Real talk with the Geek: I’m obese and I know it, but overeating isn’t the issue

I’ve been considering writing about this subject for a while now. I’ve been unhappy with my weight for a long time and a few years ago I had to come to terms with the fact that there really isn’t much I can do about it. That was about the same time that I started showing symptoms for ME. I couldn’t even do normal everyday things let alone do any exercising which was already difficult beyond belief due to having hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) and asthma.

I’d already been to my doctor and been referred to the NHS weight management service only to find that as per usual the NHS doesn’t have a clue about what to do with people like me. People who have multiple conditions and can’t just go to a gym to work out. I tried a session of aqua aerobics and while I enjoyed it, and the water did support me, getting out of the water was exhausting. Going to the leisure centre and being part of a class also triggered my anxiety. I was back to square one.

I’ve successfully lost weight several times previously. As the title of this post states overeating isn’t my problem. I know what works for me and I’ve had great success with a ketogenic diet. Unfortunately, I’m now on a certain medication for my migraines that specifically cannot be taken alongside a ketogenic diet. I’ve spoken to my doctor about how much of a keto diet I can do and was warned that the higher the dose of the medication the more at risk I would be. I’ve recently had to increase the medication which means that a ketogenic diet is out.

What people don’t realise about diets is that starving yourself doesn’t work for everyone. We all have a different type of metabolism. Mine responds to a heavy protein diet, plus, with my conditions I can’t starve myself. If I don’t eat regularly I get migraines or I start to feel unwell, faint or fatigued; ME is a complicated balancing game.

What prompted this sudden post was the English government’s “Obesity Strategy” announcement which as usual whenever anything about obesity comes up has people commenting about how easy it is to lose weight, how people should do it for their health, how anyone can do it because they did it, blah blah blah. There are already people claiming that obesity is behind the high COVID-19 rates in the US, completely ignoring the US government’s blatant mishandling of the pandemic, even though the US doesn’t actually have the highest obesity rate in the world. Interestingly, the US is 12th on that list and the UK is 36th which suggests a rather big flaw in the link between obesity and COVID-19 flaw. What England and the US do have in common are governments who have failed to contain the pandemic, however, that’s a topic for another day.

A year or so ago Cancer Research did something similar and produced an advertising campaign focused on obesity as one of the main causes of cancer. It led to twitter trolls telling obese people (myself included) that they were going to die of cancer.

I don’t know what it is about the term obesity but as soon as it’s mentioned people (usually thin people) feel the need to force advice down people’s throats and seem to think that plus-sized people don’t realise their body size or the risks that come with it. Newsflash; we’re aware. We know what we look like, we know how you see us, what you think of us, and what you’re thinking when we walk into a clothes shop or see us eating something other than a salad.

I would to lose weight. I’d love to be able to exercise, even just easy exercises at home and one day I’ll build back up to that again. Right now with the pandemic happening my stress levels are too high, and ME is a neurological condition that manifests itself physically. That means everything I feel in my brain has an effect on my body physically (you can read the science here if you’re interested).

The point of this post is not to make excuses; it’s to show that obesity isn’t a simple issue. I’m just one person and this is just one story, one example. Governments need to stop funding diet based obesity campaigns that only fuel stigma and start looking at the wider picture. The money being wasted on this campaign could be used to start a support program that offers physio support and exercise programs for people with chronic conditions. One that enables them to gain control of their weight, become more independent and mobile again. Such a program wouldn’t just help lower their obesity, it would help their overall and wellbeing. But no, it’s much easier to make obesity the scapegoat of COVID-19.

Over to you

This was an impromptu post that has been boiling under the surface for a while now, and one of a number of more serious real-world topics that I want to start discussing here at Just Geeking By as part of a new series called ‘Real talk with the Geek’. Some will be opinion pieces and others will be more research-based.

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I'm obese and I know it, but overeating isn't the issue: In response to the English Government's COVID-19 obesity strategy, it's time to talk about how I'm obese and I know it . Join me as I talk about being obese, weight loss while living with 7 chronic health conditions and how obesity is never a simple thing.

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  1. Don’t know f you remember but I have Hypermobilty Syndrome and MS and I’m in a very similar boat. Everyone who works for the NHS (and I’ve seen so many all my life) point blank refuse to believe that it’s impossible for me to exercise safely because of my conditions most of the time. I also have the added bonus of a co-ordination disorder, erm hello! Same reason why I can’t do water aerobics either, because of the chronic fatigue and faffing about before and after is just too much. D’you know what chuck – I think we are doing a feckin fantastic job just surviving as well as we do! *big gentle hugs*

  2. Medical conditions and mental health are significantly overlooked in the “weight loss” community. I 100% agree with your post. As someone who is a member of the “weight loss” community, I wish I could tell each person that I come across that losing weight will not make the love themselves more, that starving themselves will not make them happier, that every step on the scale will not put them closer to an ideal version of themselves. Your health and mental health play a huge part in any journey.

    Being a short woman, I’m told over and over again by the internet and by apps I should be eating 1200 or less calories to lose weight. And to that I say absolutely not. Thankfully, I found people in this community who don’t agree with eating as less calories as possible, and actually promote just doing your best to be healthy, eating what you need to fuel your body and your workouts (no matter what those workouts may be: lifting, swimming, yoga, walking, etc.), and making healthy choices while still enjoying food.

    But at the end of the day, we’re judged by those looking in on our journey. They will think we’re not making enough progress, that we aren’t trying hard enough, that we just don’t “get it.” I don’t have a medical condition that prevents me from losing weight but I know that there are plenty of people in the community who do and take a ton of shit for “using it as an excuse.” When will we start acknowledging that medical conditions and mental health need to be addressed too? Put your money into that, governments!

    Sorry. I definitely ranted a bit. But I wanted you to know that I see you. ❤️

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