Medical Tests of the Itchy Sort

In May 2018 I was short of breath. I thought I might have pneumonia.  Turned out they  found a pulmonary embolism and I spent 4 days in ICU. I was finally discharged to go home and rest. This also came shortly after a kidney stone and high blood pressure diagnosis, and I was really, really, tired.

But my lung capacity, while better than with the PE, still sucks. “It takes time to recover from a PE”.  Uh-huh. Also I was busy trying to hit deadlines at work, despite being tired all the time, and I only had so much time and energy to deal with crap. So I didn’t push to hard on why my lung capacity is still smaller than normal.

It’s over a year later. I still get short of breath trying to walk any distance. Slowing down helps but is frustratingly slow. So this week I’m going to the Pulmonary Clinic for lung capacity testing!  Good!  And to find out my unmedicated state, I’m not taking asthma meds and anthistamines for a day beforehand!

Oof.

“You can use a rescue inhaler like albuterol if needed up to 4 hours before the appointment.”

Uh, right.

What really worries me is that I’ll end up itching. I did confirm I can use topical meds, like hydrocortisone cream or antihistamine eyedrops.  I may be focusing on itching to avoid thinking about shortness of breath.  But still. No Zyrtec. Eek. 

Carol Gwenn Interview

Carol emailed me after I mentioned BBW Magazine in a post to tell me she used to write for it!  I asked her to do an interview as someone who’s been around fat acceptance since the 70s…

Q: How would you introduce yourself?

I’m Carol Gwenn, former writer and lifelong big person. I’ve had numerous occupations, almost all of them in & around the entertainment industry (performer, writer, teacher, agent, etc.). I currently function as sort of caretaker/watchful eye over a building belonging to the owner of the company I work for. We use it as office space & I’m kind of the babysitter for the property.

Q: Are you comfortable with the word “fat” for yourself?

Sure – am confortable with “fat” for myself because it’s what I AM. Have never seen anything wrong with the word fat when it’s used for what it is: a descriptive word, like “tall” or “blonde”.

Q: How would you describe your body size?

I’d describe my size as fat-to-middling (5’6″ and a size 18, 1X ). I’ve been larger & smaller, but my current size (where I’ve been for the past 13 years or so) is comfortable for me.

Q: How has being fat affected your life?

Only as much as I’d allow it, which is VERY little. I always put myself out in the world as a great looking, sexy broad, and with VERY few exceptions that’s how I was perceived. Have always believed in the principle of mind over matter in many parts of life, and one of those things is that if I believe in my own value & in my own terrific looks, then that’s how the world will see me. The down side to that is that, now that I’m past middle age & into the stage of life where things are disintegrating before my eyes, trading on my looks is something that will no longer work: you can’t trade on something you no longer have. But it sure was fun while it lasted!

Q: How did you encounter fat lib/fat acceptance?

5. I came upon the fatosphere as an entity sometime in the late ’70s. There was an article in my local newspaper (the Los Angeles Times) about NAAFA and the Fat Underground, and shortly after that the original BBW Magazine started up & I began to write for it. The sad thing is that we don’t seem to have gotten terribly far in the past 40-off years: if anything, I see more rampant fat phobia out there then ever, people becoming more and more obsessed with being thin and regarding fat people as alien beings. Wish I could think of a way to fix this -suppose we ALL would like that – but there doesn’t seem to be one. There seems to be something in human nature that compels people to find someone to dislike and/or look down on. Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s us.

Q: What’s the worst part of being fat for you?

The worst part of being fat for me …all the people I’ve encountered in my life who persist in telling me that I’m somehow broken and that they can fix me, if only I would torture myself via eating disorders (i.e., diets) and crazed physical exertion to make myself smaller. The other worst part? It’s SO not legal to stomp those annoying people into little blobs on the ground.

Q: What’s the best part of being fat for you?

The best part of being fat for me…it’s that wonderful song title from “La Cage…”: ‘I am what I am!’ I wake up each morning & say “Thank you!” for my nice, big, healthy body that does so many nice things for me. Also – and this is SERIOUSLY important – being able to make use of as many teachable moments as possible when I encounter diet talk or fat phobia, trying to combat that attitude of “But YOU’RE not that fat…” Hey – fat is fat, however much of it we’re wearing this year, and it’s great to be able to put it out there that we ALL deserve the same respect.

Q: What’s your favorite place to buy clothing?

TJMR (That’s TJ Maxx – Marshall’s – Ross). I’ve been buying clothes at these stores for a LONG time, and have found a good selection of clothes at VERY reasonable prices in everything from my current size up to a 4X when I needed it. There’s a shopping center in L.A. that I refer to as heaven: the above-mentioned stores PLUS Nordstroms Rack, Off 5th, Target…ALL IN ONE PLACE! It’s not just fabric clothing I buy – am one of those gals with a need for shoes in a size not always easy to find – and Marshalls has been great about stocking the size I wear.

I understand that for someone my size, finding clothes is relatively easy – have shopped Macy’s, Target, etc. and there have always been items available . Friends who were much larger than I have told me how tough it can be to find nice things in sizes above 26 or 3X.

Barry Deutsch Interview

I first encountered Barry at via “Alas, a Blog“, which led me to his political cartoon site Lefty Cartoons and Twitter.

Q: How would you introduce yourself? 

I’m Barry Deutsch, a cartoonist who does graphic novels and political cartoons. I sometimes do political cartoons with fat acceptance themes (and I want to do more). I’ve been very hesitant about doing fat-acceptance political cartoons, because it’s such a personal subject for me.

Barry

Q:   Are you comfortable with the word “fat” for yourself?

Definitely!

Q:   How would you describe your body size?

I’m fat enough so that anyone looking at me would say I’m fat. I’m fat enough so that people have sometimes yelled derogatory comments about my weight from cars as they pass me.

But I’m thin enough that many of the ways society routinely exclude fat people don’t really effect me. I can get through turnstiles (occasionally with a struggle), sit in theater and airplane seats (although sometimes that’s a close thing), and once in a blue moon I find clothes that fit me in stores. I need an extension to buckle my seat belt on an airplane, but usually I don’t need an extension in a car. And I simply face less frequent and less vicious anti-fat discrimination than my fatter peers. I think Caleb Luna would describe me as having a “smaller fat body.”

Q:   How has being fat affected your life?

Well, aside from pragmatic inconveniences – difficulty finding clothes, being careful not to sit on delicate chairs, and so on – the main effect is that I’ve been taught to carry around a great deal of self-hate, which I struggle to leave behind.

Q:   How did you encounter fat lib/fat acceptance? 

I read a book questioning everything I’d been taught about fat and about weight loss diets. I’m not sure which book it was – it might have been “Big Fat Lies” by Glenn Gaesser, published in 2002, or maybe it was an earlier book that’s since been lost down the memory hole. Whatever book it was, it completely blew my mind.

Later on I had a job at Oregon State Health University, and so had daily access to a medical library. I’d haunt the stacks, reading journal articles, and I confirmed for myself that something that everyone I knew had always accepted as uncontested fact – being fat is deadly, diets work – was actually a subject of enormous controversy among researchers and experts.

Q:   What’s the worst part of being fat for you?

Having been taught to hate myself; that I am gross; that I’m not worthy of being loved.

But also, sometimes the realization that people I love are carrying around a great deal of anti-fat bigotry. I once wound up seeing a fat suit comedy with a close relative (bad idea, I know, I know). The movie was bad enough, but what was a thousand times worse was my relative sitting next to me, cracking up at every anti-fat joke. I don’t blame them – they were raised in this society too. But the memory stays fresh, many years later.

Q:   What’s the best part of being fat for you?

Finding solidarity with other fat people.

Q:   What’s your favorite place to buy clothing?

I don’t have much money, so I frequently look for clothes on ebay. I’ve splurged on a couple of t-shirts from Rage On that I love (their sizes only go up to 5x, though).

My new favorite item is suspenders with a musical note pattern, which I got from Amazon; I’ve been getting a lot of compliments when I wear them. A couple of years ago I decided to wear suspenders all the time, and I’m so glad I did – I like the line better, and I feel much more comfortable. (And, oddly enough, it’s made me more comfortable wearing body-hugging shirts than I used to be).


Thanks Barry!  If you would like to be involved, email me at living400lbs AT gmail DOT com!

New Series – Interviews

I’ve started interviewing fellow fats to include here.  But, if I’m going to ask others to do this, I thought it might be best if I did as well.  So…

Q: How would you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Jen. I’ve been writing here about being fat since September 2008. There are linked Twitter and Tumblr accounts: @Living400lbs and Living400lbs.tumbler.com.

In my normal life, I’ve been a software tester over 20 years, along with doing tech support, project management, and technical writing.

Q: Are you comfortable with the word “fat” for yourself?

Yes. It’s a simple descriptive word.

Q: How would you describe your body size?

I often say I’m “too fat for Lane Bryant”, since with few exceptions their clothes are too small for me. I’m about 5’8″ tall and round, often called an “apple” shape. My waist is about 65″ around when standing, 76″ around when sitting. Yes, I like elastic waists.

Q: How has being fat affected your life?

It’s just always been there. It’s what I got picked on for in school. It’s what doctors told me to change. It’s what my mother told me was wrong. It’s become a topic I’ve read a lot about, if only in self-defense.

In the day-to-day, it also affects which chairs I can sit in at restaurants. I use a seat extender in most cars. Flying is definitely uncomfortable and more expensive. So’s clothing,.

Q: How did you encounter fat lib/fat acceptance?

Via BBW Magazine in the 80s, a glossy fashion-for-fats magazine with articles on how dieting tends to lead to weight gain and many people “dieted their weight up” and only stabilized after they quit dieting.  Later I discovered UseNet and with it, various fat acceptance discussion groups.  This lead me to books like Big Fat Lies and Fat!So?.

Q: What’s the worst part of being fat for you?

Trying to get medical personnel to focus on the reason I’m there, and not that I’m fat. (It’s not like just woke up this way today.)

Q: What’s the best part of being fat for you?

As I accepted that I would probably stay fat, I became less afraid of being the odd one one in other ways, which helped me deal with criticism for majoring in computer science.  I’ve been able to work on cool software and, incidentally, make a good living because I stood up to peers telling me computer science was “icky”.

Q: What’s your favorite place to buy clothing?

Most of my wardrobe is from On The Plus Side (formerly Making It Big) either directly or secondhand on eBay. I have items I bought in the 90s that still fit, and their stock is mostly made in the US.  I also love Torrid t-shirts, though they don’t last as well. But … A “The Dark Side Made Me Do It” shirt! “Be Nice Or Go Away” shirt! “But First, Coffee!”  I doubt their more fitted stuff would fit me well, but the tshirts are my friends. 


Anyway, that’s the first interview! If you would like to be involved, email me at living400lbs AT gmail DOT com!

It came from the search terms

In the tradition of Captain Awkward I’m going to treat the search terms people used to find the site as questions.

im 400lbs is it too late for me to get healthy? 

This is completely up to you and to how you view health. If you are sedentary, you can probably be more active, and ideally have fun with it.  Depending on how you eat, you may want to add more veggies or whatever makes your body feel better – The Fat Nutritionist may be able to help with that as well. Research has found that focusing on eating healthy foods and being active can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol as well as psychological benefits. This is called a “Health At Every Size” approach, and focuses on improving health. 

If you mean thinner, then that’s a different question. Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer (PDF) by UCLA reviews 31 studies on diets and recommended that Medicare not cover diet programs because they are not effective enough to be worth Medicare coverage.

350lb flying cross country?

OK. That sounds like a lot of time to sit still. It’s probably going to be uncomfortable. 

if i weigh 450 pounds do i need an extra airline seat? 

Very likely. Airlines have some choice on how many seats they squeeze into a plane. Seat Guru has information on seat sizes by plane and airline so you can check. One method is to check the size of the seat, then measure chairs to see what the airline seats will be like.  Note the “pitch” is the distance between seats, and affects how much legroom there is. 

If you do need an additional seat, you will probably have to call the airline to make the reservation, and the airline will probably warn you the seats may not be together. Yes, this is a problem.  

More on this: 

what can a fat person spray on body to prevent yeast?

I have mostly rely on baby powder (cornstarch) to prevent chafing and yeast infections under my belly. Anti-jock itch spray like Lotramin can work as well.  Lately I’ve been experimenting with Fresh Breasts lotion, which dries as a powder.  This can be easier to apply than a powder.  

 

 

 

Weight Watchers Continues To Spew Waste

I probably don’t need to say I think WW’s app for kids is poised to mess up kids’ lives.  That research shows dieting leads to long-term weight gain. Or that disordered eating is often dieting with a different name.

But if you are looking for more info:

Diets don’t work, let’s stop.

Change.org petition is here if you want to sign.

Retirement

My last job was at Amazon, as a QA Engineer. “It was fine until it wasn’t” is one summary. “It was a good distraction from the stress of my dad’s failing health so I could keep balance, but fell apart after other losses and health crap that made me not care about work much” is another.

The “stopped caring” was a big part for me. I tend to do my best software work when I can hyperfocus on what I’m doing and ignore everything else. Over time I got more responsibilities and was expected to keep more balls in the air…which doesn’t feed hyperfocus well.

Anyway, last day was in June.  A bit less than a week later, episode 103 of Productivity Alchemy came out.  The interview was with Star Picucci, talking about her end of full-time employment.  (This bit is about 23:30 minutes into the podcast)

I was a PeopleSoft developer until February, when due to the vagaries of government contracts I was no longer a PeopleSoft developer, and I was aggravated about it. I had hoped to retire in about 2 years, and so I called my financial advisor, I talked to my husband, I crunched a bunch of numbers, and said: Do I have to deal with this bullshit or can I just NOT work?

Star clarified she’s sort of on “trial retirement” while they see if the numbers really work.  What stood out to me, though, was how her reaction was like my reaction when I had been handed an Amazon Pivot paperwork.  Oh, if I leave you give me over 3 months’ severance and skip the PIP? Gee, let me think.   I occasionally have a nagging voice pointing out that I could’ve gone on medical leave and see how that changed things but … too much glee over the idea of leaving.  I was ready to run away.

So yeah, we’ll see how the money goes. I’ve been maxing out the 401(k) and saving a good amount each year. I’ve been using COBRA to follow up on some health things I’d been putting off. I will probably be blogging more here, and I’m sending out some article pitches. But that’s the big thing that I’m coming to terms with.

 

Hand Laundry Never Ends

As many women know, hand washing of bras is recommended to keep them in good condition.  This is not necessarily a huge burden!

Hand washing of pantyhose is also recommended. Thank heavens I don’t have to wear pantyhose.

And then came…compression stockings.

Compression stockings drying on towel rack

Compression stockings drying on towel bar

Compression stockings are often recommended for people who are on their feet all the time, who are flying, who have had lymph nodes removed, and to prevent blood clots.

In my case, I eventually realized that part of my left knee pain was actually located below my left knee.  Where there was also swelling, and which felt better if I wore tight leggings. My ARNP diagnosed likely blood flow issues and varicose veins, and referred me to a vascular specialist.

The vascular team did an ultrasound of the veins in my leg. Leg veins have one-way valves which supposed to keep the blood going up my leg, back to the heart. It was confirmed that my valves are not all working well. In particular, the one-way valve just below the knee on my left leg – where I had swelling and pain – wasn’t really one-way anymore.  Compression was recommended to reduce the swelling and help the vein to move the blood to the heart where it belongs.

I didn’t realize at the time that this would mean the hand wash only laundry would never end.

I was prescribed 20-30mmHg, knee-high stockings. The mmHg is “millimeters of mercury” pressure, and 20-30 is about middle of the range.  I did go to a medical supply store to get fitted. I recommend it since you can get some knowledgeable advice on fitting and how to put them on without putting a fingernail through them.  If you wear a common size you may be able to wear them home. My size 14-16 friend got fitted with thigh-highs after her cancer surgery and wore them home.

Initially I didn’t fit anything over-the-counter due to the swelling in my calves; after wearing leggings daily for a week, the swelling reduced enough that I could wear a standard size instead of custom made. I wear Juzo Max knee-high stockings, which have more of a flare at the top of the calf than the standard knee highs, and which wasn’t in stock but could be ordered. I also pop for the “silicone band” of little silicone beads to keep them up.

Pros:

  • No below-the-knee pain.
  • Much less swelling in calves.
  • Legs feel less tired.

Cons:

  • Stockings are expensive (mine are $78.39 per pair).
  • Stockings require hand washing.
  • Stockings need replacing every N months. Currently N is 2 or 3 months. I know folks who go 6 months, others who buy them monthly.
  • None of my leggings fit right anymore.

All that said, the compression stockings have been a really positive thing for me. The below-the-knee pain is gone.  Walking is more comfortable. I still elevate my feet whenever possible, but my legs and ankles aren’t swelling every evening. These are all terrific.

Bandcamp: Music You Might Like

I post a lot about music. Recently the music distribution site Bandcamp donated their profits to the ACLU, so I put links together for some of my favorite performers.

Kinda nerdy folk/rock/filk:

Molly Lewis

Vixy & Tony – space exploration & fandom

Jeff & Maya Bohnhoff – brain-breaking classic rock parodies like “Midichlorian Rhapsody” and beautiful originals.

Tricky Pixie – Alligators, raccoons, and cats, oh my.

SJ Tucker

The Doubleclicks

Tom Smith – You might like “Hutt Slaya Leia” or the occasional serious track like “Starlight and Saxophone”

Bill & Brenda Sutton – including a song about having a CPAP

Angry Elf Punk:

Crime and the Forces of Evil

Kinda jazzy folk/rock:

Marian Call

Mary Crowell – including multiple songs about coffee 

Celtic:

Amy McNally

Alexander James Adams

Heather Alexander

Nerdcore / nerdy rap / chiptunes :

Shubzilla

Death*Star

Jonny Nero Action Hero

 

 

Workplace “Wellness” Programs

Slate has a good article on how “wellness” programs aren’t.  There’s good details on why they tend not to actually improve health. But the money quote is:

Under the ACA, wellness programs are a legal way to shift a significant portion of the cost of premiums onto employees deemed unhealthy. Wellness programs don’t save money by preventing expensive medical claims—and in fact, they might even increase claims costs due to encouraging unnecessary doctors’ visits. But wellness programs can save money if enough employees fail them or opt out.

I’m glad my current employer isn’t doing this sort of thing. I hope it stays that way.

Image courtesy of Rudd image gallery.

Vitamin B12. Joy.

Researchers have found a possible link between lack of vitamin B12 in early life and insulin resistance later.  (Link has both video and text; video does at times assume fat is a problem, but overall explores why type 2 diabetes is not brought on by eating too much.)

I’ve written before about being deficient in Vitamin B12, so you may understand that this is a bit closer to home for me that others.  And the endocrinologist has reminded me many times that I’m insulin resistant.

So. Yeah. Interesting.

Thankful Thursday

An occasional exercise in gratitude.

Work is going well; I have a new boss who is not only on my side, but inspiring.

Levothyroxine and asthma meds, which keep me functional.

New cpap, now with built-in humidifier.

Close friends who shared hugs and helped discuss the election.

Vaccines 

Himself, who made lasagna for dinner.

(I am very, very afraid of what Trump and his terrors are going to do, but I also want to not catastrophize. So.)

This cake is great

I occasionally get comments about the “and believe me I am still alive” subhead on the blog and how “defensive you have to be to have that on your blog”.  Er, mostly it’s a joking reference to the Jonathan Coulton song. (Lyrics here.)  And it’s a way of metaphorically rolling my eyes at all the people who (still) say I’ll be dead at age 30 or 40.

(Never mind that I just turned 50.)

 

It also expresses that despite being very fat, I’m still alive.

It also expresses that I may not be always posting, but yeah, still alive.

 

A Few Thoughts On Consistency

Today I received my last Sojourner medal in Ingress.  It’s a deceptively simple one to earn – get within a certain distance of a game portal and perform a certain game action daily. The number of days starts at 15 and  increases over time.

image

As of today, I have visited a portal 360 days in a row. The nearest portal is at the end of the block, so not a big trip. At the same time, I’m a bit surprised with myself for this.

I grew up being told I’m not capable of consistency because I was not able to keep to diet for years on end. But maybe it’s not that I’m incapable of consistency. Maybe it’s that some things are impossible. 

It’s Too Late

Ever dream of “If I win the lottery” or “If I met someone rich” or “If I got in on the next big startup” or “If I get on a reality show and become famous”?  Or heard that “Oh, you don’t want to be too set in your ways, when you meet a partner you’ll want to build your life around his”?

Next month I turn 49 years old.

Now I’ve slayed some dragons
And I’ve found a treasure or two
Journeyed to mysterious lands both far and near
Sometimes I’ve been lonely
Sometimes I’ve been afraid
And no fairy godmother came to save the day
Pulled up my own bootstraps and did things my own way

– Cathy McManamon

What I’ve done so far in life is part of who I am. I’ve been married 15 years; I’ve been a home owner 16 years; I’ve been in the software industry for 25 years; I’ve lived in Seattle for 1 month shy of 49 years. I may still change careers or go back to school or move away from the Pacific Northwest, but it’s a LOT less likely.  And I’m comfortable with that.

Are you a pirate?
Or a prince, charming and brave?
Did you think you could turn me so easily?

I don’t need someone to sell me something to prove my worth. I have my own self, and it’s worth enough.

It’s too late to convince me I might be a princess
It’s too late to help me discover my secret magic skill
It’s too late to make me believe I’m inheriting a kingdom
It’s too late to be my savior in shining armor bright
Go fade into the night
I’ll be all right

– Cathy McManamon

These musings were inspired by Cathy McManamon’s song “It’s Too Late”, available on BandCamp.