Patti Dunn

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

My lifetime battle with my weight 

My name is Patti Dunn, I am 48 years young and I have been at war with my weight for as far back as I can remember.

I was a fat baby, and really, who doesn’t just love a fat baby! The problem was I never lost my baby fat. I can clearly remember being picked on and bullied all through primary and right up to high school. I dreaded gym time and I honestly tried to be athletic but I just wasn’t fit enough. I really hated public speaking and I was pretty sure no matter what I spoke about it wouldn’t have mattered as the audience was only seeing my weight. High school was a total nightmare! I wasn’t popular by any means but I was funny though and that was my defence mechanism. I was the "fat, funny one" who made fat jokes about myself. I felt by doing that I was beating other people to the punch. The problem was my internal dialogue became my belief. Every summer on school break, I would tell myself that I would lose weight and look amazing come fall and show all those popular girls! Who was I fooling? My weight was a side effect of a deeper issue. I had low self-esteem and I felt that anytime anything went wrong, it was my fault which led to me blaming myself for everything. Soon depression crept in, but, of course, I was misdiagnosed over and over again, being told that it was teenage hormones.

Your support system is crucial

I am not going to lay all the blame on my mom, after all, she didn’t stuff the food into my mouth. In fact, it was quite the opposite! She was very weight conscious and monitored everything I ate. We ate healthy home-cooked meals and each one started with a salad. I can say I felt really lucky to have my maternal grandparents living in a flat above our house and it turned out they were my best friends growing up. They wintered in Florida from October to April and when they were home I would go home during school at lunch hour and Grandma fed me my lunch which was always delicious and often included yummy homemade treats. She never made any comments on how much or what I ate. My grandparents never mentioned my weight, they just loved me for me. Let's just say, there was a distinct difference just going from the flat to my house. 

Grade 8 graduation

I can’t remember at what age I started hiding food. It must have been I was 10 or 12 when I had an after-school job walking dogs. I would spend my money on all the foods my mom forbade me to have. Chips, candy, candy bars and soda. I would either eat what I bought before getting home or I would squirrel it away for later. Looking back, it was almost like I would get a high off eating the junk food as well as hiding it. It wouldn’t take long though to feel guilty about eating it, which then made me sad, which then made me eat more. It was the start of the vicious cycle that continued for years.

My mom never had a weight problem, she was always slim and had amazing control over how much and what she ate. It seemed what she didn’t have control over was her fat-shaming comments and it wasn’t just with me. She would make hushed tone yet rude comments out in public, whether it be about what was in someones grocery cart or what people had on their plates at restaurants. This made my food hoarding and hiding even worse. I would only put on my plate what I thought she would think was acceptable.

I was so self-conscious of my body and my weight all of my life. I have an older sister who of course as a kid and young adult was always thin, and she was probably my worst bully, especially in front of her friends. I moved out when I was 17, and for the first time in my life I lost weight, I wasn’t thin but I wasn’t fat either. It seemed that without my mom’s constant eagle eye and negative comments (and not just on food), I didn’t hoard or binge. It is very insightful to see how my mother’s negativity and judgemental comments had such a profound effect on me.

18 years old

Don't settle for less, find someone who understands

At 18 I met my future (now ex), husband. He was a bigger fellow and we did everything together, including eating. My weight started to climb. I was 23 when we married at that point was around 200 pounds. Shortly after I was married, I suffered severe depression, I went to my family doctor to get help, however, she was very weight biased. 

 

No matter what I went to see her about she would blame it on my weight. She even went as far as to say, that I shouldn’t have children at the weight I was, (I was probably 220 pounds) as it would be too dangerous. I wasn’t there for my weight I was there because I was seriously depressed. She would tell me to lose weight and exercise and I would feel better soon. I was growing tired by her inability to see beyond my weight. I was so upset after one of my visits, which in fact turned out to be my last visit with her, I asked the girls at the reception desk if there were any doctors taking new patients. (I lived in Ontario at the time, so we had options).

 

This day was the turning point in managing my depression. There was, in fact, a new doctor taking on patients and he took me on and what a blessing this man was to me and my family. He was our family doctor for over 20 years and not once in that time did he ever mention my weight or that I smoked (I quit that 11 years ago). Before he retired I asked him why and he simply said that he never says anything because we are all adults and we know that too much weight and smoking are bad for us, and if he was to mention that every time we came in and he blamed our problems on either our weight or smoking, or both, how likely were we to keep coming back, and that he would hate for a patient to go undiagnosed with a serious illness because of it.

The stress of it all...

By the time I was 26, I was a mom to two children and my weight had skyrocketed. I was on a continuous roller-coaster of losing and gaining over and over again with the problem being, that every time I gained it back it was more than what I lost. In 1999 my marriage ended and the weight really came on. I ate my feelings. I ate when I was happy, I ate when I was sad, happy, mad and just to eat. Soon I couldn’t keep up with my kids. In 2004, I went on the Atkins diet and lost over 100 pounds and kept it off for almost 5 years, then after ending a bad relationship and dealing with the stress of my ex-husband, the weight started to creep back but I was doing okay with it. Then, in 2008, I met my soul mate. I was so happy and content in my relationship (still am 11 years later), I gained all my weight back plus some, I like to call this happy fat. My partner never once mentioned my weight, but I was so unhappy with myself and it just seemed I had no control over my eating.

I went and did my research

In 2013, I started to research weight loss surgery. I did a lot of research and contemplating and I found out what pre-surgery tests where needed and got those done.  My very supportive family doctor sent in my referral June of 2015. I had my consult a few months later in Kingston Ontario. I soon thereafter met with the nutritionist and soon after that the social worker. In late October of the same year, I met with the Surgeon from Toronto via video conference, and she said that I was an excellent candidate for the Roux-en-Y surgery, also known as Gastric By-Pass. I was scheduled for surgery on December 15, 2015. I was over the moon excited. I started the liver shrinking diet of Optifast shakes on December 1st. I had to have 4 a day and I could have broth, sugar-free Jell-O, sugar-free popsicles and decaffeinated black tea or coffee. Those two weeks would be my first big challenge. I was working for a family doctor at the time and patients were constantly bringing in Christmas treats, and I was so proud of myself for not letting one morsel pass my lips as I didn’t want to risk having my surgery cancelled. On December 14th, my best friend and I headed to Toronto for the four-hour drive. I had my pre-operative assessment that day at 3:00 pm and was scheduled for 7:00 am surgery. The morning of my surgery I was so excited that I hopped up on the operating table and fist-bumped the team and said, “Let’s get this done!”.  I was 260 pounds the day of surgery.

The surgery went very well, I had some post up nausea, but other than that everything was good! Two days later I was headed home.

Since then it has been an amazing trip. I have lost a total of 130 pounds. I have learned a lot about myself and I am still learning. This surgery is by no means a cure, it is a tool, but only if you learn how to use this tool will it work. I have learned the following:

  1. I am a food addict.

  2. I am an emotional eater

  3. I am able to tolerate all types of food, but it doesn’t mean I should eat them.

  4. I am human and I am going to make mistakes.

  5. I am stronger than I gave myself credit for.

  6. I am still learning how to use my tool.

  7. I am worth it.

5 year wait in Nova Scotia?! I was shocked!

In August of 2016 I moved to Nova Scotia, and not being yet a year out from surgery, I made a call to the Bariatric Clinic.  I wanted to see if I could get in with them as I still needed to have a follow-up, nutritional advice and assurance that if I had any complications I had somewhere to go. I was in total shock, and even more than that, heartbroken to learn that it would be up to 5 years to get into the clinic. So that led me to ask if this was even for people who have had the surgery, the answer was yes and then my next question was how long did people have to wait to get the surgery? Another 5 years!!! How is this possible? Diabetics don’t wait this long for treatment. Cancer patients don’t wait this long for treatment. Orthopaedic patients don’t wait this long for treatment, why is it okay for people with obesity to wait? Obesity is a complex, multi-facet disease, that has so many factors and often leads to other comorbidities, like diabetes, heart disease, mobility disorders and in some cases cancers. How is this okay? Nova Scotia has the highest obesity rate per capita in all of Canada and the longest wait times. This is leading to people paying out of pocket to go out of the country to have the procedure done and have no aftercare when they return. Without the aftercare and support, their chances of failure rise. It is my hope that my story will help others speak out and that we can get the government on board and no longer treat obesity as a lifestyle choice but as the disease it is. Not getting the help we need is discrimination and there is no other way to put it.

 

I hope my story gives you hope to carry on, to fight the good fight. If you ever need someone to share your weight journey with, don't hesitate to reach out to me at patti_dunn20@hotmail.com

 

Be well,

Patti Dunn

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Strides for Obesity

5657 Spring Garden Rd

Park Lane Mall Suite 3005 

Halifax, Nova Scotia

B3J 3R4