Finishing the High Desert Relay

Day by Day, Overcoming Obesity

My struggle with weight began in my early teens. That was when my doctor prescribed  a birth control medicine to treat dysmenorrhea. But I didn’t know it would cause massive weight gain and hormone fluctuations. I’ve had to work at overcoming obesity every day of my life since then. One of the hardest things about obesity is that you wear it on the outside. You don’t get to hide it.

Complications Multiply

I was the “heavy girl” on the dance team in high school and instead of gaining the “Freshman 15” in college I gained 40+. I had been diagnosed with PCOS in my early 20s and was told that the likelihood of my conceiving and carrying a baby full term would decline rapidly with age, so I battled fertility issues and miscarriages. I never lost weight from my first pregnancy and then piled on the weight of a twin pregnancy. Add regular life stressors to this and by my mid-30s I was in serious trouble with my health.

My medical care was a journey of treating the comorbidities instead of the underlying cause – the disease of obesity. The problem was, my quality life had declined drastically with each new diagnosis of a comorbidity. I was 35 years old, wife, mom of three boys, and an educated and dedicated employee with a job I loved. But I could hardly get out of bed every day. Finally, after several years of trying everything under the sun, my endocrinologist said, “I think it is time for bariatric surgery.”

“Take Responsibility, Do It on Your Own”

I had been seeing my PCP almost weekly because I was very ill. Eight different specialists were treating an assortment of complications that came from obesity. They were prescribing 14 different medicines for me to refill at the pharmacy every single month. I’m 5’2” and before my surgery, I weighed 230 pounds. That means I had a BMI of 42. My PCP’s reaction to having bariatric surgery was not helpful, to say the least:

You are young, you are well educated and in the field of healthcare. You should be able to take responsibility for this and do it on your own. I can’t even convince my 400+ lb patients to have surgery. If you would just eat a little less and move a little more, you could fix this.

So what did I do? I waited. I gave myself a year to fix myself. And what happened? I gained more weight. I became even sicker. And I was hospitalized twice due to complications of obesity. One day almost exactly a year later, feeling like an exceptional failure and with tears in my eyes, I called the bariatric surgery center for that first appointment. I had gastric sleeve surgery four years ago and it was the very best decision I have ever made.

Not a Cure, But a Path to Better Health

It took me a little over a year to lose 100 pounds and I have maintained that for three years now. I have to stare obesity in the face every single day and say “not today obesity, not today.” I never get to take a “day off” from having this disease. No matter what I do or don’t do, my body fights me every step of the way.

This is a disease, not a personality defect or a choice. Receiving proper obesity care made all the difference in my life. In honor of National Obesity Care Week, I urge you to please read the NOCW Mission here and pledge to take action to ensure this mission is realized!

Today’s guest post comes from our friend Kristal Hartman. She is  an accomplished professional in the medical field who has found her true passion in advocating for other patients with this disease to get the access to obesity care they deserve.

Finishing the High Desert Relay, photograph © Kristal Pearson Hartman

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October 13, 2018

3 Responses to “Day by Day, Overcoming Obesity”

  1. October 13, 2018 at 5:27 pm, Susan Burke March said:

    A heartfelt story. Thank you for your honesty and I admire your persistence and bravery! I’m so glad you’re feeling good about your health and your future. Susan

  2. October 15, 2018 at 10:17 pm, Kristal Hartman said:

    Thank you so much Susan and to the many others who have reached out to me!!! I can speak for all people struggling with obesity when I say that the love and support is such a critical part of facing this disease every day!!! Keep on loving and supporting the people in your life working to overcome this, I promise it will mean the world to them!!!

  3. October 17, 2018 at 1:07 pm, Donna Kasznel said:

    Thank you for sharing your story and for being such a passionate advocate for obesity awareness! You are an inspiration!