Katie MacEachern

We all have a story to share, and here is my story...

The beginning of my life

My struggle with my weight has been ongoing most of my life. At a young age, around 5, I was diagnosed with food allergies, which included dairy and most processed foods. Although I grew out of these allergies, they led me to develop bad habits of sneaking the foods I wasn't supposed to be eating when my family wasn't around. This habit has followed me into adulthood and has caused me to binge on food eating large, almost unimaginable amounts of food in one sitting.

 

Another event that led to my weight issues was being diagnosed with an arthritic bone disease at age eight. This diagnosis led to the complete halt of any physical activity in my life. I was living in a duel catch-22. If I lost weight my knees would feel better, however I was unable to do any exercise to aid in losing weight. This lead to three knee surgeries between grades four and eight as my weight continued to creep higher and higher every year. By junior high I was into women's plus size clothing. The bullying started early and intensified when I was unable to participate in gym class and other extracurricular activities. Classmates told me that I wasn't sitting out because I had to- that I was doing it because I was lazy and too fat to participate. I was left out of games on the playground and was always the last picked for group activities. Growing up I would only have one or two friends who would hang out with me at all.

As I continued to grow so did my weight. My parents were supportive but would say they wanted me to be healthy and they worried about my physical health. This lead me to continue to binge eat in private. I was eating my feelings of shame for being overweight, but I needed to do it in private so that the outside world would think I was doing everything I could to lose weight and doing it perfectly. 

My weight loss attempt

My attempts at weight loss started early as well, the earliest memory I have of actively trying to lose weight is junior high. I did Weight Watchers, TOPS, dieting, etc.  In high school I can remember taking a weight loss pill that caused fat not to be digested and quickly eliminated from your system; sometimes without warning. I was also referred for weight loss surgery for the first time in 2002. At that point, I weighed over 300lbs. I knew there was up to a ten-year wait for surgery, so I put it out of my mind and my weight continued to climb.

 

Sure, I continued attempting to lose weight sporadically. I went back to Weight Watchers, I took another pill that was supposed to suppress my appetite, but it interfered with my anxiety medication, which I needed to treat my increasing social anxiety brought on by my increasing weight. I went to Simply for Life and occasionally tried exercise, however, my size made it difficult to do this.

Obesity Stigma

At work, people judged me. For ten years I worked the night shift in a group home. Constantly I was being talked to by my supervisors because people were saying that I wasn’t doing anything on my shifts that I must be sleeping because they assumed I was lazy. A co-worker told people I smelt and would spray Lysol air freshener on chairs when I left the room. Other people doing night shifts actually were sleeping, but because they were a socially acceptable size no one said anything about them. The truth is I was doing my work and I was not sleeping on my shifts, but people assumed I was due to my size. I was passed over several times for better positions with better hours because I’m sure management felt that I couldn't physically complete day time tasks required.

 

I continued my education while working at the group home and eventually obtained my social work degree. Then I had to apply for an interview for new jobs. I was sure I was going to be passed over for jobs I was more than qualified for because of my size.  After about eight months I did get a job but with that came more judging and assumptions from coworkers. Coworkers didn't take me out on calls because they were worried if we encountered any danger I wouldn't be able to run to safety (they were right), I would get out of breath walking down a short hall and people would ask if I had been running or rushing to get there. I developed a habit of coughing or yawning to attempt to cover up that I was out of breath, although I know that wasn't really fooling anyone. 

I can also remember judgement from medical professionals over the years. Once when getting treatment in the ER for a migraine a nurse made a point of stating that she needed to use extra-long needles due to my size and followed this up with a comment stating that if I was ever critically ill-treating me would be near impossible. Another doctor brushed off the pain I was having due to my size and I believe treated me more superficially and did less investigation than she would have if I had been smaller.

As my weight increased so did my self-isolation. The statements and judgements toward me due to my obesity lead to serious social anxiety.

- I rarely left my house, other than to go to work. 

- I stopped going to stores and stopped grocery shopping. Going upstairs caused me to be out of breath for several minutes, walking around the grocery store lead to excessive sweating; I would be drenched with sweat in short amounts of time, I was growing out of the plus size clothing sold in stores. I could only wear size 6x pants with an elastic waist at my highest weight.

- When I went out people stared, and little kids made comments, which I brushed off but inside it felt like I was being stabbed over and over again.

- I wouldn't go out to eat and hated eating in front of people who weren't family. I was sure that people were looking at what I was eating, how I was eating, how fast or slow I was eating.

My highest weight was 444lbs. 

The start of my journey

In October 2014, I finally began my journey with the Halifax Obesity Network, after a twelve-year wait. This was life-changing for me. I met with people who finally understood my struggles, why nothing was working for me and didn't judge me for what I viewed as constant failures in my life.

 

On March 1, 2016, I had vertical gastric sleeve surgery. This means I had 80 per cent of my stomach removed, allowing me to only eat small amounts of food at a time. Overall it has been very successful, I have lost over 120lbs to date. At this time, I am still obese, and I still think everyone is judging me when I am out. When I try on clothes I just assume they will be too small, even though I am in a size 1x-2x pants and no longer require an elastic waist. I know that even though I now eat right and exercise most days people still judge me and assume that I am lazy and eat unhealthily. I go shopping again but still think people are judging what I buy.  

 

In October of 2016, I was able to attend Strides for Obesity and complete the 3K walk. Imagine my excitement when I was able to walk that far after not being able to walk up a flight of stairs just six months earlier. This year I started running but was unable to continue due to my pre-existing knee issues. Despite these knee injuries, I participated in two Sole Sisters 5k events in June and October 2017 and completed the walk in an hour and 15 minutes! 

My journey continues...

To overcome the stigma of obesity in society is a big task. The assumption that people who are overweight are lazy, unhealthy, and eat large amounts of junk food needs to change.

 

This journey has taught me that:

- I am more than what people think.

- I have achieved big goals.

- I am becoming a healthier me every day.

- I am enough. 

- I am more than the quiet fat girl in the corner trying to blend into her surroundings.

 

and that I am a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and amazing person who deserves to be valued no matter what size I am. 

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Strides for Obesity

5657 Spring Garden Rd

Park Lane Mall Suite 3005 

Halifax, Nova Scotia

B3J 3R4