As I’ve mentioned before my husband and I are at the point in our lives where we want to have children. I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago and we are now at the stage where we need some help. My GP told me (which was of no surprise to me at all) that my weight could be a big factor in why we’re not conceiving and so in order for her to refer me for fertility help, I need to lose weight. No indication of how much but just ‘lose weight’. I was given the option of a GP referral to WeightWatchers which I very swiftly declined because I am not down with dieting, especially one that encourages you to eat processed food. So the other option was to see a dietitian at the obesity clinic.
The first meeting is a mandatory group meeting. When she told me this on the phone my heart sank because to me my health is quite personal. (I know I choose to share it on here but that feels different because it’s a targeted audience.) I didn’t necessarily want to be discussing my infertility or how many digestives I eat on a weekly basis with Dorothy from the post office.
We were all given a form to fill out on arrival which we later found out was given to us so we had something to occupy ourselves with while the dietitian met one to one with all of us to weigh us and say hello. People started to chat whilst we were waiting for it to start and within a few minutes I found myself gritting my teeth and getting quite uncomfortable because naturally people were talking about their experiences of diets. I’ve made a point of surrounded myself with positive people in my life regardless of their size but the majority of fat people I know are not self loathing, diet obsessed people. Diet talk makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel worthless. It makes me feel like I have failed at something because I’m not thin. And I don’t want to feel like that. So within the first ten minutes I was pretty uncomfortable.
The dietitian (who I should point out was really lovely and very approachable) explained to us that for this first meeting we would briefly discuss what we’ve done in the past to lose weight, why it didn’t work, what options there are and what happens next. We were asked to have a chat with the person next to us about what we diets we’ve tried. The girl I was sat next to was around the same age as me and immediately started to tell me how she has been big all her life and she’s tried every diet but she associates food with comfort so nothing works. She said that she had a difficult childhood to every time her mum treated her or rewarded her it was with fatty foods. She clearly desperately wanted to lose weight but had a lot of emotions attached to it. I didn’t get a chance to talk because she was so full of stories which really made me feel sad because she was obviously very unhappy because of her weight.
When the dietitian was explaining the science behind weight loss; energy in needs to be less than energy out someone pointed out that they had a low thyroid which makes it very difficult to them to lose weight so how do they make it work for them. She said that for people like that their goal is not necessarily to lose weight but to stop them gaining more. At this point I piped up and asked what someone in my position can do; that I have a condition that makes it very difficult for me to lose weight but I have to lose weight. Her answer was a bit scary. She said that there were many options, the first is going back to basics with healthy eating then looking at other things later on like surgery. Surgery. Within half an hour of being there was discussion on weight loss surgery. She continued her train of thought and after a while asked if we had any questions. I said that I was really, really baffled that she mentioned surgery. That it is such a drastic thing that I didn’t feel should be given as an option in the very first step of seeing a dietitian. She said it was a very far away option and that she wasn’t saying any of us should or shouldn’t have it. The girl next to me said that the only reason she was there is because she had gone to her GP asking for surgery. The dietitian explained that in order for people to have it done they have to go for a year of seeing a dietitian before they qualify and that some of us were here because we’d asked for it and some of us were here because the GP had told them they had to have it. There were a couple of women who were around a 18-20 who were there in order to have surgery including the girl I was sat next to who from my brief talk with her clearly had some very deep emotional issues with food and needed to address those long before surgery should even be an option. That really, really shocked me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and choice and should be granted the opportunity to access services but knowing that there were people there who were seeing a dietitian for the first time in order to jump through the hoops for a possibly life threatening and certainly life changing surgery seemed so scary. I understand completely why she brought it up because for a lot of there people there it was already something they had thought about and a possibly reality but for me it had never entered my head.
The rest of the meeting was discussing what options there were from then on. There was either the option to do a 6 week group session or 6 one-to-one sessions. The next group started in January which isn’t long to wait at all but the next available appointment for a one-to-one session is the end of March. My initial decision was a one-to-one simply because having PCOS makes things slightly more difficult for me and I would have really liked some targeted advice on that but once I spoke to her at the end she encouraged me to do the group. At the end I stayed behind to speak to her about my options along with two other women and a man. The man started talking about why he was there and it led me to saying that I was there because I want to have a baby. I said that in terms of my appearance I have no issues and am quite confident and if it weren’t for the fact that I want to have a baby/fertility health I would not be wanting to lose weight. One of them women said she admired that because she really hated herself and that she would love it if I came to the group because she might learn something from me. The dietitian then said she thought it would be great to have someone with body confidence there because it would be good for other people to see that.
All in all it was a strange experience. It made me realise just how much effort I’ve put into choosing positive influences in my life. It had been a very long time since I’d been in an environment of people who were very negative about their bodies. It also made me see how far I’ve come in my own self esteem. A few years ago I took part in a self esteem group as part of my mental health treatment and I can honestly say it was the best thing I ever did. It completely changed my outlook on life and how I treated myself. That, combined with surrounding myself with positive people and people who genuinely care for me and whom I care for has turned me into a different person.
I’m very aware that in this plus size community there are people who believe weight loss is awful and shameful for any reason, that if you want to lose weight you automatically hate fat bodies and believe them to be wrong. I disagree. Seeing how unhappy some of those people were made me want to do anything for them to make them feel better. Yes, that unhappiness comes from the pressures of society and how fat people are treated in the world but if they genuinely feel that losing weight will make them happy they have every right to do it. They may find that once their weight has decreased they’re still unhappy and that it makes no difference but that is for them to find out. As much as you can encourage people to embrace body positivity and fat acceptance, they’re not always open to it and if they are stuck in that mindset it can be so hard to alter it. I found it difficult today to find my balance between not wanting to conform to something I believe is damaging to society and knowing I have to do something in order to get something I really want.
I want to have a child. I have always wanted to have a child and if I have to jump through the NHS hoops in order to get the help I need I will, regardless of how wrong I think it is. I have a condition that makes it harder for me to get pregnant as well as making it harder to lose weight. As it stands right now my GP is treating my weight as the main reason as to why we’re not conceiving despite the fact that my PCOS is bad enough that even if I wasn’t overweight, we still wouldn’t conceive naturally. I understand their logic but I just don’t feel that showing me the Eat Well plate and telling me to exercise is going to help my body use insulin correctly or balance my hormones. But I am determined to stick it out and I will do everything I’m told to do because if I don’t I won’t get the help I know I need.
I’m really, really apprehensive about publishing this but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m scared of people’s reactions to it or how it will be taken but I just wanted to share my experience. I had no idea what to expect when I went so hopefully if anyone else ever has to access these services it might help them. Or not. I don’t know! I might actually create a different blog for the fertility/baby makin’ side of things, I don’t know. Oh goddddddddddd just hit publish. NOW.