Unapologetically Selfish

It is lunch time at work, and instead of eating, I start making my rounds to meet the new patients that were admitted the day before while they’re eating for their initial nutrition assessment. She is on my list of patients to see today, and as I enter the room, I see a down spirited, 48 year old woman eating a cheeseburger and French fries. At 224 pounds and 5 foot 4 inches tall, she has a BMI of 38.4 and was admitted for a knee replacement. Her diagnosis list includes high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and obesity.

As I enter the room and introduce myself, she immediately begins apologetically for the food she’s eating.

“Ma’am, you don’t have to explain why you’re eating this today! You just got here yesterday, this is the last place anyone wants to be, and you’re stuck in a bed with nothing else to do!” I reply, trying to calm her anxieties and help her understand that I was not there to judge, but to help.

I ask her weight and diet history, as is the custom in skilled nursing facilities.

“I just don’t know how I got like this,” she explains. “I’m going through a divorce, my son is 18 years old and for the last 18 years I’ve been taking care of everybody but myself and I’ve just kept gaining and gaining. I’ve tried everything. Weight Watchers, NutriSystem, you name it, I’ve tried it, but none of it has ever worked. I used to be so thin and played every sport in high school. Now I’m so weak I can barely get up a flight of stairs and here I am now with a knee replacement.”

Her pre-pregnancy weight was 125 pounds. She gained 40 pounds during her pregnancy and lost 30 of those pounds post-partum. Around 17 years prior to my meeting with her, she weighed a healthy 135 pounds. In the years following while tending to the needs of her child and husband, she would gain an average of 0.44 pounds per month. She felt guilty taking the time to go to the gym since she worked outside of the home and tried to minimize time spent away from her son. She had a treadmill, but never used it consistently. A few months would go by and she would notice that she was gaining a tad, but didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward a couple of years and she’s gone from a size 4 to a 6. “It’s only a few pounds,” she thought, “I can lose this easily if I want to.” She goes through a few episodes of yo-yo dieting several years in when she looks in the mirror and realizes what has happened. As the years of her taking care of everyone but herself continuously roll by, she gains just below 0.5 pounds every month until today, the day she has landed, obese and laden with chronic disease, pain and physical weakness, in a skilled nursing facility with a failing divorce and a son about to leave for college.

Less than half a pound a month.

Graph showing projections of obesity into 2030 based on current trends.

Graph showing projections of obesity into 2030 based on current trends.

She could have gained one quarter of a pound and still ended up at 186 pounds with a BMI of 31.9, which is still classified as obese.

0.25 pounds per month.

What if she gained one tenth of a pound per month for 17 years? She would be around 155 pounds with an overweight BMI of 26.6.

This is a plea for you, Mama. I’ve seen too many moms at the end stages of parenting, in middle age, when your children are grown and you’re lying in a hospital bed, overweight with diabetes and high blood pressure, on 10 different medications with a prematurely failing body saying to yourself…

“I just don’t know what happened.”

Take. Care. Of. Your. Self.

When a couple of pounds creep on, don’t dismiss them. Recognize the changes regardless of how slow they’re happening and stop the gain in its tracks. Take the time. Go to the gym, go for the run, go for the swim, lift the weights, make the wellness appointments, say “no, thanks” to the mounds of sweets at the office. Be unapologetically selfish in the pursuit of taking care of YOU. The long term benefits of a body well managed will mean relationships that are better managed and children that have looked up to your self-care and do the same for themselves.

Do you want your kids to take care of themselves after they leave home? To maintain good health as they age? Who would say no to that?!

YOU Mama, you are the key.

What unapologetically selfish action are you going to make moving forward?