Body Image

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Have you seen this picture floating around on the internet?

I don't normally post pictures of scantily clad (or not clad) people on my blog. But I felt that this was good enough, and maybe even important enough to write about.

I have self image issues. Major ones. Maybe, reading between the lines on my Wednesday Weigh-Ins, you've already ascertained that. I've been plagued by self image issues that have made their way into self esteem issues. I've fought my battles. Someday, maybe, I'll get brave enough to talk more about those battles. Today is not that day.

This picture was originally just a 3 inch by 3 inch photo in a major fashion magazine. When I saw this picture, it was amazingly refreshing. A woman posing for a major magazine who looks like a normal woman. She has a normal looking tummy. She has normal looking thighs. Nicer ones than mine, but still normal looking. She is a size 12-14. Not a size 0, 1, or 2. A normal healthy size.

And she is beautiful.

No matter how we would like to deny it, we compare ourselves to other women. We see covers of magazines, stick thin mannequins, impossibly thin actresses, and we do compare. We tend to focus on the thin women around us and think they are the ones we are supposed to look like. We tend not to notice as much all the perfectly normal women.

I'm not talking about wanting to be a healthy weight. I am not at an ideal BMI. When I exercise and diet (which I'll eventually get to. I promise you and me that.) I'm not aiming for a dress size or pant size. I'm aiming to be healthier.

Have you see this commercial?

When I first saw this commercial during the Super Bowl many years ago, I was brought to tears.

Hopefully, the media becomes full of pictures of real, healthy, happy women. And the next generation of girls will have an easier time of it than I did.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

The patient goes into a long train of profanities, hoping to portray the amount of agony he has been endured since his failed back surgery three years ago.

I wish I could say that I learned some new words and phrases. But I've heard everything variation on the theme from other patients.

He suddenly falls silent and looks at me, probably realizing for the first time that I am half his age and female.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."

I reassure him that he didn't. That I understand how frustrating his condition is and how discouraging it can be to have dealt with it for so long before finally getting a referral to our clinic.

When I come back with my attending to have the patient sign the consent for the procedure we hope will ease his pain, he launches into the same stream of profanity, only to apologize again.

My attending disregards it with a casual wave of his hand.

"Don't worry. We're all Teflon-coated here."

Maybe that's true. And maybe that's the problem.

Our training teaches us to be accepting and empathetic. Yet our training also teaches us that we can't become too involved. I used to think that this was harsh. Of course I want to be involved! my newly trained self would shout. But quickly, we learn that we can't.

I can shrug off a patient's accusations or crudeness or flat out rudeness and act like a professional. I can provide the best possible care without prejudice or criticism. I treat IV drug users and parole violators and moms on meth with the same carefully thought out decision making process I use for university professors and preschool teachers and stay at home parents. I can Teflon-coat myself to be immune to the emotional and, occasionally, moral onslaught that occurs daily.

But like most things in medicine, this non-stick coating is a two edged sword. Yes, we can treat your cancer, but you will be sick and weak and bald. Yes, we can treat your pain but you may end up addicted to the drugs we prescribe. Yes, we can fix your problem but it will take you weeks, maybe months to recover from the surgery and you will always, always, have the scar.

Self-protection is no different.

The rudeness and insults an unhappy drug-seeking patient hurl at me as she storms out of the exam room do not bother me.

But neither does telling a patient that their diabetes had completely ruined their kidneys and we need to start talking about dialysis.

I can stand by the bedside while we, as a team, tell sobbing parents that their teenage son will not wake up again. I don't make a sound as we tell a young mom that her once cooing, crawling, smiling baby has had a stroke and will not do any of those things again.

Let me take that back.

Yes, it bothers me. It all does.

I have hunched on the floor behind the coat rack of the locker room and sobbed. I have escaped to stair wells to break down. I have walked away from yelling patients shaken.

But we must not be involved.

We can be empathetic, yes. I can sit with a patient while they take it all in. I can answer their questions. I can occassional provide answers, and hopefully, comfort and reassurance.

But I can't be involved.

The amount of hurt and grief and anger that spins past me everyday is enough to grab me, take me under and never let me surface again.

But I must surface. I must go home everyday where I am greeted by the sound of little running feet and happy blue eyes.

And so I'll take it. I'll take my Teflon-coating, the good with the bad.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I got an a-mail recently, asking about my diet. To be more specific, wondering what happened to those weekly posts about my weight and what I was doing to finally lose it.

There's a reason it's been months since a "Wednesday Weigh-In."

It's because I've been avoiding the scale.

Between the Big Move, the constant work on the house (pictures to come very, very soon), adjusting to a new city, and my anesthesia residency, time for me has been in short supply.

My drive to work follows the river. Next to the river is an amazing running/biking path. As I drive to work at 6 am, in the early morning grayness, the path is full of old ladies walking in groups, cyclists in yellow spandex and helmets, college girls in tanktops and headphones. And I wish I could join them. But while they are out walking, cycling, and running, I'm already headed to work. I pass them again in the evening on my way home. And I think maybe I could fit it in. But at home, there are textbooks and journal articles, and dishes, and meals, and home renovations, and the two most darling boys ever. And I don't go out. I stay put and work hard.

And I'll admit that I haven't been eating as healthy as I should. We've allowed ice cream back in the house. It was for rewards for Monkey completing potty training, but I'll admit I've had at least my fair share (if not a little more). The short evenings and heavy work load have translated into more meals of pizza and fast food. Breakfast is a bagel or English muffin. Then I get home after 12 hour days, not having eaten all day. And I'll break into a box of crackers.

During all this time, the scale has remained pushed back as far as I can get it into the back corner of my closet.

I can't bare to look. All the hard work I did earlier in the year surely is gone.

I'm not sure I foresee a time when there will be more time to take care of me. I've got more balls than I can handle in the air, burning the candle at both ends, hanging by my teeth, whatever you like.

I'd like to say I'm doing the best I can, but I know that's not true. Everyone can always to better. I could eat healthier, even when I'm stressed. I could stop blogging and pull out my stationary bike.

Someday, I'll get brave enough to pull out the scale. And then someday I'll stand on it. And someday, I may even look down and read the number between my feet.

But for now, I'm just going to keep plowing along.

Corn Country

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

They grow good corn here in Iowa.

At least that's what we've heard.

And if quantity is any sign of quality, it must be true. Because corn fields flank nearly every road and make up much of the scenery.

We decided to try the local corn out. Because honestly, Wal-mart corn just wasn't cutting it.

We made our way to the local farmer's market. I wish that I had brought my camera. The tables of heirloom tomatoes, and new baby squash, and jars overflowing with fresh cut bundles of herbs, and the backs of trucks filled to the rim with corn was beautiful.

We bought our dozen corn and went home and peeled it on the back porch, enjoying the evening.

Turns out, they're right.

The corn here is mighty good.

Behind the curve

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I have a brother-in-law that buys new technology the moment it hits the shelf. He is always the first one with the newest iPhone, the latest movie-viewing machine, the most recent gaming system.

We take turns making fun of each other.

He reminds me of that scene from "The Wedding Singer," when Glenn buys a CD player for $700. If my BIL would wait, even a couple months, many items would be cheaper and better.

He makes fun of me for waiting so long. When I mentioned the Wedding Singer scene, he asked if I would wait 20 years to buy new technology just so I could get it cheaper.

And I'll admit it. When it comes to technology, I'm usually behind the curve. And it really doesn't matter what form that technology comes it.

I didn't get an e-mail address until I was a freshman in college in 2000, well after all my friends had e-mail. I was the last one of my friends to get a debit card, and it was getting fed up carrying a newborn Bug into the gas station to pay for gas that finally convinced me. We had dial-up internet forever! Well after high speed dial-up, DSL, and then cable internet came along, we were still trucking along with our good old NetZero account. I don't have a laptop. I just got an iPod.

Some of it because I'm cheap (or frugal. Yeah, let's go with that). I'll admit it. It was hard to imagine that paying $30 plus dollars a month just for internet would ever be worth it, when we were getting our dial-up for $6.95/month (we had gotten a special deal by threatening to change services.) So what if I spent much of my undergraduate career wanting to throw things at the computer while waiting for pages to least my frustration was cheap!

The other part of it is I'm always a little skeptical if the new technology will really make things better. Maybe it's just another way to brag about how "with it" you are.

But this week, we've made a change that would have my BIL cheering for joy.

We got DVR.

I wasn't sure we needed it. After all, we had a VCR. I could just set it to record shows while I was at work or at the lake. I had even gotten quite good at setting multiple grograms on the VCR. Yeah, it was inconvient. Yeah, sometimes we misjudged the start or end time and never knew how LOST ended. Yeah, the quality of the picture was lacking (nowhere near as amazing as the HD picture Hubster insisted we sign up for the minute we bought a new TV.) But still, we already had the VCR.

(But now that I think about it, I'm not exactly sure what happened to our old, boxy, non-LCD-flat-panel. I'm beginning to think it may have had some help meeting it's untimely demise.


So, I wasn't convinced.

But we have crazy schedules. Now probably more than any other time. And I've started the nasty habit of falling alseep during the season premier of Psych, or before the champion is named in Chopped. Hubster doesn't really have time to constantly be programming the VCR, especially now that fall premiers are right around the bend.

I was sold on the DVR within 2 minutes of having it. I could record all the new episodes of America's Got Talent. And watch it whenever I want. In HD! We can record two shows at once. No more conflict between Survivor and LOST. And recording is easy: just a push of a button. No more timers, making sure the VCR clock is aligned with the TV clock, worring about how much tape I have left, wondering if I really turned the TV to the right channel.

I thought the cable menu was the best thing that ever happened to TV watching (seriously, how does anyone do it without it?) I've decided now that DVR is going to take TV watching to a whole new level.

I think I'll call my brother-in-law and let him tell me "I told you so."


Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm just going to come right out and say it.

Monkey has been a difficult child.

It nearly kills me to say it. Because he is so ridiculously cute. But nearly everyday, Hubster and I look as him after he has finally fallen asleep, and just stare at the occasionally still dirt-smudged pile of smooth blond hair, little nose, and dimpled elbows and knees, and wonder. How can he possibly be so darling, but so exhausting and frustrating at the same time?

From the moment he was born, the personality differences between him and Bug were apparent. He was always awake, more social, and grinned at every object within view.

Little did we know, that was just the beginning.

Bug, now 7, was always content to just read, draw, or do nearly anything that would allow him to be busy, but by himself. He was usually quiet. And although occasionally moody, he was usually quite well behaved.

This, of course, allowed Hubster and I to clap ourselves on the back, foolishly thinking it was our exemplary parenting skills that had lead to such a wonderful child.

Monkey, on the other hand. Well, we thought our house our house was child proof...

The minute he could crawl, he would go to the cupboards and try to open them. Of course, he couldn't get past the child locks, but this did not stop him from trying everyday. Just like a velociraptor on Jurassic Park, he would daily try the locks on the off chance that one day, he would get around them.

He would follow his older brother every second, and destroy anything Bug tried to do. Block towers, beware. Train tracks, doomed. Puzzles, not a chance. He even enjoys a little independent destroying. There are only a handful of toy cars that still have ownership of their tires, the rest having been chewed and pried off. Books that made it by Bug unscathed met their untimely demise during the moments we suddenly realized we hadn't heard Monkey making any noise for 2 minutes.

We have an ottoman that no longer resembles a piece of furniture, after being used as a chew toy by Monkey.

Once, when he was about 18 months old, I was cooking dinner. I turned around to see Monkey holding a huge ball of dryer lint that he had fished out of our (covered) kitchen garbage bin. He was chewing and shuddering. In the half second that I had been frozen with the horror of it all, he took another bite. I immediately became unfrozen and extracted the fuzzy gray mass from his chubby hands, and held his still lint covered hands under the facet. And the whole time, despite the screaming I was being met with, wondering why, WHY, did he take a second bite?

The terrible twos have been especially terrible. We haven't escaped a store without a display being knocked over, the shopping cart being pushed into some unsuspecting shopper, a fit in the middle of an aisle (all for unknown reasons, as he never asks for candy or marshmallow laden cereal), or some content of our cart being chucked out and occasionally hitting an innocent passer-by. We've even contemplated giving up food shopping and living off the grass in the backyard. (Of course, we've tried just not taking him, but sometimes circumstances just don't allow it. And leaving your two year old child in the car like a golden retriever is frowned upon.)

I've been asked to leave a shoe store after Monkey was discovered licking the entire front window of the store that was within his reach. All within the time limit it took me to turn my back on him to look at a cute pair of red pumps and think, just think, about trying them on.

Not everything is difficult. He is a better sleeper than Bug was (or is.) He's not a picky eater. He is happy 90% of the time. And we try to focus on these (and his overwhelming cuteness) anytime we start feeling our nerves being stretched a little too far.

We've had months of frustration, wondering if any of us would survive this time period. But then, he curls up on my lap, smelling of sunshine and grass and stuffed animals, asking for a story, and my heart just crumples inside. He looks up at me with his amazingly wide blue eyes and tells me I'm his best friend and I wonder how I ever get mad at him. I walk in the door after a 13 hour day and he runs up, grabs my legs, and says "I missed you and I've been good!" And I get an ache in my chest from the love I feel towards him.

Monkey turns three in a few weeks. We're not sure if we will be leaving the terrible twos behind or just entering the terrible threes.

What we do know, without a doubt, is that we are in for an adventure.

Slipping Away

Monday, August 3, 2009

The days until the start of school tick down. The evening comes sooner and dusk is shorter. Sun no longer pours through my bedroom window at 6 am. There are yellow leaves in the backyard, just a few, hiding away between the crowd of green, but they are there, just the same.

I can feel it.

The end of summer.

The days are still warm. The mosquitoes are still plentiful. The corn is still tall and rippling in the endless fields as we drive to the lake.

But it is still there.

The end of summer.

Summer ending makes me sad in a way nothing else really does. It is not the heartbreak of losing someone dear. It is not the twinge of sadness I get when I watch Finding Neverland. It is not the nearly crushing sadness that overcomes me when I'm sorting through boxes and find a picture of Bug or Monkey when they were just weeks, months old and I wonder where the time has gone and what did I do with it and how, why did I waste a second of it.

Summer ending is a diluted emotion compared to many of these. But real regardless. I feel some of the same ache that I wasted any of the sun laden days. That I will soon say good-bye to the hum of the evening insects, the rustle of the leaves, the glow of the fireflies, and the soft hush and ripple of the corn.

The season, that like so much of my life, I take for granted until it is gone.

I love fall with all the dynamics fall offers, everyday different. I can't help but smile when the first layer of quiet silver snow finally obscures the starkness of empty branches and bare ground. And I enjoy the energy and growth that each spring gives.

But summer...summer is my dearest friend.

Relaxed. Mellow. Good for me. Reassuring me that if I don't get to it today, it's okay, because it will still be there tomorrow. Tomorrow will still be warm, sunny, and happy.

But gradually, daily, I can feel it slipping away. My mind immediately jumps to fall, winter, spring. And now, even now, with the thick humid air still around me, I'm already looking forward to next summer.