Friday, January 7, 2011

I hurt myself today

Paul Mason, pictured at nearly 1,000 pounds.
I ran on to an article while surfing around Facebook today and it really made me think about some of the things I've already said on this blog. I don't proclaim to be an expert on this subject and I certainly don't hold a degree in psychology; however, I believe there is much more than just "I want to eat too much" driving the compulsive eater to binge. Treatment for this disorder is more complex than just "eat this" and "do that." I believe Paul Mason is saying the same thing.

Below is a summary of the article with a link to read the full story.

The world's fattest man wants to fight obesity: with a lawsuit.

Paul Mason, who once weighed almost 1,000 pounds, is blaming the NHS (Britain's public health system) for sending him to dietitians who merely told him to lose weight -- but didn't identify his problem as an eating disorder, British newspaper the Sun reported.

The former postal worker told the Sun that when he went to the NHS for help with his eating as early as 1996, he was told to "ride your bike more."
I think what I found most shocking, or perhaps not shocking at all based upon my own personal experience as an obese person, was the lack of compassion and understanding about this disorder. In our society (said broadly to incompass most of the western world) food addiction is looked upon as just gluttonous behavior. We seem to have a better understanding about other substance abuse issues like alcoholism and drug abuse but lack knowledge when it comes to food abuse. In turn, which is the point Mr. Mason is trying to make, doctors are not offering viable and helpful solutions to the obesity problem.

His doctor's "ride your bike more" solution is equally as insufficient as Nancy Reagan's "just say no" anti-drug campaign of the 1980's and early 90's. While there is a possibility that his motives rest with monetary gain, I'm hoping the true motive is to do just as he says and that is raise awareness about an issue that is eating at (pun intended) at least 400 million adults as estimated by the World Health Organization. This is not a little issue! Yet, doctors are offering very little support when comparing this addiction to others like it.

Now, mind you, I do not proclaim to believe that every person packing on a few extra pounds in that 400 million statistic has a food addiction nor an eating disorder. Someone who overindulges slightly, gains a few extra pounds but for the most part does not have an unhealthy relationship with food, is more than likely not a food addict. Certainly advice to just get a little more active and try watching what they eat would be acceptable. This is much like asking someone who is not an alcoholic, who may drink more than the recommended 7 or 8 drinks per week to just cut back a little. However, one would not tell a raging alcoholic, who consumes a case of beer per day, to just stop drinking and feel that was adequate enough advice to curb the abusive behavior. This is the equivalent of what Mr. Mason's doctors did with him for years. Offering little to no true solutions for someone who has a disorder of this magnitude.

Our society has advanced greatly with acknowledging the importance of mental health and we've made great strides in the treatment of substance abuse. Absolutely there is an element of personal responsibility; but I think in our time it is a well known fact that most addicts need the support and resources of others to finally get the monkey off their backs.  This is where Mr. Mason's doctors failed.

From the sense of awareness, I applaud Mr. Mason for his efforts to bring this issue to the forefront of his government health care system. Unfortunately, based upon the public opinion, I'm not sure how successful he will be. It is going to take many of us to build a network of support and compassion. Perhaps one day, as an RN, I will be able to bring these issues to light within the system. For now, I'll just keep on writing.

Now, a look into a substance abuser's mind. Listen to the lyrics and grasp the cyclical self-torment. Not to be overly dramatic but eating disorders are a form of self abuse and self hate, which isn't too far away from the actions of the heroin addict.

No comments:

Post a Comment