August 18, 2013
40 pounds to go
Imagine this: 457 days ago (a little over a year and a quarter), uncomfortable, a little desperate and wide-eyed I walked into a “medical weight loss clinic.” I had gotten a certificate from our newspaper’s Groupon spinoff, so I patted myself on the back for making a step towards good health and only investing $20!
I filled out an intake form with the normal blah blah questions, does cancer run in your family, known allergies, and further medical history etc etc. Then came the moment of truth – leading me over to the scale and my heart dropped. Next, I was shuffled into a patient room where normal intake procedure continued. A huge BMI chart shaded in different colors depending on if you fell into “underweight,” “optimal,” “obese,” or “severely obese” adorned the wall, and I watched a grossly overweight nurse find my height on the chart (a shrimpy 5’4) a run her finger along the axis for way to my weight which was literally on the border between “obese” and “severely obese.” Severe? Are you shitting me?
She then started grilling me on what I typically eat in an average day / week to determine my eating habits. On a final note, she took my blood pressure and then left the room while I awaited the Doctor.
This is the point when I started crying.
The doctor came in, a gloriously thin woman who had a kind face. One that registered shock once she realized I had been sitting there for 10 minutes sobbing my eyes out. She was gentle and went through her suggested plan. She gave me all sorts of useful basic tools that I had been completely ignorant of before this point: my resting metabolism, target calorie intake per day, and breakdown of how many servings of each food group I should have (i.e. 3 cups of veggies, 4 carb, 2 fat exchanges, 6 meat). She stressed that I should try and start walking everyday (the usual ‘exercise, just try it!’ approach that is always in one ear and out the other). I gathered myself between tears and said “I’m sure you have lots of girls crying in your intake office.” And the look back said, “um, no.”
This was all the good stuff. I felt like I had a plan. But we weren’t done. Next came the discussion of what dose of Phentermine I would like to use and whether it would be a 1 day dose, or take the dose 3 times over the day with meals. She mentioned to only drink 1 cup of coffee with it to see how I felt. I said, "1 day dose, I’m too lazy to remember over the course of the day." She then said good night and the nurse came back in and administered a vitamin B12 cocktail shot into my ass which burned like a mother fucker.
That night I kept running to the bathroom with terrible diarrhea from the shot. My tummy hurt. I was whiney.
The next morning, I got up and thought, “here we go.” I popped my first pill and downloaded myfitnesspal. (I would start logging the next day) I drank a cup of coffee then got ready for work. I felt fine, and then once I arrived everything started glowing. I shit you not, it was like everything suddenly developed an aura. And I was thirsty. So desperately thirsty. I remember it was a Friday because I had my weekly department meeting at 9AM and I was hoping my staff wouldn’t notice I was licking my lips like an overdosed meth addict and was consciously trying to slow down my speech. All I could think of was poor Ellen Burstyn in her red dress in Requiem for a Dream. I actually spent my breaks race-walking around the block to try and get the drug out of my system.
I was a little scared. I pulled up Goolgle and typed in Phentermine. It was the second drug in the infamous Fen-Phen. It will give you a false positive for methamphetamines on drug tests because it has the same basic chemical structure.
So I was on some generic look-alike to speed. At least, according to the Internet. I wondered if this was what those 50’s housewives were on so they could ‘do it all.’
The next day I was grateful to have come down off my diet high. I never took another one of those pills.
Four days later I went to the clinic for my first check-in I had lost 6 pounds. Go me! I had the pills in hand and said “I want to give these back, I don’t like the way they make me feel and don’t want to be on something that could potentially be addicting.” There was a lot of bluster how they’ve never seen one of their patients become addicted to Phentermine and it really wasn’t that dangerous. I asked if she had any natural alternatives. To which they did – Diucaps and an Accai cocktail which were considered a ‘natural appetite suppressant.” My only interest in taking them was the Diucaps were also something that helps relieve water retention that I heard was a good mood stabilizer during ye ol’ period week.
To be quite honest I didn’t feel a huge difference between taking the natural supplements and not taking them. I have notes in my diary that “I didn’t feel quite right.” I stopped after 2 weeks.
The next week I went back into the doctor for my next check in. This time, the doctor did not see me, only the grossly overweight nurse. I got on the scale: 2 pounds lost. Go me! She was disappointed with my progress. The minute I sat down in the patient room she asked me if “I was still drinking my beers.” I said “no, I haven’t, but it was a harder week because I was on my period and had two birthday dinners to get through.” She then launched into a speech on how beer is too caloric and how I really needed to stop drinking it. (Hello McFly, I just told you I didn’t!) I tried to derail her by saying again, no, I hadn’t drunk any beer and would you like to see my food diary so you can give me some tips?
It was at this point I realized I was sitting in a business, not a genuine health clinic. This woman didn’t give a shit about me or my habits. The mean part of me thought, ‘who are you, morbidly obese lady to lecture me on my alcohol intake when you can’t even bother to listen to me and give me any genuine tips? Where is the goddamn doctor?” That whole encounter still makes my blood boil.
I think I went back for 1 more week before I abandoned the clinic for food logging and my blog to keep me accountable. Admittedly, when I did talk to the doctor, she gave me good tips on things to watch for. She set me up with invaluable tools in my intake, and did give the suggestion for a protein snack mid morning. And she taught me about the advantage of eating low-glycemic foods. All the nutritional guidance was good.
Another thing I should mention: the cost to go to this diet clinic was $60-$100 per week depending on if they gave you the phentermine or natural supplements. While, I’m sure this is a fraction of the cost of doing illegal drugs to lose weight, it gets pretty pricey for the average Joe. (I googled “what does speed cost “ for shits and giggles and probably just got flagged by the government.)
To recap, pros and cons:
Good tools for learning – resting metabolism, calorie intake, etc.
Weekly weigh-ins keep you accountable.
They put you on a speed look-alike
It’s a business
My word of advice when approaching these clinics is to keep your caution cap on. Ultimately, it is a business and they are there to make money. It is not a nutritional or medical clinic who has your best health interests at heart. The best thing is that they helped get me on the wagon to health, but I’m the one who eventually had to take the reigns and steer it for myself.