“I Have a Blood Pressure Situation.”

“If I ever let myself go…SPLAT!” -Frank Burns, M*A*S*H

Turns out that Frank Burns and I have that in common. A blood pressure situation, that is.

My blood pressure was fine in my twenties, back when I smoked and live on fast food and Hot Pockets. Then I quit smoking and started eating better, cooking actual meals, eating fast food only sometimes, and giving up Hot Pockets all together.

And my blood pressure started running a little high.

I will go to my grave pissed about that.

That grudge is probably one of the reasons why my blood pressure has recently gotten worse.

I would wager that my health problems over the past couple of years are probably a contributing factor as well. Stress can play hell with the blood pressure and even though I’m a year removed from that situation, it’s not hard to believe that some effects might still linger. I mean, it did take forever for my hair to start to grow back.

And frankly, my diet hasn’t been the greatest lately.

Though I haven’t gone back to Hot Pockets, and fast food is still an occasional thing, a little analysis of my diet has shown that sodium has still crept in and is probably the main culprit from my blood pressure situation getting worse.

Someone pointed out that age might also be a contributing factor and to them I say –That negativity is not helping.

So this month, I’m monitoring my sodium intake by logging all of my food (which I hate) and making some dietary changes in an attempt to reduce my saltiness. (In this case the literal. The figurative is just a personality quirk.) Maybe, possibly, perhaps a little less sodium will make a big difference.

I’m also going back to exercising first thing in the morning. Yes, I exercise most days of the week and exercise is good for the blood pressure, but I think going back to morning workouts will give this whole lifestyle tweak an extra boost. And I need a boost right now.

Hopefully, all of this will be enough to get my blood pressure back to reasonable levels.

I’d like to avoid a splat situation.

The Retail Diet

When I worked at Wal-Mart for the last time, some ten years ago now, my diet was pretty terrible. I believe I once compared it to eating like a racoon raiding a dumpster. I drank a lot of soda, ate a lot of fast food, Hot Pockets and microwavable beef stew being the extent of my cooking. By the time I quit that gig, I had cut down on the soda drinking, but that was about it.

After I quit, I made some dietary improvements, mainly by actually cooking meals instead of microwaving whatever I could find and making soda and fast food a rarity. And I managed to continue with this for the next ten years or so, despite the different day jobs, even while holding three day jobs at once, and even while technically working in retail.

But doing floorset isn’t the same as working retail. I wasn’t dealing with customers on top of resetting an entire store; I was just doing a lot of folding, rearranging, and swearing. Working retail means dealing with customers while trying to put up freight, answer the phone, and keep the store in order. It means walking two to six miles during any given shift and never leaving the store. It means having registers crash during busy times, people calling in and leaving you to work a Saturday shift alone for several hours, listening to customers say the same things over and over again thinking they’re the first to be so clever. It means answering the same questions over and over again, listening to the same complaints over and over again, and holding your tongue during both.

In short, retail can be (and currently is for me) a high-stress, low-wage job.

And it kills my eating habits.

In the past few months of my new retail day job, I’ve drunk more soda and eaten more junk food than I have in years. I’ve craved soda and junk food more in the past few months than I have in the past ten years. Working retail triggers in me the need for a garbage diet that I might be able to get away with in my twenties, but not when I’m pushing forty. Yet, here I am, despite all wisdom, going right back to it.

I’m guessing the combination of stress and anxiety is the trigger for me here. I can’t say that I’m much of an emotional eater. However, I think that the stress/anxiety combo wears me out to the point that my willpower is gone and I’m too tired to care about what I’m ingesting. That’s definitely how it feels. It’s not a particularly healthy mindset, but it’s hard to maintain one when all of my energy is focused on getting through another shift. It leaves little energy for the effort of making good choices.

Right now I’m struggling with it. I can only hope that the stress recedes soon (the anxiety, I don’t think, ever will) and gives me a break that doesn’t come in the form of a Kit Kat Bar.

Fat Health

What scientists call "Overweight" ch...

In the course of the past week I saw two good articles about fat people and health.

The first pertains to a doctor denying to take a woman on as a patient because she’s fat.

The second is about the “thin paradox”: how thin people get diseases that only fat people are supposed to get.

Now, in regards to the first article, I’ve never been told by a doctor that they can’t treat me because I’m fat. But I know that it happens and I’m not surprised by it. The disdain for fat people is palpable beyond the mall and fast food joints. I’m taking up too much space with my rolls and it disgusts people no matter where I go. I’m not surprised that it disgusts doctors, too. After all, they are people. Worse, they’re people with years of medical training that has educated them to believe that fat, any and all fat, is bad.

Which leads me to the second article. If you’re fat and you do find a doctor willing to see you, then the automatic cure for whatever it is that ails you is to lose weight. High cholesterol? Lose weight. High blood pressure? Lose weight. Painful menstrual cramps? Lose weight. Sinus trouble? Lose weight.

If you’re thin and you have these problems…I guess you get actual treatment? Because if you’re thin then you must be really sick. If you’re fat…well…you’re just fat and that’s the cause of all your trouble.

So, let’s review…

If you’re fat, you don’t necessarily deserve a doctor’s care because if you’re fat then you clearly don’t care about your health and would just be wasting the doctor’s time. But if you want a doctor to see you then you should lose weight first, then you’ll be worth the appointment. If you can find a doctor with reinforced tables and whale scales and Paul Bunyon blood pressure cuffs and whatever else it is that doctors think they need to treat fat people, then whatever your complaint is can be cured if you lose weight.

Gee, fat people. I guess we can save a whole lot of money and cut out the middle man if we just lose weight.

Reasonable, right? Sure.

I know of someone who is a size zero, doesn’t exercise, and makes mention of eating once or twice a day and that consumption might be a candy bar or a cupcake or a diet Coke and some pretzels. Meanwhile, I’m a size 20/22, exercise five days a week (most weeks), and make a conscious effort to make my meals somewhat healthy in both content and portion size and number. However, based on the two articles I linked to a doctor would be more likely to see her and more likely to treat her better because she’s thin.

Doctor’s perpetuating the myth that thin=healthy is a huge disservice to the masses (pun intended). Fat people are being led to believe that weight loss will cure everything and thin people are being led to believe that they can’t possibly be unhealthy. It’s criminal bullshit, really.

With all of that said, I’ve never had any of this happen to me. I’ve never had a doctor refuse me because I was fat. The only doctor I’ve had that discussed weight loss with me was the plastic surgeon that did my breast reduction surgery. He asked if I tried to lose weight to reduce my breast size. I wasn’t insulted by it. He wanted to make sure I’d explored other options before surgery. (FYI: I did try to lose weight to reduce my breast size. I lost twenty pounds. None of it came off of my chest. When I gained it back, it went to the boobs.)

Granted, I don’t have a lot of doctor experiences in my adult life. Not because my fat keeps me from going, though. For me it’s usually lack of insurance/short on money/I don’t go unless something is hanging off by a thread because I’m pretty sure it’ll be fine in a day or two even if it is the plague that keeps me from going to the doctor.

But that’s another story.

The point is I’ve never personally been doomed to ill-health by a doctor that refused to treat me because I’m fat or by a doctor that thinks weight-loss will cure whatever ails me, and I don’t think anyone else should be either.

Fat doesn’t make people unhealthy. Doctors that don’t take fat people seriously do.

GERDing My Stomach

Now that I’m getting a regular paycheck and have this fancy thing called health insurance, I decided to splurge on a doctor’s appointment to get a problem I’ve been having with my throat. According to the very nice doctor I saw, he suspects that my throat trouble is caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, aka, GERD.

GERD is chronic reflux of the stomach acid into the esophagus and mouth, sometimes it can even get into the nose and sinuses. It’s caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter muscle allowing the acid out of the stomach. Common symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation, and dysphagia (trouble swallowing). Other possible symptoms can include pain with swallowing, excessive salivation, hoarseness, chronic cough, and sinusitis. It can lead to esophageal damage including ulcers, strictures (narrowing of the esophagus), Barrett’s esohpagus, and elevated risk of cancer.

In short, there’s nothing sexy about GERD.

It doesn’t even have a good sound to it. GERD. The most common reaction when I told people that I had GERD was giggles because it’s a funny sounding word. It doesn’t exactly conjure up an immediate serious reaction.

It’s not a sexy disease. It’s not something you want to admit to having. Chronic heartburn plus. It sounds like something Fish on Barney Miller would have. It sounds like people in a retirement village in Florida complain about while looking over the menu at the Early Bird Special. It’s not something that people are rallying to find a cure for. It’s not getting fundraisers or charity events. It doesn’t have a ribbon. It’s an inconvenient, uncomfortable, funny-sounding disease that people snicker at.

And unfortunately, it’s kind of having a negative effect on my life, which is hard to explain while people are giggling.

First of all, there’s really no cure. I get to spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how to manage my symptoms. This can involve changing my diet to avoid more acidic foods. I can sleep at an incline. I can lose weight. I can take acid blockers.

That’s all well and good, I suppose. The doctor already instructed me to take a particular kind of over the counter acid blocker, twice a day, every day. I’m supposed to do that for a month to see if that helps. I’ve noticed that if I miss a pill (and I’ve missed one and been late for a couple), I get heartburn. So, I suppose it is helping some.

But the lump in my throat that prompted me to go to the doctor in the first place is still there. It was there for two years before I finally went and I guess it’s going to be there for a while longer. Maybe forever. I don’t know. The damage has probably been done and there’s the possibility that I’ll have to live with the dysphagia for the rest of my life.

Still laughing?

It’s not fun trying to swallow something and not be able to get it down. Ever get a Cheeto stuck? How about a piece of lettuce? That lump in my throat makes it difficult to get some things down on the first try. The lettuce was the worst. It felt like it was just laying across that lump, like a wet leaf stuck to a rock.

I suppose I can hope that the treatment works and the lump will go away and the swallowing will get easier with the treatment, but considering I’ve had the lump for two years, I think I’m passed the point of hope. I think this is it and I just have to hope that it doesn’t get any worse.

It’s not fun wondering about what’s going on in my gut. Wondering how much actual damage has been done and how much more I can expect. Struggling to remember to take my pills (haven’t quite gotten into the swing of the meds yet). Being questioned on whether I remembered to take my pills. Being questioned on whether or not I should be eating/drinking that.

The latter is par for the course. I’m also lactose intolerant to a certain extent (back in the olden days, they just called it a milk allergy), so my mother has always questioned my eating choices. That part I’m used to, but it’s still not fun.

I realize that I’m being cranky about this. I realize I’m taking all of the fun out of this for everyone else.

I guess I just don’t find it nearly as amusing as it sounds.