03 January 2013 ~ 11 Comments

The Weighty Issue of “Fatism”

The world is becoming increasingly politically correct. Here in the US it is deemed unacceptable to discriminate against people because of things like gender, race and illness. However, apparently it’s still perfectly de rigueur to mock people who are fat or overweight.

What inspired me to write the poem below was the article I read today in the British press about how the British government is considering cutting benefits for obese people who refuse to exercise. In my personal experience, this is very short-sighted. Now that I’ve been there myself, I know only too well that a large proportion of obesity and weight issues are caused by metabolic illnesses such as thyroid disease, which is oftentimes hereditary and not usually something the patient has brought on themselves! In such cases, most patients (at least in the beginning) aren’t even able to exercise because their metabolic disorder can also cause extreme fatigue and joint pain.

If the British government wishes to save money, perhaps they should consider paying more attention to ensuring the many thyroid sufferers get proper treatment by a knowledgeable doctor who doesn’t diagnose and treat by a pituitary hormone alone (TSH) and is also open to trying all thyroid medications until the patient feels well again. Doesn’t a doctor, who strives to heal, owe this to his or her patients – to leave no stone unturned? If more thyroid patients received proper treatment, health insurance companies would have to shell out less for the treatment of accompanying conditions such as heart bypasses, cholesterol treatment, etc. etc. Treat the cause rather than the symptoms should be their adage. Furthermore, I believe it would make sense for health insurance to pay for people with metabolic diseases to see nutritionists and personal trainers to help them heal their bodies as obviously medication alone doesn’t cut it and not everyone has the money for the professional help they might need.

Whilst I do to some extent understand people’s outrage at having to fund people who are obese or overweight and who refuse to change their diets or work out (assuming they are even able!) I’d like to point out that not everyone with a weight problem has this attitude and not everyone can actually do anything about it until they get the right medical treatment, which is so often denied them.

This poem is written from my own personal perspective as someone who has been there and knows exactly what they are talking about. This illness caused me to balloon from a US Size 6/UK Size 10 to a US Size 14/UK Size 18 (now I’m back to a US Size 12/UK Size 16) and frankly it was heart-breaking. The treatment I received by those around me was utterly horrible and I don’t think I will ever forgive most of them (except my family who have since apologised). That said, it once again underlines what I said above – too many are ignorant as to what is often the true cause of overweight or obesity.

Whilst I never had problems finding a job, a very well presented and attractive voluptuous friend of mine recently remarked that she felt that as a result of this she had missed out on several job opportunities in her home country of Germany. This shocked me to say the least.

Another story I remember reading about repeatedly is how many airlines have begun charging overweight passengers for their extra weight, some of whom are crassly unprofessional in the treatment of this issue such as in this article. If you look around, you’ll see constant examples of people making fun of others who are overweight …

“I’m fat!” she said. “I’m overweight!
Can’t find a job; can’t get a date.
’Cause people snicker and people judge
And on their opinions they won’t budge
I wish they could see the person inside
And cease to mock and to deride
I never planned to look this way
But to my chagrin and dismay
The hours of workouts at the gym
Didn’t make me fit, didn’t make me slim
My body ballooned out of control
It hurt my heart, it hurt my soul
When friends and family launched their sharp words
There was no comfort to be heard
A pretty girl back in her teens
I don’t understand what this all means
I blame myself for this overweight
How did I ever get in this state?
And later on I come to see
It’s not my fault, it wasn’t me!
Because, you know, the family curse
Has made me go from bad to worse
Bed’s become my new best friend
My days of energy have come to an end
I’m not lazy and I’m not crazy
But my mind’s becoming hazy
All these symptoms are connected
By one gland they are affected
Still thyroid is the butt of jokes
Some even think it is a hoax
A silly excuse for lazy greed
But non-sufferers, please take heed:
1 in 5 in the USA are let down by their thyroids today
Walk a mile in my shoes!
Come on, try it! You’ve nothing to lose
See it from the other side
And you might cease to deride.”

Now, over to you! I’d like to hear about your experiences with this. Have you ever experienced discrimination due to your weight? What do you think should be done about it?

11 Responses to “The Weighty Issue of “Fatism””

  1. ROBIN B 3 January 2013 at 2:58 pm Permalink

    I feel you so much. Thank you for sharing. On the days I am feeling well enough to cope, I try to act like my weight does not matter, however, on bad days I seem to beat myself up because I can’t lose the weight. Thank you for reminding me that somethings are really not my fault! GENTLY HUGS TO YOU <3

    • Sarah Downing 3 January 2013 at 3:21 pm Permalink

      I’m glad my article helped, Robin. Nowadays I am pretty much at peace with how I look. I have a sensitive stomach so am prone to bloating, although I’m also working on that. I don’t feel fat anymore though and luckily I no longer have to endure bitchy comments, but going through that made me realise what it feels like for others in that position.

      We beat ourselves up way too much because life is way too short. Society’s idea of what is beautiful is very limited.

      Gentle hugs to you and may you learn to increasingly feel good about yourself this year!

      Sarah

  2. Linda 7 January 2013 at 6:28 am Permalink

    Hi Sarah,
    I love your Poem,
    may I please share it on my private page for family & friends to learn a bit more about Hypothyroidism?
    As weight and diet are hot topics at the minute, could you post it on the STTM FB page, I think some of the gals there could do with a boost.
    Thank you
    Linda

    • Sarah Downing 7 January 2013 at 10:28 am Permalink

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you. You are more than welcome to share anything on this page. All I ask is that you attribute authorship to me and this site.

      I’d also be more than happy to post it on the STTM Facebook page, assuming that this is okay with Janie Bowthorpe.

      Cheers,

      Sarah

  3. Annie 20 February 2013 at 2:31 am Permalink

    Hi Sarah Just found your site. Your poem is fab, may I post it on the forum at thyroid uk, I know you said yes to the last reply, but I was always taught to be polite and ask first. I am writing to ask for your help and advice about Mental illness related to thyroid illness. A huge stigma is associated with mental health in this country.

    I am vey upset and angered about a blog posted on Thyroid uk yesterday re a tragic storey of and Irish lady with hyperthyroidism who killed her by throwing herself in to the Irish Sea. When I read the Coronor’s report staying there was no conection of mental illness and thyroid I was livivd.

    In 2008 at the age of 48 I felt so ill, with as I know now all the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, I was sectioned that night under the MHA and dragged off by two policeman to the local mental hospital . !!!!!!

    The nightmare continued I was diagnosed after 10 mins with a Phychatrist with Bipolar 1 I knew I was not bipolar due to the fact my elder brother was, and had lived with his symptoms for years . They said if I did not comply and take prescribed medication they would section me again on a stricter section which meant I would have no say it what medications I received. They said I had no insight to my illness. How could I have had. Guess what days later I was diagnosed with severe hyperthyroidism then Graves DIsease.

    To cut a long storey short it took me three years to prove I was not bipolar.I have a NHS and private Phychatrists report starting I had no signs of bipolar and I misdiagnosis was made. I had been treated with block and replace and was told my thyroid was normal at the end of 2011.
    I never felt normal as was not myself told all in my mind which my beloved husband began to believe too aftter 28 years together. I was never given any other tests other than tbog standard thyroid function.

    I now suspect hypothyroidism very severe waiting on bloods proper ones this time thanks to the thyroid uk forum .

    This Graves disease and the mistreat of same and the misdiagnosis of bipolar has ruined my life my husband divvorced me and I have lost my much beloved children.

    I want thyroid suffers to come forward re the Mental issues of thyroid and to tell their storey I know it is taboo. We have to seak justice for this woman.

    I suspect I had had thyroid problems since birth/childhood and was never diagnosed until I was 48 I have been a size 8 to 22 in my life time with no change of diet.

    Thanks

    Annie

    • Sarah Downing 20 February 2013 at 8:07 am Permalink

      Hi Annie,

      Thank you. It didn’t take me long to write and it came from the heart. Those usually tend to be the best ones:-). Of course, you are very welcome to repost and share my poem. Just please mention me and my website as the author.

      I read the same article as you about the Irish journalist. That was so very tragic, wasn’t it? What’s even more tragic is how many medical professionals get it wrong time and again! I actually saw the article originally when it was posted on the ThyroidChange forum of which I am the blog editor. The hope of this initiative is also to change the way that doctors treat patients and to improve thyroid treatment for all – worldwide.

      Oh wow. Your story is so tragic, Annie, but you are so brave for sharing it. You wrote that you are asking for my help and advice. I’m not entirely sure what kind of help you are looking for, but please let me know. It is great that you are finally getting the right tests. That’s definitely a good start! My one suggestion – as you mentioned that you would like other thyroid sufferers to come forward with their stories on mental illness – is that you write a blog post based on what you have just shared with me. I would be happy to publish it on Butterflies & Phoenixes as well as thyroidchange.org, which has an even bigger audience. I too believe that a light needs to be shone on how incorrectly this is being treated and how this mistreatment is ruining people’s lives.

      You are very brave to come forward and I wish you all the best for the future. If you have any specific questions, please let me know.

      Warm regards,

      Sarah

  4. MARCIA 23 June 2013 at 12:02 pm Permalink

    Sarah, This is my first response ever to anything other than what I do for a living. The person on my webpage is me in 2010, so not too awfully long ago, however it could be a century. After cleaning swimming pools for 16 years in order to support my 2 girls, I went back to college at 38, then on to law school to become an attorney at 45. I loved my work, and the money (which I never had before) was great too. I had no problem working 6 days a week and 14 hours a day. I loved it! In Oct. 2011, I had a period that lasted 3 weeks. Immediately I asked for a referrel to a GYN who drew blood for tests. She scheduled me for a complete hysterictomy, but right before hand I decided against the operation since it didn’t feel right. The blood results (bc I keep a file) showed the beginning of hypothyroid, but nothing was ever said. During the entire 2012 I was exhausted, and I was working less and less, and enjoying nothing. I started crying for no reason and then would get angry. The later part of the year I also began caring for my 2 year old grandson, but I was helped by my new husband (married in 2006). By this past January I was screaming for my family to help me bc I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore. I had gained 60 pounds! In just 1 1/2 years! Everything hurt me, and I could not get down on the floor and play with my grandson. On January 10th 2013, I will never forget…I lost all control with my daughter because I tried to explain to her that I could not watch my grandson and bring him to dayschool in the morning. We ended up in a brawl which my husband had to break up and my husband still is very angry with her. I went to the doctor who said I needed a stress test. My blood pressure was 152/92, I couldn’t remember something that happened a week ago, and I hated my job. A month later I completed the stress test, and when the physican assistant called to say the doctor wanted to see me I thought probably heart issues but she said Hashimoto…who the heck is that? My TSH was 87…she sent me upstairs to the lab to draw blood again. I was relieved bc the doctor said all be be back to normal in 6 weeks! I celebrated for the first time since my grandson was born. My daughte and I were still not talking which hurt so much, but I would soon be well! Five days later the doctor called and I had elevated TSH of 130 now. They say no one dies of Hashimoto…do not believe it. I was put on 50 mcg of Synthoid and told all would be great and to call the endocronolgist. He saw me and rasied the amount to 150 mcg! Then 10 weeks later I still felt awful. I lost 9 pounds and gained it all back. No energy. I went back to the primary bc the specialist would not see me and was told this is as good as it gets. The other day a fellow attorney asked why did I look so down and I told her I had Hashimoto…she said, “So what, every one has Hashimoto.” I did seek out another doctor at the Mayo clinic. It was very expensive but worth it bc they found an autoimmune diease existed too. So now I have a connective tissue diease as well. Doctors will not automatically test for other possible issues but you must urge them to. Once you have one autoimmune it seems you can get another but there is nothing documented about this, of course. I am now searching for a way to do something else besides what I am doing. I want to lead a healthy life without all the stress. I do feel crushed, but at least my family no longer barks at me when I say I am staying in bed for the day. Good luck and thanks for caring

    • Sarah Downing 24 June 2013 at 8:42 am Permalink

      Hi Marcia,

      Thank you for commenting. First off, good for you for becoming an attorney – I can only imagine how hard that career path is. Second off, I often hear about how tough it is for the chronically ill to deal with their families and many face a lack of empathy and understanding as you described. I also sense the despair that you describe as you felt you body deteriorating.

      I see that your doctor put you Synthroid. In my experience, many patients don’t do as well on this medication because it contains only one of the hormones the thyroid naturally produces – i.e. T4. In reality, a healthy thyroid should produce T1, T2, T3, T4 and calcitonin. Some patients have found that by switching to Natural Desiccated Thyroid (a porcine thyroid extract available in several brands, most notably Erfa (from Canada), Westhroid-P (which I’m taking and is considered a hypoallergenic version), Nature-Throid (actually identical to Westhroid), Armour Thyroid …) they have been able to improve their symptoms and also lose some more weight. I wonder if this would be worth looking into for you. The problem is that many doctors of conventional medicine will only prescribe Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone) because they erroneously think that NDT is unsafe or unstable, which simply isn’t the case. I would urge you to consider this if you haven’t already and I’d also be more than happy to help you find a doctor who prescribes it. If you are interested, let me know where you are based and whether you have health insurance.

      I’m sorry you are going through this Hashi hell. It sucks big time when you feel like your life is falling apart, but I know that it can be possible to get it back together again and it’s already a good start that your family are starting to understand more.

      Take care and all the best,

      Sarah

  5. MARCIA 26 June 2013 at 9:41 am Permalink

    Thank you so much for your reply Sarah. I do have insurance but that doesn’t stop me from getting what I should have if the insurance won’t approve it. I am located in Sarasota Florida USA. If that helps but I have printed out your reponse to take to the many holistic stores in the area. Thanks, and let me know if I can help you to further your passion in helping others with Hashi.

    • Sarah Downing 26 June 2013 at 12:54 pm Permalink

      Hey Marcia,

      I’m happy to help if I can:-). When I have a spare minute, I’ll see if I can find some recommended docs in your area and will get back to you.

      Take care and talk soon!

      Sarah

      PS: If you are interested in patient advocacy, I’m the blog editor for ThyroidChange and they are also looking for a lot of volunteers. Just let me know.

    • Sarah Downing 28 June 2013 at 11:57 am Permalink

      Hey Marcia,

      I finally got round to emailing you a list of doctors in Florida. I’m not that familiar with the geography there, so I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones are near you. There are quite a few, so hopefully you can find a good one near you. Please keep me posted:-).

      Cheers,

      Sarah


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