In this Episode of Love your Diagnosis, I talk with Andi Herman about her diagnosis of Obesity and living with a relationship to food that was a tapestry of using it to self soothe, for comfort, but also feeling the effects of shame around it as well.
Andi struggled with her body image and relationship to food from a young age and that carried into adulthood. She tried a myriad of ways to stay at a healthy weight but nothing really worked for her......until she was pointed, rather awkwardly, into looking into lapband surgery.
For Andi this was a success and she shares the ins and outs of it in this episode.
You can email Andi here to ask her anything related to this here:
This is the book written by Andi's surgeon which I found helpful at the time but may be a little out of date now: https://www.amazon.com.au/The-Lap-Band-Solution/dp/0522854125
To find out some ways you can look at using traditional plants as part of your wellness journey particularly for brain enhancing herbs click on the link below
You can get my book here which is a raw and honest dialogue of how I went from completely using allopathic medicine to manage a diagnosis of epilepsy, to only using a small amount of medicine and managing the rest with lifestyle choices and other wonderful plant medicines and supplements
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A little side note:
These shows are meant to create food for thought for people going through similar situations. Planting seeds of information about things that perhaps you never knew could and might assist in treating and managing the symptoms associated with your diagnosis.
Alternative treatments are out there to be used, alongside allopathic medicine, or instead of.
That part is completely up to you, but gaining knowledge is the first part in empowering yourself back to health.
I really hope you get some good ol' nuggets of info from these interviews so you can go and start researching yourself and perhaps even start experimenting on the treatment that feels right for you instead of just letting someone else direct your health decisions.
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Thanks for listening and thanks for wanting to empower yourselves to be the best human you
All right. Welcome to the show, Andi Herman. The great thing about me interviewing Andi is that we went to school together, probably haven't really crossed paths since have we?
Not really not really, I guess I am I sort of, well, the one time we kind of do cross paths was when I read electro girl. And then within literally within a couple of days of finishing this, I witnessed someone I care about very deeply in my family, having his first grand mal seizure. It was like the timing was freaky. So we had a little bit of chitchat about that.
. Ye ah, the time that was like, very poignant.
Yeah,, because I'd actually done first aid courses, but years before, and it just, you know, little things like it was just that reminder that all I needed to do was, you know, keep him safe, and keep his head safe and do all that sort of stuff. So there were 25 family members standing around, we're at Brisbane Airport, on our way to a family holiday. And he dropped like a stone right in front of me. And everything I've read in your book just went straight into my brain. And I just went right, I know what to do right now. And it was awesome. And everyone else stood around going what's going on?
Oh, that totally makes it all worth it. Really good. Good, good, good. But this next moment in time is all about you, Andi, and I want to thank you for coming on, I basically will start with what is the diagnosis that you have lived with? How long ago was this diagnosis, you know, given to you, and a brief description of what it is,
it's pretty bloody straightforward. The doctors would have called my condition, obesity, I was fat, basically. Still am a bit but you know, not bad fat, it's all good. So we probably became friends. And we were about 11. And that was around the time I hit puberty. And every year, from there on, I just kept putting on a couple of kilos, just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And, you know, by the time I was 15, or 16, I'd been to Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, I'd had hypnotherapy to reduce my appetite. I've been on weight loss pills I'd done. You know, literally, as an adolescent with a growing body, I was doing all this shit to myself with support and blessing from my parents, and GP and whatnot, and getting all kinds of hideous messages about my body image and how it looked. And I was self soothing with food. So I just kept getting bigger and bigger.
So can you pinpoint because I was also quite an overweight teenager. I don't remember you being as big as you say that you were.
And I don't remember you being overweight at all. So there you go. How funny is that?
Was there something because I know where my body image stuff started from? Was there a significant point in your younger life, which you can remember was the catalyst for you going, I'm just gonna eat to soothe this.
Oh, I have absolute like, there are very particular memories that I have. Where I felt absolute shame about myself as an adolescent, there was a moment where I was holidaying with my family in Surfers Paradise. And there was a heap of kids from our school, we were all you know, and we're all just hanging out together and walk on the street. We were walking along and you know, Surfers is full of high rises and whatever. And there was this bunch of teenage boys, you know, and I would have been maybe 12 or 13, bunch of teenage boys hanging out their balcony window in their high rise, and we were walking past you know, and they're all wolf whistling and catcalling. And at the time, I actually didn't mind that it was nice to get a bit of positive attention until one of them yelled out, Oh, check out the fat one in the blue t shirt. And I looked down and looked around and realised that we're talking about me.
Yeah, absolutely. And it was devastating. It was absolutely devastating. You know, it's, it's fun, like that kid would have forgotten that comment five minutes later. But here I am. However, you know, 30 something years later, and it's I still remember that moment. Another one was when a guy who I really liked when I was a teenager, and he knew I really liked him, and we were good mates as well. And he sat me down and he said, you know, Andy, I think you could be really attractive if you lost some weight. And I know at the time that he was trying to be kind and he was saying nice things like you got such a pretty face and things like that. And he was he was trying to do it, a kind of thing. And it was again one of those moments that I have carried with me ever since it was an even you know, people who love you and care for you can say shit I don't think anything I'm saying I reckon there's, you know, probably a significant percentage of your listeners as opposed to other guests that you have who might be talking about unusual kind of conditions or illnesses or whatever. What I'm talking about, I think is very much human condition. And I think lots of people struggle with with their body image, whether it's because they haven't got enough muscles or they're too short, or they're too fat, or they're not pale enough for, you know, whatever it is that might be here or they've got pimples, that whole sense of self and who I am and like you were saying, before, that we were discovering about each other. Other people don't necessarily notice it to the same degree that you do.
That's right. We're terrible critics of ourselves. Well, I can't talk for everyone. But, you know, I know a lot of my friends and I am myself. And I seem I guess they call it body dysmorphia. You look in the mirror and you see something completely different to actually what you look like, like I've looked at photos of myself back in that day. And when I you know, there was there was that teenage chubbiness Yeah, but not at the time, I thought it was fat. And that was also like you're saying that got reflected back to me, by dude's our age that thought we were fat because we didn't look like the Playboy women that were in the mags that they were probably wanking to. So you know, like fuckin whatevs? Yeah. So you from a young age then carried this image of yourself? And I guess, Jenny Craig, all these weight loss things. Did you go to the gym? Yep. And nothing was working. And do you? Do you understand as an adult? Why that probably? Why it didn't work?
Probably because a) what would it mean for it to work? Like my body is to shape it is for a reason. And at the time in again, like you were saying, I look back at photos of myself at the time. I was healthy. I was fit. I was definitely curvier than the average teen girl I was friends with, but oh my god, what I wouldn't do for that figure now like I had then because I was fine. I was absolutely fine.
What age were you when you you know, you decided that you needed to just start accepting in your teenage years you had significant diet and body dysmorphia? Did that carry into your 20s into your relationships
100% 100% And especially because I did continue to gain weight. And I did continue to get bigger in a very unhealthy way. And you know, I've got to 110 kilos and I'm five foot five. So I was big as big girl.
When you say you did it in an unhealthy way. What do you mean by that?
In that first of all that it got to a stage where the actual weight gain was unhealthy. You know, I found myself looking at sort of population health studies and whatnot I was at higher risk of heart conditions, higher risk of diabetes, higher risk of various cancers all those sorts of things really unhealthy but also the way that my relationship with food was very unhealthy because it became shameful so I would you know drive to Maccas and get a couple of burgers and then drive to a little quiet street and sit and eat, lots of shame eating lots of sneaky eating, I still ate in front of other people but then I ate on myself.
You did that? Okay, do you think that was a way of you know, self harming you know, like, in this day and age self harming is a lot more obvious like with cutting and things like that for you was that a way of harming self
I actually for me, it was kind of the opposite. For me it was self soothing food with comfort. And still it's you know, food is eating is a is a lovely sensation, especially eating you know, high sugar and high fat, you know, chocolate ice cream, has got to be my favourite thing to eat. For me it was about it was it was an attempt to care for myself, rather than to harm myself
in all this weight gain. What time frame are we talking about? Are we talking about early 20s? And had you had relationships? Did you find men that did find you attractive?
sort of through my 20s through my teens and 20s First of all, I was not the girl that the boys chased. I had to do the chasing? If I wanted to get into a relationship.
I'm still doing it, Andy it's fucking annoying.
Yeah. I was ballsy and gutsy enough to get guys phone numbers and make the calls myself and ask them out. Sometimes it worked. And sometimes it didn't, because otherwise I'd be sitting at home. So towards the end of my 20s I met the guy who ended up as my long term partner and he's now my husband, but I was probably around sort of 90 Something kilos when we got together, and then I felt so happy and sort of settled in that relationship, I felt so comfortable and accepted that I didn't give a shit about what I just ate more, because it was lovely. And I was having a great time. And I got up to about 100 kilos, he didn't have an issue with it. I actually said to him, you know, I feel so comfortable with you. But I'm just, you know, I'm actually stacking on weight I said, you know, since we've been together, I put on about 10 kilos. And he went back concerns me purely from a health perspective, here's a guy who's got a long term congenital heart condition. So he works bloody hard to keep himself healthy and fit, because he just can't afford not to, because his heart won't take it. So he's very concerned about health and was quite concerned about that statement I made. And we could do something about that for him, he absolutely found me attractive in a larger way. And that was so validating. And so, you know, one of the things I loved about him,
it's quite beautiful, actually, that he wanted to educate you on a different level than what other people had been educating you on as that it was ugly, and revolting. And you know, but he was coming from a health perspective, which is, is an amazing thing to do. So what was the turning point for you, where you actually listened to him? And what what, what were the steps that you took from that?
So we had a couple of kids, when they were still quite little, I had a bit of depression I was struggling with with my mental health and my mood, and went along to see a psychiatrist who had been recommended very highly by friends. And he kept saying to me, Andi, you know, I think, you know, he's saying, he said, You're not going to buy me a Lamborghini, and you're just not that mentally ill. You're actually quite well and adjusted, and, and you're doing okay, and this is a blip. And Life is stressful at the moment, you got two little kids, he said, but to be honest, I reckon you need to lose weight. And this was coming from a psychiatrist. And he said, I think you need to get lap band surgery. And I just went, excuse me, like, I was floored and furious. And I thought, How fucking inappropriate and I've, in my professional life have worked in a mental health setting. And never in a million years what I've suggested anything like that to one of my clients,
did you tell him at the time you thought there was out of line? Or did you? Did you take it on and then leave and have a reaction to that afterwards?
I didn't quite know how to react in the moment. And then I left that appointment and felt like, No, I think you're wrong about that. And I actually went back for a couple of more sessions and said, No, I don't think that's what it's about. And then I just realised that he was shit. And I didn't, just didn't want to keep seeing him. But he'd put this little nugget in my brain. So I've kind of, you know, put that away, Stoped seeing him. And it was probably, you know, a couple of months later that I was in a shop with my daughter who would have been about 18 months old at the time. And so I was carrying her in my arm. It was a spring and probably mid 20s. And as I would do at the time, when it was mid 20s, I was sweating like a pig because I just couldn't, my body hated the heat. So I'm carrying this kid and I was carrying a bag and I needed to get something out of my bag to get the shop. So I just popped her down on the floor and squatted down so I could rummage in my bag. And one of the shop assistants came running up to me and said, Hey, you Okay, nice. Yeah, fine. Why she said, I just thought I thought you were having a heart attack, oh my gosh, she saw this very pale, very clammy, sweaty woman, all of a sudden drop to the floor. And she was concerned. And that that, for me was a massive moment where I just went, fuck, I am not going to live to see my grandchildren. If I don't do something about this. That's when the lap band comment came back to me and I thought, Okay, I'll have a look. I'll check it out. I'll do some research. And probably about six months later. That's what I ended up doing. I never went back to that psychiatrist, because I still think it was completely out of line. But yeah, that's that's what I ended up doing. And I was about 110 kilos by that stage.
had he put you on medications?
For my depression? No, no, he I didn't I wasn't on on medication at the time. I don't think,
I mean, I am now I'm a big fan of a holistic approach to mental health and whatnot. And so I have no qualms with having medication as part of the mix.
Okay, so so there were no pharmaceuticals at the time and what's involved in a lap band surgery.
Well, basically, it's a surgery where there's lots of search different surgeries that you can have these days which restrict your capacity to eat or to digest food in in some way. But LapBand was the one that I liked the look of what it basically does is imagine your stomach is blowing up a balloon. And then imagine squeezing the very top of that balloon with your with your fingers like a doughnut, and it creates a little bubble at the top. And that becomes your new stomach capacity.
Wow. So tiny portion control with
exactly, it's a built in portion control. And what I liked about it is that it wasn't cutting away any parts of my anatomy, it wasn't changing any parts of my anatomy, if I ever one day decide to have it out my body will physiologically be exactly how I was born. Another thing I really liked about it is that donut, at the top that's holding the little stomach, it still has an opening so that the food can get through to be digested. But it is actually like a doughnut, and it's filled with saline. And that saline Donuts has a little tube coming from it to a port that just sits under the muscle of my stomach. So I can just with a little injection from someone who knows what they're doing, I can add or take away a bit of saline, which tightens or loosens it very, very simply. So for example, if I was, what I found out the hard way that travelling on overseas flights, where you go up very high in the air, and the air pressure changes significantly, and it makes my lap band way too tight. So before I go on flights, I have to have it loosened otherwise,
yeah, otherwise, what so what are the tight lap band actually do? Does that mean you just can't eat anything.
So if that little stomach isn't letting any of the chewed food through, then it starts to pile up into my oesophagus. And it's like the world's worst heartburn and reflux. So basically, it has to I have to vomit it up. And so I can't swallow anything if the lap bands too tight,
fascinating. And and how many years? Have you had it in there now?
So that was November 2007? So that's almost exactly 14 years now?
And do you feel like you're at a weight now that you just are really happy with? And you don't want to rock the boat? This Is it? You're gonna keep it in there?
Yes, is the answer basically, that anecdotally, or first of all, I know lots of people who've had lap bends and who haven't had the positive outcome that that I've had. So it's not for everyone. But I've been one of the lucky ones who's actually managed to use it to get myself to a healthy range. Although technically, if you look at the BMI studies, they still they still describe me as obese at the weight I am now. But I'm actually healthy. The biggest thing for me was when the doctor who has been managing my checkups and stuff for the Lap band, the doctor, so she knows about such things, I got to a BMI, or body mass index or whatever, where she said, your risk for cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, whatever, is now the same as the general population. And that for me was huge. Just all those you know, getting back to a situation where my weight wasn't contributing to the likelihood of me becoming ill or not being able to, you know, parent, my children. So that was huge, at a more superficial level, just being able to shop at normal clothing stores, being able to walk into any clothing store and be you know, go for the large and the extra large sizes there. But I couldn't even consider shopping at a normal clothing store before
let alone buying online. Good god what a head fuck that is for your not average sized woman. That's right. You know? So what are some of the negative things that can happen that can go wrong with lap bands?
Look, lots of things. There are people who have complications with the surgery in the first place. People who you know, within weeks of having their first surgery have to go back in to get things removed or fixed or whatever, which is, you know, it's pretty major surgery. So I was lucky I didn't have to deal with any that everyone I've spoken to who's had a lap band has had a really different experience with it. For me, it's really affected my what I can eat with my diet. So it's not just the quantity, it's the it's the texture and quality of the food. But all right, this is kind of gross thing to ask you to imagine but if you imagine what bread is like after you've chewed it, and it's got lots of saliva in there, and it's kind of like a like a stodgy, bulky kind of stopper that sitting in your oesophagus I can't do really much bread at all, or biscuits or anything like that. Sometimes I say to myself, fuck it, it's worth it. I'll probably have to chuck it up later, but God I really want that piece of cake or whatever it is. But so I struggled with those sort of heavy stodgy cabbie things. I can't eat a steak, you know, or any kind of like red meat like that I could eat like minced meat. You know, some of the difficulties with it is that it can change what you can eat. Y ou know, a common thing is a lot of vomiting. And I still do have a fair bit of vomiting. And that means I have to be on a medication that stops any kind of burning of my oesophagus.
What's that called?
It's called Nexium.
Okay? That's for reflux, isn't it?
Yeah, exactly. And part of the problem is, is if you don't have as much food and the same variety of food going in, then it can impact on things like your nutritional status. So I really struggled to keep my iron levels up, because I'm having struck trouble eating red meat. And I've always had difficulty keeping my iron levels up at the best of times. So I have every couple of years, I'll have an iron infusion. Yeah. So it's different for different people.
So the beautiful thing, though, Andy, is that as you've gone along, you've learned what you can contribute to keeping this in place, because this is something that you're enjoying, it's working for you. And I guess you can never take for granted that everything's gonna work all the time as you as we age, and you know, things like that. So you're also taking responsibility with lifestyle choices as well, such as diet, what about exercise?
certainly every health care provider I've ever spoken to has been very encouraging. husband too, I just hate it, I really hate it. But, but you know, every now and again, I'll do the couch to 5k. And I'll get there and then, you know, and then winter comes and it's too cold. And you know, and I end up back on the couch, you know, I have a fraught relationship with exersice. But every now and again, I'd give it give it a go. It's not really me. I think fortunately, things have changed. And there's a whole lot of media, I mean, you know, it hasn't completely changed, it probably hasn't changed enough. But there are certainly people out there, there are role models, and you know, people like Lizzo, who is, you know, you watch the dance routines, she does for like 40 minutes on stage and singing at the same time and rapping and doesn't lose a beat. She's fit and healthy, and big, and fabulous. So there's all these different kinds of media representations at the moment, which really influences I think, how kids can feel about themselves,
and she can twerk like a motherfucker, she can unbelievable, better than I can.
But But having said this, so so for me with my kids, I very much try and focus on talking about being healthy. It's not about how you look, it's not about what size clothes you wear, it's about having a healthy diet, and having, you know, a range of colours on your plate. So that you know, you maintain a reasonable level of health.
So moving forward, are you exactly where you want to be? Or is there still things that you need to address psychologically about this for yourself?
I think I see myself physically, in the healthiest light I ever have, Since hitting puberty, you know, I have no issues with putting on a, you know, a size 18 pair of bathers and go to the beach, because I feel fantastic. I feel healthy and comfortable. And ultimately, I don't give a fuck what anyone thinks about how I look except possibly my husband, and he loves the way I look. I'm a bit anxious about generally the messages I'm potentially sending with this podcast, though, because I know that there are plenty of people, friends of mine who are big, curvy, fabulous and healthy, physically and psychologically healthy women. I don't at all want to come across as being fat shaming, or that this is about you know, demonising people for being you know, lazy or eating the wrong things or whatever. But that's 100% not what this is about. This is just about what was right for me with my health and my self perception.
Yes, exactly. That's all it is. And I guess it this is about what worked for you what makes you feel healthy. Through your lenses you you know you can have find acceptance within within your and we'll call it a diagnosis because Obesity is is a health issue. It's such a shit word though, basically, because when I think of the word obesity, I think of like morbidly obese I don't look at the BMI. I think the BMI is a load of shit really, to me. Personally, I have one item of clothing that I put on and if I don't fit into that, then I know I have to fucking stop eating. Yep. And I do I do it by that now the scales are kind of out the window, although I check in every now and then.
Is it a piece of clothing that it changes depending on if it's just come out of the dryer or?
No, it's depending on how much chocolate I eat. Yeah. One of the last with the last question to ask is would you say that you love your diagnosis would you say that you Love the fact that you can identify as having an issue with your weight and totally own it.
I look to be honest, I don't know that I have positive or negative relationship with that kind of diagnosis. Because like you say, you know, the BMI is a load of shit. ,Unless you're just talking. For me, it's about my own personal fluctuations that does, it just gives me an indicator on a scale about where I'm at, you know, do I love the fact that I've been a person with obesity in my life? Probably not life probably would have been easier and perhaps more fun if I hadn't been. But you know, there's so many what ifs? And you know, would I be with the husband, I'm with now who, you know, I adore and have the kids I've got now who I adore. And, you know, maybe things would have been different if I had been a different shape. So I don't know, I don't know, I don't, I don't feel I don't hate it, but I don't love it. It's just It just is.
And if anyone's listening because this is not gender specific, this goes out to all the 48 different genders that they're registered. Now, you know, for anyone thinking of maybe getting a lap band or or in the same position that you were in any advice? Any tips?
Absolutely, I think get more than one opinion, see more than one surgeon. If you've got a good, ideally, you've got a good relationship with a GP who can talk to you about a range of options and send you to some different people. So the first the first surgeon, I went and saw, I said to him, I'd really quite like to talk to some people who've had it, people who've had positive experiences, but also people who've had hiccups along the road is Can you hook me up with that at all? He said, Sure, sure, ask the girls at reception, they'll they'll, they'll make that happen. So I did. And not only did I never get a call from anyone, I never got a call back from them to follow up and how you doing if you made a decision, whatever. So back to my GP I go, and she put me on to another surgeon who had a completely different ethos, they wouldn't the surgeon wouldn't even have a meeting with you until you'd been to to have their information evenings, where they had speakers and people who'd had it, and also, you know, information from nurses about how the surgery goes and all that sort of stuff. And I said to them, Look, I've actually already seen the surgeon and I've, you know, this is Do I really need to do that they said you absolutely do. And they also guarantee that after you've had your surgery that you can go back every week, every six months, every year, whatever till the rest of the rest of your life, and you will always be bulk billed because they want to encourage people to maintain a relationship and to stay, you know, involved and keeping on top of what's happening with their health and their diet and their lap band and so now if I ever need an adjustment or just want to talk to somebody about, you know, an issue, I'm having a go, I see my, my doctor who by training is a GP, but she specialises in this area and and I get bulk billed and I can do that for the rest of my life. Whereas that first surgeon, you know, there's no follow up and you know, I think that makes a huge difference is the quality of care.
That's great. That's been a common theme in my in all of the interviews that I've done is really about the professionals the health professionals. Thanks for sharing cuz you know, you that could be a shaming thing as well but you're loud and proud and doing this and, and I'll just share with the listeners we used to we used to think Andy was the Molly Ringwald of our school. For anyone that grew up in the 80s you'll know who Molly Ringwald is, she was like the hot bitch of the movie world and, and most of us thought that Andy had a doppleganger. well thank you for taking the time out from from saving the planet to tell your story because there would be lots of people in your same similar situation, just maybe not talking about it as openly and confidently as you as well.
And if people are interested in asking me questions or anything like that, I'm happy for you to put my Facebook handle on on the podcast or whatever. And I'm not necessarily going to become your Facebook friend, but I'll you know, I'll answer messages and stuff like that.
Bewdy. We'll put that in the link in any links, any any links to things that helped you. I might grab off. All right, well, let's wrap that up or lap it up.
Unknown Speaker 29:26
Have you been planning that for a while. Not at all.
Thanks. It's nice to chat with you. Really nice
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