Call it a journey...
Or a complete lifestyle overhaul, but whatever term you fancy, it has definitely been an adventure. I have transformed my relationship with food - something I never contemplated was possible. Food tastes different now. The memories are still present, but I now reject what no longer fits my standards for quality food. It has taken my brain a while to catch up to my new thoughts, my new size, lifestyle changes, and choices for food. At times it has stamped its feet like a 2-year old child screaming "I don't want to!" but eventually it had to fall in line.
So, that's the way it's done!
I was overweight and obese up until a few years ago. I first recall being told I was "pudgy" when I was in the 6th grade, and that's when I suddenly began to feel self-conscious of my little tummy. I began my first diet at about age 12, and would go on to cycle through a myriad of diets, often times curtailing the intake of food once I had reached 400 calories. I recall having the flu as a teenager, and lost a few pounds in a matter of days because I had stopped eating. My goodness, I thought, so this is the way it's done. This may have been when I began to believe food as the enemy. At the age of 16, I believed I had at last found the culpable factor in my weight gain.
Diet down. Regain weight. Repeat.
The more I dieted, the more I seemed to regain, and this cycle continued for more than 20 years. I became more confused with every diet book that I had read. I recall one particular book advised that it truly didn't matter what type of food I ate - and I didn't have to exclude anything in particular. This is ground-breaking, I thought, and I went on to eat a couple of bagels for breakfast after running 2 miles on the treadmill. Much to my dismay, not only did I not lose weight, but I was steadily gaining! I continued to read more books because I knew that eventually I would discover the secret that seemed to be elusive.
Answering the Calling
I decided that if I ever lost weight that it would be my sole mission to help others, but figuring that out was as obscure as the dark web. I set out to pursue a medical education because surely the keys to health were somewhere in one of those massive books. Nope, but I certainly learned a lot! However, I wish someone had informed me that medicine was more about recovery after the damage had been done as opposed to preventing the metabolic health issues I was now dealing with. During rotations, I recall asking why no one ever asked about nutritional habits of the patients? Why was there a lack of focus on an optimal state of health and prevention?
Hiding Behind the White Coat
My white coat seemed to cover most of my body, so I felt like I could hide behind it. While I felt it covered what I wanted to hide the most, the huffing and puffing up the back stairwell to patient consultations was more than obvious to my colleagues. After work, there was no white coat to hide behind, unless I forgot to remove it before going through the drive-through at Dunkin' Donuts. I usually wolfed down at least two donuts before I reached home, and then shared another one or two with my husband. As I scarfed down the doughnuts, I couldn't fathom how I was ever going to be an example to patients.
At my wits end, I contemplated bariatric surgery. If I couldn't keep my weight under control, then I would have to do something drastic. I had recently attended a surgical conference in which the sleeve was discussed, but they were still perfecting the surgical process. A good friend of mine reminded me of the inherent surgical risks, I was desperate for a permanent solution - any solution.
Beginning the Adventure
I reluctantly researched other weight loss solutions, and decided to set an appointment with a local clinic whose support was lackluster at best. I literally felt alone in my journey. No one knew anything about basic, good nutrition, let alone physiology and weight loss stalls. Other folks I met in the program had no direction either - they were floundering in their efforts to diet down and eventually returned to eating their favorite croissants.
Going to the clinic was an expensive investment, especially when each visit consisted of recording my blood pressure and weight changes. Within the third week of twelve that I had committed to, I realized I was going to have to do a lot of work on my own if I expected to be successful. I abandoned the prescribed "diet", but continued to show up every week for the weigh-in. Why? Accountability.
I eventually parted ways with the clinic and went on to successfully lose 93lbs. The fire of a greater curiosity had been lit and I was more passionate than ever about nutrition, physiology, weight maintenance, and yes, even cooking, which I was not particularly good at, nor did I enjoy! I was already curious, but as I began to look obesity as a multi-factorial state with intricate causes and associations of consequences, I began to view the journey as an adventure. There were so many twists and turns - nothing could be predicted.
Get Curious...and Get Radical!
I realized that my education was nowhere near done. In fact, it was likely just beginning. During my ER rotation, I announced to my colleagues that I had decided to pursue research in nutrition and obesity. The silence was deafening. There were long sighs of disappointment and looks of disdain.
A Masters in Nutrition would fill the gaping hole left by my doctorate in medicine, or so I thought. I didn't agree with the push for the current food pyramid in some of my classes, but the research I was doing was eye-opening. I often supplied a well-woven basket of dissenting views and was more than happy to defend my position. Aimed with knowledge and experience, I had become a force to be reckoned with.
An Adventure I Do Not Regret
Sometimes you have to get radical when it comes to change - just a small detail. Sometimes change can feel like an uphill battle when the brain seemingly prefers the status quo. However, it's the status quo that had me huffing up the stairs and wolfing down doughnuts uncontrollably as I raced home from clinical rotations.
My adventure required me to embrace transformation. I challenged the status quo. I reckoned with my belief systems and lunged forward. And never looked back...
It has been an adventure - and it's one I never regret starting.