, Pun Not Intended

May 14th, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I commented on a post of KLee’s about being fat in America. The comment kept taking a life of its own as I drafted it. (Note to self: if you are commenting on another blogger’s post and thinking of it as “drafting a comment,” you might just need to write your own gaddam post. Love, amy.) So, I finally cut off my comment and threatened promised indicated I would post my thoughts on the topic here.

What is coming is a tangled post, but I can’t put it off any longer. I’ve been trying to write a post about my upcoming surgery (hernia, potential endometriosis, potential scar tissue from past surgeries, unlikely-but-I-am-not-ruling-it-out discovery of an alien), but I repeatedly find it intersecting with what I wanted to say in KLee’s comment section. So I’ve decided to let the two posts be married. Due to the length of the draft I have as of this writing, I think I’ll have to post it in two segments since I haven’t figured out how to fix the theme code’s problem with super long posts.

Until I post again,

Single Variable

May 3rd, 2007

I am writing this post as a way to kind of understand and process* the philosophy guiding our Food Friend’s approach to expanding the food repertoire of our profoundly picky eater. First, an important tenet in the approach is the following:

There are no bad foods, only bad choices.

Are potato chips a bad food? Not implicitly. If you’re eating a moderate amount of them and as long as the rest of your day’s food is varied and healthy, that’s okay. But if you have, for instance, a heart condition and if the chips are loaded with saturated fat, then it might be a bad choice to eat four large bags of them in a sitting and nothing else.

So, my parental guilt is eased. Cheezits are not a bad food; eating only Cheezits is not a good choice.

Because we are trying to help the tot expand her diet, we don’t ever want to stop providing her a food she will eat. We might limit it, but we must keep providing it, especially if it offers a unique or daring sensory experience, like the god-awful frosted cookies. Each and every food has the potential to become a bridge to a new food.

A bridge food is a food the tot will eat right now. We take a bridge food and find another food, a target food, that has as few differences from the bridge food as possible. If at all possible, we keep it to one variable. For instance, one of the bridges that has mostly worked goes like this:

She liked Snyder’s square pretzels.
I offered her pretzel twists – same size, but traditional pretzel shape.
I offered her pretzel sticks, the short dipping style – slightly larger, still pretzel though.
I offered her pretzel rods – larger, but same shape.

When I offer her a food, I am supposed to present it to her in varied ways – on a plate, in a cup, in a bowl, in a baggie, etc. This way she doesn’t get too attached to a presentation style. But presentation style is, in our house, a variable, so if I’ve been giving her pretzel squares in a sandwich baggie for the last two days, I need to give her the twists in a baggie the first time as well.

Get it down to a single variable and work up from there.

Much of the common thinking these days encourages parents to offer a food as many as 10+ times before expecting a child to accept it, but the tot is outside this norm. So when I say “I offered her pretzel rods…,” please note that it took us almost to the end of that large bag before she’d accept that they are, in fact, pretzels and she can eat them. And it wasn’t like she didn’t like pretzels before that.

In her defense, pretzel rods present unique problems to a pretzel eater. They splinter, they are tougher, and they make more crumbs, so they are more adventurous for the tot than even the pretzel sticks. When a food requires more courage on her part, I have to be diligent to keep it in rotation so she doesn’t back away from it, which has happened with certain foods. In those cases, I’ve had to completely reintroduce the food like it’s new, starting even by talking it up in the grocery store again.

Where this is taking us right now is toward our target food: bread.

From pretzel rods, we are trying crunchy bread sticks. They are the same shape and about the same size as pretzel rods. I got the kind with sesame seeds because they look more like pretzel rods. So far she has mildly rejected them, meaning she picked it up eventually but she declined to put one on, in, or near her mouth. (This is actually a small victory. More commonly a new food is met with outrage or panic.)

If we can get her to eat crunchy bread sticks, then we’ll hopefully move to progressively less crunchy bread sticks until we’re at, I don’t know, crusty bread I guess. I can’t even think that far ahead, honestly, maybe because in my heart I don’t actually believe she’ll ever eat bread.

In theory, if a kid gets to a less cautious point, a bridge food could have only a single variable in common with the target food. For instance, square waffles to square bread, pink pudding to pink yogurt, square cheese crackers to square slices of cheese, or circles of cheese to banana circles. The belief is that if we reduce the number of variables, then we reduce the number of ways a child can get herself worried about a new food.

How far this will take us remains to be seen.

*If I said “digest,” would that be too much pun?

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