Think Dieting and Exercise are the Only Challenges?
One of the goals of this blog is that I really wanted to show off that what you see in the weightloss ads can be very misleading. They give the impression that when you get to your goal weight or fitness level that you'll be a changed person. That you will be absolutely free from the ill effects of your former self. While not totally untrue, there's some things that I think you Really Ought to Know.
The ads are pretty formulaic. They usually feature someone sitting in a brightly lit kitchen with sun streaming in, a glass of water or juice in front of them, a nice fruit bowl in the foreground artfully out of focus, the speaker wearing bright yellows, whites, and blues. They're animatedly exclaiming how much energy they have, how they've reclaimed their life (cut to canted, black and white, slowed down, out of focus footage of them while fat just struggling with life in general), they got that new job, they scored the point and won the game. I mean, of course. If the weightloss ad told the truth about the reality that I've encountered, it'd be a tougher sell. They're already trying to get people to change their life which is hard enough, and telling them that where they're ending up will have its own quirks may be a bridge too far. They want to give the impression that, magically, you'll wake up one day and realize that everything's changed and you're now that person in the ad (lawyer mandated blurb about consulting your physician before starting any plan). You've pupated and now are now a pretty butterfly, entirely changed from that groady grub.
Well... they're kinda right. On the one hand, you will get rid of that weight. You will start enjoying a new life. But what those ads don't tell you is that there are actual symptoms of the process of losing weight! Like, not symptoms of being fat, but symptoms of ONCE being fat and losing the weight. It's something that took be by surprise and I had to make sure, at an appointment with my doctor, that what I experience is expected.
To illustrate. An immediate thing, that is now a constant part of my life, is something called "Patulous Eustachian Tube." You know how when you yawn (especially while flying in an airplane or going up a mountain) and your ears "pop"? That's thanks to a tube that connects from the back end of your nasal area to the little air compartment behind your ear drums. The reason this pathway exists is a way to equalize the outside pressure with the little air pocket behind the ear drums so that the ear drums themselves aren't in any kind of stress. If they're taut from being bulged one way or the other from some pressure imbalance, they're less free to vibrate, thus making things quieter. Next time your ears pop, you can tell that you're more able to hear clearly and "louder".
Well. My eustachian tubes? Yeah, thanks to the tissues in the noggin literally thinning out along with the rest of my body, they're stuck open ALL THE TIME. This means that my nasal cavity and my eardrums now have a constant permanent connection. And it's super friggin' annoying. The hardware up there is still good -- eardrums are green, the little bones are ok, the cochlea checks out, but I'm now functionally hard of hearing anyway. Since that tube is open, all I can hear now is the sound of my breath. Loud rushes of air as I inhale and exhale drown out any subtle intricate sounds like, say, someone talking. I'm constantly asking people to repeat themselves (which, if anyone knows me, was something I already do because I wasn't the most sociable person and I find it hard to parse the spoken word from time to time) and to speak a little louder. Then I employ the only mitigation method I know, which is to start to swallow, then pause midway and hold my breath. This closes the tubes partially and without air moving thanks to holding my breath, it quiets down enough for me to listen properly. But it sucks! When I don't know when someone's talking, I don't respond. I'm thinking that lots of people believe I'm ignoring them; blowing them off. Just not the case -- I'm not "ready" to listen yet.
Now let's talk about energy levels. This one's kinda hard because it might partially be due to my eating habits and not something intrinsic to losing weight. I believe I went into some of this in greater detail earlier, so I'll just to a tl;dr here: I have no energy. In order to maintain the weight, I can't eat much at all. Like, a crazily small amount. If you aren't eating much, you don't have much energy to move. And, boy, by the time I get home I am just bushed. Or maybe it's a symptom of aging? See how this can be complicated?
Some other effects of this are that I'm constantly cold, my fingers go numb when the temp drops below mid-50s, I temporarily had gout, and I'm kinda convinced that I heal more slowly. Metabolic chicanery. I guess it can be expected for when you have such a drastic change.
And speaking of diet. This one's a mental issue. Of course, the cravings, yearnings, and general urges never go away. You do learn to live with them and come up with strategies to combat those unhealthy habits. The problem is that maaaaaybe, sometimes, possibly, those methods and strategies might only be slightly more healthy than the old ones. You develop a kind of... not combative per se, but very much uneasy relationship with food. With me, I was only really able to get where I've gotten by following and extremely rigid, no room for error, eating plan. When I go grocery shopping, the only food I get is only enough to last me a week. When you're that rigorous for that long, it becomes hard to know how to eat properly again. You can't go back to eating the way you had of course, so you have to learn... again for a third time. Complicated. It's only been in the last year and a half (and I'm very much still in the process) that I've been able to loosen up slightly but it's taken more effort than you'd think.
Lastly, there's the elephant in the room that I'm sure people are aware of but don't want to think too hard about (or if they do, they imagine that they're physiology is magical and they won't be affected). It's the relatively well-known issue. I don't want to make this blog graphic so no pictures will be posted, but there's skin. Too much skin. Just hangin' out. Floppin' around. It doesn't shrink. I stretched it beyond its elasticity limit. It's done and can't recover. Gonna need to lop it off. Anyone have an extra $30 grand?
To wrap things up, I hope you now get the picture where you really have to be wary of the side effects of weightloss. My hope is that, very far from scaring you off of the idea, you at least have something of a heads up when your own side effects rear their heads. That it doesn't sidetrack you or discourage you, or worse, become a reason to quit; something that keeps you from your goal yet again. Because although these things suck, and heap yet more stress onto the process, at the least these are problems you can learn to deal with. Something you can work around. Much better in my opinion than the side effects of morbid obesity, many of which are fatal.