Wreckage of my eating past

First, an explanation of the pictures: At the bottom, on the left side is a picture of me at my highest weight, which is unknown. Last Wednesday, after attending my weekly AWOL meeting, I showed this and the other pictures to my fellow group members. They were stunned, to say the least. They estimated that I had to have been 400 pounds. I will never know because I didn't come anywhere near a scale, and I was avoiding any contact with physicians or any other medical professional. I knew I was morbidly obese, and I felt like I didn't need them to elaborate on the obvious. I also didn't want to hear about "cutting back" on the amount and type of food I was eating, or make "healthy lifestyle changes". It wasn't that I felt they were wrong for trying to help me. They were doing what they had been trained to do, which is help keep people alive. Looking at this picture reveals how dangerously close to the edge I had come.

Did I realize what I was doing to myself? Yes, and no. The mind of a food addict works in erratic patterns that seem to make sense in the moment. I was hurting badly, in fact, this picture had to have been taken by my son after I got home from work. My routine was to come in the house and sit on my bed for about a half hour until every bone, joint and nerve ending in my body stopped shrieking about having to work so hard. I was taking 1600 milligrams of doctor-prescribed Ibuprofen every eight hours, and that only took a slight edge off the pain. But at least I could walk, which was impossible without the medicine.

While I was aware that the pain was due to tremendous gravity-defying pressure that my girth placed on my body,I felt completely hopeless and helpless. I had been on diets ever since age nine, and I must have lost almost 1,000 pounds total over a lifetime. But the fateful day always came when I would "reward" myself for being "good" (my addict brain talking to me), and I would take that first bite of whatever I wanted to eat that wasn't "diet food".

It's funny, vegetables were never on my list of foods that I considered to be a reward. My taste buds have never moved beyond a five year old "I HATE spinach!" tantrum. Even now, I have a let's-just-get-this-over-with attitude towards eating veggies. Maybe that's a good thing. If I loved them, they'd probably become a binge food. I don't need any more additions to my unbelievably long list of binge foods.

The picture in the center was taken at the 1994-95 Bazzanella Awards ceremony at California State University at Sacramento. I was a graduate student in English at the time, and I had won second place in the graduate short fiction category for a story I wrote. I can't remember the name of the piece; I would have to dig up my copy of the published book. Anyway, my family and a few of my friends attended the awards, and I felt humbled and grateful for their support.

From left to right, the people in the picture are: My mother, Mary, my then 14 year old daughter Clarissa, me, my father Richard, one of my best friends from high school, Veronica (rest in peace, Ronnie), my sister Tam and my other high school running buddy, Kim. My son Marc, who was 12 at the time, is kneeling on the floor, and next to him is my daughter Chenelle, who was 8. Sitting between Marc and Chenelle is my friend, Beata, who took advanced clairvoyant classes at the Berklee Psychic Institute at the same time I did.

Finding this picture the other day was a trip to me. Did I actually think holding that Bazzanella anthology in front of me would effectively hide my enormous body? Oh, the crazy games the food-addicted mind can play!

The last picture is of me after going through gastric bypass and nearly hemorrhaging to death. For those of you who are new to this blog, I didn't almost bleed to death because of the surgery. That came about because I was morbidly obese and stubbornly opposed to seeing any doctors for the 24 day (and extremely heavy) menstrual cycles I was having each month. I just kept bleeding and bleeding until I had to be hospitalized. That would have happened even if I didn't have gastric bypass surgery. Excess estrogen is stored in fat, and the more fat a person has, the more estrogen is produced and stored. This excess estrogen produces fibroid tumors, and I had three very large ones taking up residence in my uterus. The tumors caused uterus wall to shed continuously, which meant that I lost an awful lot of blood each month. I had to have several transfusions to remain alive.

When this picture was taken, I was extremely weak and anemic. I was losing weight on the average of 20 pounds per month, but I couldn't walk from my bed to the door without nearly passing out. My eyes had trouble focusing on anything, and what I could see was often spinning or moving in strange ways. I had to hang on to the doorway for a few moments until my head cleared and my legs stopped feeling watery. I looked like I had been smoking a lot of high quality marijuana, but my droopy eyes were the result of the anemia and the extra-strength Vicadin that I was taking. You can tell I had lost a lot of weight by how my shirt was hanging on me. That same shirt used to be a very tight fit.

So what do I look like now? Well, I still have that bright pink shirt, and I could wear it as a dress, if I wanted to. But it hangs off my shoulders and it's pretty threadbare now. I didn't have a very extensive wardrobe at 400 pounds.

OK, that's enough for now. I need to eat my salmon and spinach lunch. Yes, I do eat spinach. Don't ask me what I think of the taste, either.

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