“I just want to thank you so much, doctor,” said the 45 year old, mother of three children, “You gave me hope!”
Rose [not of course her real name] had come to see me about chronic pain in her knees of more than 8 years duration. She had moved from Arkansas to the west under difficult family and economic circumstances with three – at that time – small children under her care.
With no specific education, she took jobs wherever she could find them, which was not always easy. Gradually, she accumulated over 75 lbs of new weight that her naturally small frame couldn’t take. Her whole body ached, but nothing so much as her knees. Even sleeping became painful.
Determined and devoted as she was, her children played sports actively and were doing well in school. Not Rose. She was worn out and aching all over, which is when I encountered her.
“Rose,” I began, “I believe I can give you some temporary relief from the swelling and achiness in your knees … but wouldn’t you really like long-term relief – being really healthy?
“If you’re ready, I can help you learn – and do – things that are much more powerful than any of the medicines I could prescribe for you.”
Rose told me that none of her doctors had ever talked to her in such a direct way … and I understood. We have little trouble talking about hypertension, or too-high cholesterol, even heart disease. But obesity with all its medical – and especially emotional issues – just becomes the elephant in the room that many of us physicians would rather pretend isn’t there. I feel lucky that I enjoy trying to understand the complex mix of medical, social and emotional issues that surround obesity treatment.
Luckily, too, when I first met Rose, she was really ready for some changes and wanted some help. Now, looking at her some ten months later, it was hard to imagine the changes in the Rose I remembered from that first meeting.
Rose found out that the exercise that works is activity you like to do every day. She found out that deprivation diets and magic pills weren’t the answer to really being getting slimmer. She found out that she could eat when she was hungry and choose foods that were really appealing to her. She learned the tricks of shopping and substituting healthy ingredients for ones that just produced more excess fat.
Fourteen sizes smaller and many dozens of excess fat pounds lighter, Rose found herself. Every doctor loves to hear that somehow they have made a positive difference, but the truth is that Rose made the real difference. She decided she wanted to find the self esteem she’d lost.
I guess I provided a little help. It’s amazing how a little help helps.