Posted by Pattie on 8/18/2011 08:00:00 AM

I don't think I've written these words yet in a public forum: I have diabetes.

I started to write "I am a diabetic," but I don't like that construction. I am not diabetes. I am me. But I do struggle with keeping my blood sugar in a healthy range. I have hypothyroidism. I am over 50. I am mostly post-menopausal. It's been a rough few years. I swear I turned 50 and my body fell apart.

I am aware that a lot of people in the world are cheering at these facts about me, as if they prove something. As if my becoming ill justifies all the weight loss schemes and all the risk factor studies. I am a bad fattie. I am one of those people who supposedly demonstrates that being over 300 pounds means instant death or long-term illness or the absolute end of health care as we know it.

I've been hesitant to write about diabetes especially because it is all the rage right now to demonstrate how bad fat is by equating it with diabetes.

But yesterday I had an epiphany of sorts. Or rather the obvious descended upon me with a dull thud. If I really believe in the principles of Health at Every Size®, then someone like me is on the front lines of these ideas. Someone like me is the one who has to fight for medical care that puts my health first rather than my weight. Someone like me has to speak out and say, it is not about weight, it is about health.

There are a multitude of theories on why I am facing these conditions at this time in my life. Weight is only one and it isn't a very good one. My guess is that it is a combination of all the stupid things I did to try to lose weight with all the wonderful genes given to me by my ancestors. In other words, a lot of it is the result of weight stigma and things beyond my control. I have regrets, but being fat is not one of them.

But that is all water under the bridge. The real question is what am I to do about it?

Dr. Sharma would categorize me as a "level 5" bad fattie and punish me with starvation and stomach mutilation (nightmares that sound like science fiction if you think about it outside of our cultural belief that fat is bad) even though his own research shows that it is not weight that determines these conditions.

I think HAES® is needed in cases like mine more than ever because what I need is HEALTH care NOT weight loss. That is the central principle of HAES®--concentrate on health not weight.

My biggest challenge these days are my feet (and some times my hands). I have neuropathic pain daily. I had hoped that control of thyroid and blood sugar would make it go away and so for the past two years we've been trying to address the underlying conditions. But even though I'm stable on thyroid medicine (and symptoms have subsided, except this one) and I'm improving on blood sugar, I still have to fight daily pain. I am finally this summer taking pain medicine. It has helped.

My feet also represent my thorniest issue for my own body love. In short, I've hated my feet most of my life in one way or another. Maybe that's why they're being so mean to me now, eh?

A discussion about shoes with friend of mine on FaceBook this week reminded me of how I loved to run barefoot as a kid. I still don't wear shoes unless I absolutely must. But my feet are damaged goods due to my current battle with neuropathy as well as an injury to my left foot in 2004 that left me a little less able to walk. It is the foot injury that put me in the permanently disabled category and for which I use my scooter and cane. My feet have always been problematic. I had one doctor tell me, however, that it was a good thing that I did go barefoot as a kid because shoes probably would have damaged them more.

They are kind of ugly, I have to admit. And the injury and nerve damage have made them less pretty. I inherited my dad's feet and legs. My mother has beautiful feet and legs. I have my dad's knobby knees, and feet that are shaped more like paddles (narrow heels with wide toes that spread out and look kind of duck-like, except when they are swollen at night). I live in the desert, so they are dry most of the time, even though I put lotion on them frequently. Everyone has a part of their body that they wish at some point or another were different and my feet are that for me. So here's a picture of my feet at their ugliest (night time). However, today, I'm going to celebrate my feet.

Remembering going barefoot as a kid, I'm finding a little love for my feet and all they've done for me for the past 54+ years:

I love the feel of grass between my toes.
Or wet sand sucking at my soles.
I love the way it tickled when an ant crawled over the top.
Or when I hopscotched hurriedly across the gravel drive.
I love the heat from the sidewalk
Or the cold water form the lake.

My feet were the connection between me and the great mother.
I tickled her cheek and she let me feel a world of sensations in return.

Thank you feet.
Thank you dirty earth squished under my heel.
Thank you sand and grass and gravel and concrete and water and ocean and snow and ice.
Thank you for grounding me throughout the years.
Thank you, Gaia for feet!

So I can now say I love myself from my head down to my toes!

And, I can say, I understand now that I am a HAES® warrior. It turns out I'm right on the front line.


acceptancewoman said...

I have diabetes, and I have since I was 25 years old. I'm 42 now.
I hate the definition of health as "absence of disease."

I like Michelle of the Fat Nutritionist's definition, in essence, "the best life you can live in the body you have, with the situation you are in."

I also hate the "-ic" word.

You are awesome, and a powerful force for health in the world, in the true sense of the word health.

Having type 2 diabetes isn't punishment for being fat.

You are a treasure.

Dr. Deb said...

I am so moved by your act of standing up on those dear feet for the care of this body - THIS body, not the one "when my feet get prettier" or I the one "when I lose weight" or the one "that can run a 5k." THIS body, right now.

People, this is what Health at Every Size(r) looks like.

Cheryl Fuller, PhD said...

Bravo! I am going to be seeing a new doctor in a few weeks. I am hypertensive (well controlled with medication), have gout(also well controlled) and a bad fattie -- I am determined to make it clear to this new doctor that my weight is not at issue -- and do so without becoming unpleasant.

Atchka! said...

Thank you for writing this, Pattie. It makes me feel a little better about my situation. :)


Anonymous said...

Patty, I have diabetes too (or two). But if you really want to work on bankrupting the health system (as all us fatties are obviously plotting to do), you need to contract a rare disease like I did. It's chronic, it doesn't run in my family, and a month of treatment for it has to cost at least as much as a year of diabetic treatment. It's not associated with fat, but what difference would that make to a fatphobe?

And you're right about hitting fifty - fifty hits back.


Jeanette DePatie said...

Thank you! This post is extremely powerful and just what I needed to hear! Your Mad HAES Skillz, you shows them!

Jan said...

Thanks Pattie. I raise my glass to your feet. My feet have certainly taken some punishment over the years too. Love your poem.

Ragen Chastain said...

Beautiful blog Pattie, thank you! One thing that has always puzzled me is that if fat and thin people both get a disease then how can becoming thin be considered the cure? Of course people can choose whatever they want but it seems to me that body size is neither a diagnosis nor a cure, and a HAES (SM) approach is really the only way that makes sense to manage health. Just my 2 cents, thanks for always being so awesome :)


Ellen Shuman said...

Great post! HAES...just so sane....wish it wasn't such a hard sell to the rest of the world. But it's getting better! We just have more work to do.

Marziapn said...

I loved this. Thank you so much.

Lizbeth said...

Pattie - first of all if that is the ugliest your feet can get, you are way wrong about them. They are adorable, especially that coy little tilt that your big toes do.

But more to the point - you are so right about deserving MORE AND BETTER HEALTHCARE because you are actually sick and in pain - not less because you're being judged by your body size. The real sickness is the cultural belief that you only deserve healthcare until you need it, and then you have to justify your need.

Funny how the same criticisms don't apply to people who rack up huge orthopedic bills by running or skiing or engaging in extreme sports that are deemed "healthy" (I think mostly because the demographic of who participates in them).

Finally, I hope you continue to reframe the "bad fattie" thing as a wonderful part of your identity, as in "no I'm not going to settle for this *rap anymore."

Besides, it reminds me of the "bad robot!" sign-off at the end of each episode of Lost - which I loved for being both cute and subversive at the same time.


Jill Tregor said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have carried so much shame about being a bad fattie, particularly in terms of diabetes. You have opened a door and let in so much light.

Anonymous said...

Pattie you echo so many of my own thoughts about being a super fatty with diabetes. If anyone has anything to lose in this battle, it's us. Because we are the ones that fall into the "except" range, and we're the ones they still advocate mutilation and starvation for, even though it does absolutely no good.

I am lucky at this point in my life. My diabetes is only presenting as high blood sugar levels, with no other symptoms. But as I get older, or if I suffer injury or other illness, inevitably there will be other symptoms, no matter how much weight I was to lose now, or in the future. I need to know that I will be treated with the dignity and respect I deserve, no matter what state my health or my body is in. As we all do.

BTW - can I use the Bad Fattie badge? With full credit of course!

Meredith said...

What a wonderful blog! My husband is diabetic (Type I, but that doesn't stop people from hassling him about his weight *eyeroll*) He has terrible diabetic neuropathy in his feet, and can't take the most common pain meds for it (long story). He gets a lot of relief from B-12 shots. Our wonderful doc read an article in the NE Journal of Medicine about how it helped regular neuropathy and thought it couldn't hurt! He got a shot once every 2 weeks at first, and now every 3-4 weeks. It's given him back a lot of quality of life! (I hope this comment is ok -- totally understand if you don't publish because of content.)