When we talk about eating disorders we usually think of the severely underweight: specifically anorexia and bullimia. We give (quite rightly) such people treatment to beat what is a very serious mental health problem and encourage them to have a better relationship with food; to see it not as an enemy but as a vital part of life.
Yet medical professionals now seem reticent to talk about severe obesity at all, let alone acknowledge it as a mental health problem. Instead we now abhor any commentary of the overweight as ‘shallowness of society’, as ‘fattist’. Jibes about the overweight as well as furious knee jerk reactions against it detracts from the physical health problems it leads to and the mental health problems that are sometimes a root cause.
I am worried about my ex wife. Over the last few weeks I have noticed her increased weight. At 20st (280lb) she is now heavier than she has ever been and is around double what is a healthy weight for her height. She has trouble breathing and is starting to develop back problems; last night she confessed that she struggles to walk short distances. She is also at risk of diabetes, heart disease, thrombosis and a whole host of other problems.
She is 29 years old and her Doctor will not discuss it with her even though she wants to talk to him about it. Are we so terrified of being accused of prejudice or being superficial that it has become taboo? When we are so sensitive as a society about being overweight and make it a women’s body issue, and the apparent shallowness of men, it detracts from the real issues of problems to our health. It also detracts from those who – like the severely underweight – have a psychological cause for their eating disorder. And when we have the BBW counterculture using the same methods as the pro-ana movement, we are fighting an uphill struggle.
The antidepressants she is on increases appetite and this accounts for some of the weight gain. She is also a comfort eater. Her mother is a feeder and I commented before that she is aggressive with it. Any refusal of extra portions, dessert with every meal and lots of sugary junk is often met with sarcasm, snide remarks about wasting food, an aggressive atttude and guilt trips.
In contrast the antidepressants I was on recently had an appetite-suppressing side effect and generally, when I am low I lose my appetite anyway which is why it was easy for me to lose weight at the end of last year. I have recommended she switch to those antidepressants and I’m trying to encourage her to make herself walk daily.
Though I never got that heavy (16st 4lb at my heaviest ever weight which was last year) and even in my late 30s I never experienced health problems (probably because I have always been active generally and as a result have always had good circulation and solid walking legs). I’ve also been an on-and-off swimmer over the years as well as taking up running last year. So I guess I have been quite fortunate.
I am worried about her and I dont know what else to do.