Freedom is Attainable — It’s On the Other Side of the Mountain of Garbage We’ve All Been Fed
“Jeez, Amy. What are you getting so worked up about?” I’m at brunch with my closest friends and they’re all staring at me dumbfounded. We are talking about a mutual friend’s efforts to help their kid lose weight by eating less and moving more, and I am… triggered.
As someone who can see nuances in just about everything, who mostly sees the world as a million (sometimes maddening) shades of gray, it has been pointed out to me by my nearest and dearest that I have become an extremist. Radicalized. “This is the only thing in thirty years that I have seen you be so black and white about. I’m just not used to it,” my best friend tells me later.
Moderation. It has been the bane of my existence for years. Obesity is at epidemic levels and still we all believe the fairytale that eating everything in moderation and counting/burning calories is the way to sustainable weight loss. This is so ingrained that even with all I have experienced (more on this later), deep down I have to remind myself it is a lie. It’s still my go-to belief system before I remember where I was, how I got there, and where I am now.
Over and over, year after year, I was told by a broken system that it was I who needed fixing. “What is wrong with you? Have more self-control, more willpower, just have a little bit of cake, it won’t kill you.” I won’t find out until decades later that this deeply flawed advice is tantamount to telling someone to pour just a little bit of gasoline on an open flame. This is never going to work if you’re trying to put out a fire. Never.
Ten years ago, after my mother died from heart failure brought on by diabetes, I was devastated beyond measure and also knew this would be my fate if I didn’t get healthy. So with renewed conviction, I go back to Weight Watchers, because I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment. Again, I fail at the one method all the experts say is the right way to go. The reasonable way. The moderate way. I am proven broken once again.
It is early 2017 and in a desperate effort to fix that which is beyond repair, I have a drastic plan to maim my body even beyond what I have done with a fork and knife. I make an appointment with a weight loss surgeon. It is the culmination of decades of being repeatedly told there’s something so intrinsically wrong with me that my only recourse is to mutilate my internal organs.
By this point I have tried everything, many times over. I have been to weight loss camps as a child and been brought to every doctor, nutritionist, trainer and specialist in the NY tri-state area by both loving and concerned parents and eventually, by myself as an adult.
I have joined Weight Watchers around 35 times (what’s the definition of insanity again?). I have been therapized and analyzed, Nutrisystem-ed, Jenny Craig-ed, Opti-Fasted, exercised, yoga-d and eaten intuitively. I followed all the rules, counted all the points and yet somehow still ended up in a body serving a death row prison sentence for a crime it didn’t commit.
Every night I am convinced I’m going to die – that my heart will finally give out. This is no way to live.
And then, by happenstance, I read about keto, shocked to see there’s something I have not tried. With two weeks before the surgeon appointment I give it a shot, even though I do not have any reason to believe this time will be any different, that it will work.
Spoiler alert: It did.
After those first weeks on keto, I cancelled the bariatric surgeon and have, to date, lost over 220 pounds. I am beyond that which I ever could have imagined when the extraordinarily low bar I set for myself was just to be a smaller fat person.
My health markers are good. Somehow by the grace of whatever god you believe in, I managed to escape decades of obesity with only aesthetic and psychological battle scars. These are very real, but not, thankfully insurmountable or life-threatening.
I have discovered a great many things in the past two-and-a-half years, but first and foremost: I am not broken. Like so many, I have been the victim of a system of government failures, doctors, academics, dietitians and industries that are at best uninformed, woefully lazy or living in cognitive dissonance and at worst, horribly corrupt mechanisms for preying on the desperate.
What else am I? ANGRY. Who could blame me? If just one of those “experts” my parents had dragged me to had done their homework, gone to the literature, not called Atkins a kook, I might not have been tortured for 40+ years. I might have had the life I was meant to. FURIOUS doesn’t begin to describe it.
So, that’s why when I read Dr. Tro’s somewhat colorful take-downs of mainstream nutrition on Twitter, I can’t help but be immensely gratified. I grew up in New York on a steady diet of bagels, pizza and Howard Stern, so a few @#*#% curse words don’t put me off. It’s the sound of home.
But really, it’s deeper than that. The righteous anger resonates because it speaks to the heart of exactly how pissed off I am. And most importantly, it may open the eyes of a med student just beginning their career who is not yet encumbered by dogma and overly impressed with the letters after their name, or a nutritionist who can’t understand why their advice is not working and may stop to consider other ideas.
Or maybe it will reach some kid who likes Tro’s bro-style humor and recognizes himself in the midst. Or a 50-something woman who has recently discovered she doesn’t need to obsessively count calories (points) in order to be whole.
That I am writing this may give the appearance otherwise, but I don’t love having a lot of attention on me. Having been significantly overweight my entire life, I have deeply internalized the message that being noticed can lead to ridicule. But I’ve come to realize that the only way for me to make any sense whatsoever of the rage I feel is to no longer stay hidden. There is redemption in helping prevent as many people as possible from experiencing what I did.
Freedom is attainable — it’s just on the other side of the mountain of garbage we have all been fed.
I have composed and deleted hundreds of social media posts because I don’t really have the constitution to weather public battles and usually prefer to preserve my hard-fought internal peace. But I now realize: the world needs all sorts of people to get the message out, in all sorts of ways. We need the reasoned and respectful, but we also need the abrasive — the advocates who can shame the smug, arrogant status quo into thinking more critically and push the envelope in ways that I (and I suspect many of us) have neither the guts nor fortitude to take on.
Holding those who peddle BS to account for their actions isn’t always pleasantly stated in dulcet tones or free from four-letter words, but lives (including my own) are at stake every minute of every day.
How can I possibly stay quiet now that I know better?
— Reach out to Amy Eiges on Twitter – @AmyDee1001