In my former life as an obese woman, I spent a lot of time in denial. I spent lots of energy avoiding my reflection in mirrors. I was adept at eluding questions from those who loved me about my health and my lack of attention to it. I actually was able to navigate chiropractic school and maintain my obesity. Now that really takes some effort.
During the course of my care with overweight patients as well as in conversations with other health care providers, I habitually repeat that it takes a lot of denial to keep a body severely overweight. I ignored the tightness in my chest when I climbed the stairs. I ignored the constant pain in my ankles and knees. I ignored the episodes of awakening in the middle of the night with my heart racing as my blood sugar levels soared after an evening of binge eating. I certainly shut out all signals that my body gave me to say “that’s enough food for now”.
But look at this MRI below comparing the body of a woman who weighs 125 lbs and a woman weighing 250 lbs. Notice the larger woman’s heart (in the center of her chest) is noticeably bigger as it’s forced to pump blood through miles more blood vessels. Her liver (located under the lung on the left) is also larger as it’s forced to filter more blood and work much harder.
When I look at her shoulders that are forced into a larger angle to accommodate the mass of her upper body, I think about all the shoulder tension I would explain away to late nights studying. When I compare the knees of the moderate weight woman and the larger one, there is significantly less space in between the two big bones of her thighs and lower legs. I recall very vividly all the knee pain I felt after even short distance walking.
When you look at this picture there is no denying the devastating and painful effects of obesity. There is no question that our joints bear a dramatic load and burden just to get through any given day. One of the greatest things about chiropractic care is that it forces us as patients to allow someone touch us. It requires that we accept our true physicality at the moment. In my care of obese patients, it is often a scarce moment of connection. If you are reading this and struggle with your weight, seek out those activities and care providers that will bring about a connection to your body. Chiropractic care is a perfect example of this. In addition to restoring better motion to your joints, it can foster (no pun intended) a new habit of actually understanding and listening to your body. It can literally get your body moving a little easier and get you moving in a direction where you deal with your health rather than ignore it. That is absolutely the only way any of us can bring about long-term change.