I saw a Facebook meme the other day that showed in the top half of the picture someone doing drugs and the bottom half of the picture two extremely obese women eating a pizza the size of a table and drinking straight from liter bottles of soda. The picture’s caption said, “Substance abuse comes in many forms.” That picture bothered me because I know I have a problem with overeating. And I know I need help.
I’ve done Weight Watchers and lost 50 pounds. Gained it back. Did Nutrisystem and lost 50 pounds. Gained it back–and then some. In the past year I’ve been using an app called “Lose It!” to track everything I eat. I started doing some high intensity interval training. And still my weight won’t budge.
In the small town of Port Angeles, Washington, where I used to live the local hospital regularly offers a six to eight week course called the Diabetes Prevention Program. It involves teaching you the habits, exercise, and nutritional goals you need to develop to take care of your body. I heard about it while I was visiting family in the hospital there.
Upon my return to St. Louis I looked for a similar program here. I thought surely a city this size with all of its medical facilities would offer something akin to the Port Angeles program. Nope. I asked my primary care physician if she knew of anything. Nope. I saw many listings for smoking cessation programs. Drug rehab is available. But nothing for weight management. I couldn’t believe it. My doctor and my OB/GYN just tell me every time I come to see them, “You need to lose that weight.” And I say, “I’m trying, but I need help.” And they say, “Control your portion sizes and get more exercise.” Easy, right?
Why are there programs helping people to quit smoking if that’s the logic? Quitting smoking is easy. Just don’t smoke. (I know there’s really more to it than that.) But you can’t just quit eating. I would even consider weight-loss surgery, but my health insurance doesn’t cover it. I can’t afford it otherwise.
I know I could return to Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, or TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). I have done them all. But I just keep rebounding after each program, eventually gaining more weight back than I lost.
What brings this all up for me again is that I have an appointment tomorrow with my OB/GYN. When I saw her six months ago, she admonished me that I need to lose the weight. My pre-diabetes could become Type II diabetes. For the past six months I’ve tried and tried and failed and failed. I am embarrassed and ashamed. But I can’t do this without some tangible help–that I can afford.
I know that many people in America are in my same situation. Health insurance, if you are fortunate to have it at all, does not pay for many of the preventive services that could stave off the conditions caused by excess weight. Advertisements in health magazines tout wellness retreats where you can go for a month and learn cooking techniques and develop exercise routines to get you on track. The price for those retreats is something I will never be able to afford.
Other countries offer programs like that as part and parcel of their health insurance. Germans can go yearly on a spa retreat for restorative therapies–not only good nutrition and exercise but also massage, acupuncture, etc. They return to their workaday lives rested, relaxed, and having reinforced healthy habits. The US wouldn’t sanction paying for people to relax and get healthy. We wait until people have chronic conditions and pay the (higher) cost to treat them with pharmaceuticals and surgeries.
I’m frustrated and sad about all this, but I will continue trying. I’ll track my foods, do my exercises, and walk. And continue to hope that somehow, some way, my lone efforts will begin to tip the scales in my favor. With our politicians unable even to repair Obamacare I hold out little hope for preventive therapies and programs to become a part of our health care paradigm. I’ve got to do this on my own.