About 1990 I went to a gynecologist who turned out to be a misogynist. This is more common that anyone would hope. He told me I was overweight (not a surprise) and that I simply needed to push myself away from the table. Fat is simply a surplus of calories-in. Change the balance with calories-out and I would lose weight.
Half a dozen excursions through Weight Watchers had taught me differently. I had bought a book about research on fat and I gave it to this guy for the sake of his future patients. Now I wish I hadn’t, though I can probably recapture the information via the Internet. It was about the molecular nature of sugars, proteins, lipids (fats) and how they were processed through human bodies, both between cells and within cells. There was research about ion pumps to take molecules through cell walls and how the molecules were stored inside the cells. Quite a bit had to do with water management both within and without the cells. This was a whole ecology of substances, their interaction and balances. It was not at all like my understanding of fat, which mostly was based on observations of bacon or tallow: that fat was a sort of goo that got smeared on one’s body under the skin.
More recently the town handyman, faced with a big life-changing move when his sons left school, decided to lose his formidable pot-belly. A methodical sort, he made a list of all the foods he ate, looked up their calorie counts, and crossed the five highest in calories off his list. He would not eat them. He lost fifty pounds in very little time. Lucky he wore bib-overalls or his pants would have fallen off!
So when I was diagnosed with diabetes 2 (because my retinas hemorrhaged), I knew I HAD to lose weight. This time I had the Internet. I decided to go with a combination health-food and low-glycemic sort of principle. I stopped eating anything with white sugar, white flour, corn syrup, or processed ingredients -- even (or maybe especially) if it was supposed to be for diabetics. I didn’t put imitation sugar or cream in my coffee -- I simply drank it black. If things were bitter or sour or aromatic, I learned to like them that way. Turned out not to be hard. And I lost fifty pounds quickly.
What I’ve reflected on since is what it felt like to lose the weight this time: it was like working a poison out of my system. This time the weight came off according to gravity, which one might expect though it certainly didn’t do that when I lost weight when I was in college. In those days it came off my waist and belly. Now it came off my face, my bosom (which conveniently folded down out of the way), my arms and legs and my hands and feet. I was fascinated that my fingers got long and slender. I could wear my wedding ring, if I wanted to, but I haven't since being divorced in 1970. I still have a pot belly, though it’s also somewhat “folded.”
I had several of what doctors identified as “lipomas” which is to say, “fat lumps,” an opinion they were so sure of that they refused to do biopsies or x-rays. (I was sure it was cancer -- I’m always sure EVERYTHING is cancer and since weight-loss is a cancer symptom, it takes a certain amount of fatalism for me to be brave enough to lose weight.) One lipoma was right above my knee in the back of my right thigh. Doctors hated to even feel it because they thought a fat middle-aged woman must be wanting a cheap thrill by getting the doctor to feel her lumps. (At least that’s the impression I got.) Gradually, it left.
But what I noticed was that in a streak going towards my body was a kind of almost-pain which I interpreted as being a sort of inflammation or varicosity of the big vein that returns blood from the feet. My fantasy is that the fat was being “shipped out” up that vein, which irritated it. That got me thinking about what it means to convert stored cellular fat into something that can travel out of the cell and be used somehow. Would it be glucose? I had read about people who had stored molecules of fat-soluble substances in cells, then lost weight which released the captured substances back into the blood. Some were contaminating substances -- maybe pesticides or heavy metals -- and sometimes it was hallucinogens, like LSD which brought on ghosts. I’ve never taken recreational drugs, but working in the foundry exposed me to strange things.
I wasn’t hungry on my invented diet, partly because I felt free to eat peanuts. They didn’t make my blood sugar go up, for some reason. I took a bare minimum of drugs -- one metformin in the morning -- though my original doctor had prescribed a handful of strong stuff which scared the bejeezuz out of me when my blood sugar plunged. I discovered cheese made my blood sugar go up steeply -- also potatoes -- but sometimes I craved cheese. What was it that my body wanted? (I’ve always believed in that idea that bodies “know” what they want.) When I take fish oil capsules and vitamin D, the craving diminishes. Aha!
My head is one hat-size smaller. My face has a jaw and cheekbones, which read as “good-looking” in our culture. My thick-facial-hair/thinning-head-hair syndrome (Inherited from my father’s side: an aunt and a great-aunt ended up bald. Shirley Maclaine has it but she can afford excellent wigs.) is probably increased. This is NOT read as “good-looking” and raises suspicions of high male hormones, which turns out to be true. This syndrome, the research suggests, arises in part when the gestating mother is afraid and full of adrenaline. My own mother was alone in the city for the first time -- my dad was on the road -- and had little community for support. She kept a .45 in the nightstand. In short, I’m becoming movie-star material because my mom was scared in 1939. My ear wax came back. What the heck does THAT mean??
But what strikes me -- to use an electronic screen analogy -- is that it’s as though someone adjusted my “screen” so that it’s high brightness, high contrast, and faster computation. I’m thinking fast, willing to get out and do stuff, better able to multi-task, and not so inclined to depression or just lassitude. I had thought I was aging quickly and would not be able to maintain this house much longer. Now I don’t feel that way. (All I need is money!) Who knew that this could be achieved NOT through medicine, NOT through buying beauty aids, but simply by NOT eating some things. This is not an insight about diabetes so much as it is an insight about how we are poisoning ourselves with polluted, over-refined and “fortified” food. Some folks have been telling us this for a long time.
My fantasy is little floating bits of molecular lipids leaving cells on blood and lymph streams, then being burned or exhaled or excreted. Sometimes I think I can almost feel it. My arm skin is loose and crepey. My formerly rock-like thigh muscles are soft, manipulable. My neck went from being a double-chin to being pleated. None of this has been as bad as I expected. I’ve been losing weight for two years now with resting platforms in terms of weight-loss and then more loss. It seems very much tied into tissue-water management (I tend to be dehydrated). My best indicator that my glucose level is too high or low is that my retinas get thick with water and my eyesight blurs. The shallow curves of ebb and flow left in my reproductive cycle clearly participate.
This kind of self-examination is not always very comfortable but a writer should not draw back. Reality is what we want. One would think that doctors would feel even more so that way if they weren’t drugged fat by money and the pharm industry.