Saturday, July 17, 2010

Janet's Story

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of other things...." 

Just like millions of other people, I've always been at least husky, and lately, I'm overweight.  I managed to get out of Obeseland last summer when I got all of the baby weight off, but I'd still like to get to a healthier weight.  Just warning you, I'm not making fun of fat people.  I've almost always been one, and I have to find the funny side, or else I would cry.

Even as a grade schooler, I wanted so badly to be skinny like the other little girls.  They made fun of my identical twin and I a great deal, as were not only bigger than them, but my Mom made all of our clothes and I let my dad come up with my show-and-tell items.  "This is a model of a carbon dioxide molecule," I said in a little voice.  "Notice the single bond between the carbon and oxygen atoms...."  Looking back, I was a pretty normal size, but I didn't see it that way.  I saw my grandmother and mother struggle so much with their own weight that it was constantly on my mind.

My BMI was on the high side of the normal range all through junior high and high school, but the difference between me and my peers was even more obvious.  Gym class was hell.  It always made me achy to run, and I was so tight and uncoordinated.  In no other class do the teachers demand that you fail spectacularly in front of a crowd of kids who are sharpening their wits by coming up with devilishly wicked descriptors of your ineptitude.  Did someone write The Gym Bible and I missed the memo?  “Thou shalt maketh thy fat kids, nerds, and geeks climb ropes up to the heavens, for they shall be purified by humiliation.  Woe to ye who have mercy and pickest them for kickball first.  Thou shalt humble them by picking them last, lest they grow confident and sure and no longer help thee with thy math homework out of the vain hopes of making friends.  Yeah, though you tread through the valley of the shadow of obesity, thou shalt fear no doughnuts, for they have all been devoured by thy chubby ones.”

The pain that had been irksome in gym class began to spread and intensify in college.  First I lost the ability to tilt my head back.  Then my wrists and hands were painful.  I had sciatic nerve pain racing down my legs.  The muscles between my ribs would spasm so hard I couldn't breathe.  All this began while I was still a healthy weight, though, so I couldn't figure out what was going on.  I had tons of diagnoses:  TMJ, malformation of the spine, depression, anxiety, tendonitis, etc.  I was seeing a chiropractor, which helped, but the relief never lasted very long.  I was plagued by poor memory.

A few years and another surgery later, I'd had enough and went to see a spinal surgeon.  He said I was indeed deformed with a minor type of spina bifida, but I shouldn't even notice it.  He sent me to a rheumatologist.  Finally, I had a diagnosis that explained everything:  fibromyalgia. 

What's fibromyalgia?  It changes depending on who you ask.  Remember how achy and stiff your muscles felt when you had a very high fever?  That's how I always feel.  Medication helps, but doesn't keep me symptom-free.  I've been doing exercise programs for the last few years.  It's incredibly difficult.  If I do too much, I don't feel it for several hours, so I have no way of knowing at the time that I need to slow down or stop.  If I do too much for too long, I have what's called a flare, when the symptoms are so out of control that I can barely move.  Flares typically last a week or so, and it makes working as a general music teacher hell, especially since I have to travel to all of the teachers' rooms to have my classes.

I am able to do the Sculpt circuit on Power 90 without much difficulty because it is low or no impact.  I just have to be very careful with pushups to keep from flaring my shoulders.  The Cardio circuit is another thing all together.  Bouncing, especially side to side, sucks, so I ride a bike or go swimming on the cardio days.

It's hard, but it's worth it.  I'm not getting a dramatic transformation like Aaron, but I do feel better.  I'm so impatient to transform into the woman I want to be, and it can be very discouraging to make no progress.  So, if you're out there and struggling, I feel your pain.  I hope you can reach your goals, just like I hope to reach mine.


  1. It's neat to go in reverse chronological order reading your you started and how you're progressing. :)

    I hear a lot on the news about the differences in opinion between being accountable for our health versus healthy body image. I do think that genetic predispositions and "curvy is beautiful" bodies usually are left out of the equation and receive harsh judgment. At the same time, we're all capable of taking control of our health if it affects our lifestyles. It's great to see you take control of your health and care about feeling better, rather than just being skinny as a rail!

  2. Thanks, Garick. (This is Janet.) My progress has stalled. Stress makes me flare insanely easily. I'm going to have a student teacher this spring. That's either going to make it a lot better or a lot worse.


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