How Obsessing with my Weight Almost Killed Me
The story that repeats itself every day, everywhere: crash diets don’t work. They are dangerous.
I started 7 lb and 11 oz lighter than the day before, thanks to that chubby little boy that was now out of my belly. Ok, I thought. Minus a few pounds of the placenta, water, blood…. Delivering would be the jump start I needed to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
Little I knew that by focusing on the wrong objective I almost got myself in huge trouble.
I started my last pregnancy at 115 lb. I used to look pretty good and somehow, this second pregnancy I ended up gaining a lot more weight than I had intended to. I indulged a little too often. I did not stay physically active. Basically, I did the opposite to what I had done the first time around, expecting my body to take care of itself. But it was a mistake and soon enough I saw the consequences. I gained a lot of weight and worse, once I delivered, even though I lost like 20 lb quickly, then the losing curve plateaued and I got stuck at 135 lb. That’s 20 lb heavier than I used to be…
Even though I safely stayed away from diets during my immediate postpartum, a month after delivery I decided to get back on track and started an exercise regime of 1 hour of Zumba a day plus a diet that consisted of eating very low in carbs 5 days a week and zero carbs the other two (“fat days and thin days” as I used to call them). I started following a book which provided recipes to ensure that even at zero carbs you would not go hungry. The recipes were delicious and filling. It seemed very attainable. And I was determined.
As a physician that deals with obesity-related problems on a daily basis, I know that probably the most effective way to lose weight fast is to cut carbs out. And I had tried that sort of thing before, for short periods of time and successfully, if I needed to fit into a dress and look my best for an event or similar.
At the beginning, it all went well. My exercise routine was fun and helpful for me to recover muscle tone and a nice shape. And after a few days, I went shopping for all the atypical ingredients the book called for in order to skip the carbs all together. I got various types of cheeses, almond flour, carb free vegetables (like mushrooms and zucchini), a ton of eggs, among other things. And I followed the recipes to the dot. It was actually working! I was usually full after the meals and they were tasty, as the book promised.
After 3 or 4 days, once I hit one of those thin days, was when it all happened. I did my exercise and had my meals as planned. I went about my day like any other day: woke up, breastfed the baby, ate breakfast, exercised, showered, fed the baby some more, shopped, cooked, ate lunch, fed the baby some more, took a nap, fed the baby some more, ran errands, got dinner ready, fed the baby to put him to bed and prepared myself to sleep. Went to bed and maybe at around 2 am, as per my son’s breastfeeding schedule, I woke up to feed him. But something was wrong. I was feeling nauseous and extra tired. And hot. I adjusted the temperature and sat on the glider to feed him. And as the minutes went by, some other things started happening: my arms started feeling numb. Like when they “fall asleep”. And I started feeling weaker and weaker, to the point that I had a hard time getting myself up once I finished feeding him. I managed to put him back in the bassinet and went to the restroom to wash my face and maybe try to wake up. Was I just too tired? What is happening to me? I thought to myself. I wanted to call for help but my husband wasn’t in town and my friend, who was staying at my place at the time, was in the other side of the house and I just couldn’t muster up the energy to call her. As I sat, terrified, cold and numb, shaking and dizzy, waiting to probably pass out, it finally clicked: I WAS HAVING AN EPISODE OF HYPOGLYCEMIA (or very low blood sugar).
I got myself up however I could and went to the kitchen and drank a cup of orange juice and a piece of bread. Within a few minutes, I felt strong enough to feel in control again but I was still feeling some of the symptoms, although at a lower intensity. So, I went back to the kitchen for a nice piece of chocolate and some more bread.
Probably a half an hour later I was finally almost back to normal and exhausted, I went back to bed. And even hours later, I was still somewhat nauseous and very very tired.
What happened to me was a classic episode of hypoglycemia. As a family doctor, I know the symptoms well, yet I hadn’t experienced them personally ever. It was a very dangerous situation I put myself into, for all the wrong reasons. It was dangerous for me and for my children. But allow me to explain why this happened:
Symptoms of hypoglycemia:
- Sensation of pins and needles
- Blurry vision
- Coma and death
As you can see, I experienced several of the above symptoms and to make things worse, it was in the middle of the night, alone and with two babies depending on me. I thank God I was able to identify what was happening to me (even though I had gotten to the point of mental fogginess during the episode), and I was able to quickly fix it to no consequence.
But I was lucky. Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened without that glass of orange juice. In my medical practice, I’ve seen both severe brain damage, coma and death following a single, severe episode of hypoglycemia. I did not intend for this to happen and I blame my irresponsible miscalculation to my obsession to lose weight. Needless to say, that was the end of the diet and the obsession. From then on, I allowed myself to exercise but I was careful to replace the calorie losses with healthy choices of normal food and a balanced diet, especially since I was breastfeeding. I allowed myself to lose the weight slowly but safely. A year later, I am 5 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight and not interested in even getting there.
Let me finish with a few key points:
- Crash diets don’t work: short term, sure they do. Long term, they’re impossible to maintain and you gain the weight back and with a vengeance.
- Do not start any diet without consulting with your physician: even if you are a healthy, young adult, you might have contraindications to certain diets you might not be aware of.
- Don’t let vanity get in the way of your health and your responsibilities as a mother: anything that can jeopardize your health is now not only affecting you but also your little ones. Think about it. If it is for vanity, it is probably not worth the risk.
- Be proud of your imperfections: because those “imperfections” are simply the small price we pay for the wonderful experience of being mothers.
- Don’t let what other people think or say affect you: shut down the body shamers!