Monday, August 13, 2012

Bariatric Betty feels shame and pride

I'm coming up on my 6 month post-op visit in a couple days, but first I had my 9 year old son's annual check-up.  That was difficult.

My son has been struggling with his weight pretty much his whole life.  He is in the 99% for height for his age as well.  When he was 2 years old he had an incredible weight gain of 10 pounds in something like 3 months, and we requested a consult with a nutritionist after lab work ruled out thyroid problems and diabetes.  We kept a food log for a month and other than cutting out one serving of OJ a day (he used to have 2 because he didn't drink milk, so we got calcium added OJ), the nutritionist said we were doing a great job.  She wished that most of the kids she saw ate as healthy as him.

For the last 5 years we cut out juice altogether (unless it's a "treat" - like instead a bag of chips or dessert if we're eating out).  We've also paid close attention to serving sizes, making protein the priority, and helping him figure out if he is really hungry or just bored.

We've worked hard to keep him active; in addition to loving to ride his bike, play in the pool and on playgrounds, he's done over 4 years of karate and played community soccer for the last 3 years.  This summer we added baseball and the couch-2-5k training.  Last year his pediatrician said this was very important - that he's always going to be a big kid, but that we want to slow his weight gain as he grows and help him have a healthier lifestyle.  Our previous pediatrician (before me moved) had said the same thing, and had said that she would expect an average weight gain of 10 pounds or less a year for a kid like him.  I thought we did really well (especially since my surgery), and suspected he had gained less than 5 pounds in the past year.

First, the good news.  He only gained 4 pounds, so I was right about that.  But, I was wrong about how much he had grown.  I was just SURE he was 5 feet now, but it turns out that he's still under at 4 ft. 10 inches.  He only grew 1 3/4 inches this past year.  That's not a problem, because he's still the tallest kid in his grade!  What was a problem was that I was using the wrong number at home when I was calculating his BMI.  My using his incorrect height of 5 feet meant that he was overweight and had a decreasing BMI.  The correct height means that his BMI is 30.1, and he is officially obese. 

That crushed me.  My son is following in my footsteps in the last way I would want him to - to obesity.  After experiencing the joy of watching my own BMI drop from (morbidly obese) 43 to it's current (overweight) 27.8, seeing that he is just over the border into "obese" just about broke my heart.  I try to teach my kids so many good things, but he learned the lesson of overeating from me. 

His BMI is decreasing.  After I got home I realized I didn't know what his BMI was at his annual physical last year, so I calculated it.  31.2!  So in one year he has gone down 1.1 in BMI - a definite improvement.  And he's now on the border of obesity, instead of sitting solidly inside the category.  He's stretching out, can wear the same size as last year, and is definitely more active.  But that didn't stop that crushing feeling of shame; knowing I failed him by being the unhealthy role model I was for most of the first 9 years of his life. 

I am proud of the changes that I've made, and the ones I've helped my family make in the last 6 months.  I feed them healthier food, and we are all more active.  I know that he is absorbing the hard work he sees me doing, and listens to me talking about how much better I feel.  I feel that I have stopped the trend of increasing BMI and started to reverse it in him.  I knew he was overweight, and I had been trying to help him keep on the right path before I knew he was obese.  He didn't become obese at this visit, he became obese over a year ago, I just didn't know it.  Knowledge is power.  I didn't know how much I was hurting my body until I was diagnosed as a diabetic.  I didn't know I could live the rest of my life on a modified diet until I had to with diabetes, and the success I had in lowering my blood sugar gave me the confidence that I can change my life with the weight loss surgery and my new lifestyle.  I knew that even following the diabetic plan my life would be shorter and have a lower quality of life, and that meant the risks and sacrifices involved with weight loss surgery and living post-bariatric bypass were more than worth it. 

So now I will try to let go of the shame, and focus on the pride I have in the changes I have made in the last 6 months.  And the knowledge that he is almost NOT obese will be a great motivator to keep us all running, to keep me on my plan and be a good role model for him.  Because these are the lessons I want him to learn from me - that if you work hard, you can make good things happen.  You can be healthy, and find out that you're able to do things you've never done before.  The unimaginable becomes possible.

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