Monday, November 10, 2014

A Devastating Discovery

Since I started my adventure towards health this fall, I've made a number of changes to how I eat. Smaller meals, more vegetables, that sort of thing. Part of the whole deal is working with a doctor, and that involves medication. Medications come with side effects.

I thought everything I was feeling was related to that whole process. I had chalked it all up to medication side effects, to more vegetables, to my body getting used to eating smaller meals and not being able to eat as much food as I did before.

I was feeling sick to my stomach after almost every meal. I never actually threw up or anything, but it was very uncomfortable. As a person who was used to eating very large meals, this was difficult. So I stopped eating huge meals. Then I started having issues with feeling hungry. And I couldn't tell if I was hungry or sick. And I would eat a piece of candy and feel like I wanted to vomit, so there was clearly something wrong.

Then, one day, I ate some Ben & Jerry's ice cream and had a very strange reaction. My mouth got tingly, like what I hear a mild allergic reaction is like. It's kind of like the "pins and needles" feeling you get when your hand or foot falls asleep, only not quite. I also really didn't feel good. I assumed it was because I finished the pint of ice cream anyway, despite the tingles. It still tasted good. It just felt weird.

That was the first time I noticed it.

Then I noticed it again, when I was at work. It was my tongue, lips, and up into my nose that felt all tingly this time. So, naturally, I went to WebMD and entered my symptoms into their little symptom checker thing (never do this). It told me that it was most likely that I was having a "transient ischemic attack," or a "mini-stroke." Basically, it's like a stroke, but the symptoms just last a few minutes. However, if you have one of these, it means that you are at a high risk of having a real stroke in the near future. Usually I just laugh at what WebMD says I might have (once it said I had postpartum depression), but this was while I was on antibiotics for cellulitis - so it could be that what I thought was cellulitis had been a blood clot after all and it had traveled up into my brain and was in the process of giving me a stroke. I had gone through all of this in my mind.

But it lasted more than a few minutes. It lasted more than an hour. And I didn't have any other symptoms of a stroke. Just the numbness/tingling feeling. The upset stomach I constantly feel is unrelated to a stroke.

Yesterday, I figured out the missing link. It's a food that I eat almost every day. Every time I feel the tingles in my mouth, the upset stomach, I ate the same food. Sometimes it's worse than other times, and I'm pretty sure I know why.

Every  morning at work, I have a Luna bar for breakfast. The flavor? Chocolate-dipped Coconut. The piece of candy I ate that made me want to vomit? Reese's Peanut-butter cup. The thing I ate on Saturday that made me feel so bad that I had to stay home and miss a party on Saturday night? One piece of super delicious 60% cacao dark chocolate. My mouth tingled for hours after that. Hours. I was fine before it.

Chocolate is the culprit. The darker it is, the worse I feel. I'm going to have to give it up.

This is one of the saddest realizations of my life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Diet Coke

I quit drinking Diet Coke on 1/1/14.

Today it is 10/1/14, and I haven't had a drop in between.

I've had sugary sodas (who knew - I actually like sugary Pepsi more than sugary Coke!), and I've developed an affinity for iced tea. But I've avoided all diet drinks.

In a full 9 months, here are the changes I have noticed:

- I have gained weight (just a few pounds, less than 10)
- I get mild toothaches occasionally
- Based on lab results from doctor's visits, my glucose levels indicate I am now "pre-diabetic"

That's it. I thought it would have some sort of effect on my headaches in the long term, but it hasn't.

I still think about my old friend Diet Coke nearly every day. I stand in front of the vending machine at work. I know I should get a fizzy water. What I want is Diet Coke. I usually end up with a Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea.

After giving up booze in 2013, I noticed that I didn't miss it much except for certain situations. Ball games. Parties. And the main reason I quit - heartburn - was actually resolved by not drinking. I only got heartburn after gorging myself on Mexican food. I started drinking again in 2014, though in much smaller quantities.

I've started seeing a doctor about my weight. When I told her that I stopped drinking Diet Coke (and pretty much all artificial sweeteners in the process), she seemed surprised. And I'm well aware that I replaced it with something worse (sugar). But I do choose actual sugar (as opposed to high fructose corn syrup) when I have the option. And sometimes I do take the fizzy water. Or unsweetened iced tea. But the doctor seemed to imply that while sugar is a natural ingredient, in the case of sodas, a person like me might be better off with the chemicals.

I started seeing a dietitian, as well, in conjunction with the weight loss doctor. She's very nice. She was also baffled by my choice to replace a zero-calorie beverage with something high caloric. I explained what I did with alcohol last year. I told her that I want to finish out the year this year, for the sake of my goals. I don't want to back down. She understood this. She asked if I would start drinking Diet Coke again in January.

After hearing the reactions from two medical professionals (an MD and a licensed dietitian), I have decided to take up Diet Coke again in the New Year much in the same way I took up alcohol again this year. I'll consume it sparingly. Hopefully a year without it will have taught me to savor it when I get to have it. I don't want to deprive myself entirely, because I'm always going to want something sweet to drink - I've been drinking sweet things for far too long to change that habit now. I will still avoid buying cases of it to keep in my house - I haven't done that in a long time because then I won't drink any water at all. I learned that lesson. But I'll also try not to drink it every day at work. Hopefully I've come far enough that I can live without it most days.

I know a lot of you are going to be disappointed to hear this. The stuff is basically poison. I know that. But at the same time, while an addict, I never really consumed the vast quantities that really seemed dangerous in the long run. I would have a can at work (two on a bad day), then a couple 20-oz bottles on the weekend. If I went out to eat, I would order a Diet Coke. And that's it. It's not that bad.

Man. All this talk about Diet Coke is making my mouth water. 3 more months to go...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Day in the Life

Here’s a little bit about what it’s like being a fat person.

Today at work, we had a taco lunch for Cinco de Mayo. I LOVE tacos. They’re one of my favorite foods. I ate 3 tacos and had some chips and salsa. There were also a couple piƱatas filled with candy, so I took a handful of Tootsie Rolls after they had all fallen to the floor.

As people started leaving the lunchroom, the organizers of the lunch announced that there were plenty of taco fixings left. Everyone grumbled something about how full they were and went back to their desks. I was part of this “everyone.”

Though, in all honesty, I could eat another taco. Probably another two or three tacos. But I’m not doing it because I’m already the biggest person in the office. I don’t need to draw attention to myself.

I don’t get bullied around here. People here know me well enough, and I know they respect me for who I am and the work that I do. They know me on a personal level, and that’s great. But I still find myself doing things like restricting my taco intake for the sake of the image I present to others. I don’t want them to be thinking “of course Becky is eating another taco! All she does is eat!” even though they’d never say it out loud. I won’t give them that fuel.

Even though, for all I know, they aren’t thinking that sort of thing at all.

These are the things you think about when you’re a fat person.

Hmm, now that everyone has cleared out of the lunch room, I think I might go heat up another taco…

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rape in Gamer Culture

I was playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn over the weekend, as I often do. It’s a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). For those of you who are unsure what that means, it’s basically a big virtual world (usually in some sort of sci-fi/fantasy setting) where thousands of players from around the world create characters and have fun adventuring, killing monsters and finding treasure. Perhaps you’ve heard of World of Warcraft. This game is similar to that.
It was Sunday morning, and I was running a dungeon instance for some in-game currency.  This means that I was placed onto a separate server with a group of 7 other people, possibly from a number of different servers than the one I regularly play on. Once you’re in the instance, you don’t really have contact with the rest of the game and the 8 of you make up a party all fighting for a common goal, working towards defeating the boss at the end of the instance.
The party is made up of 8 players: four damage dealers, who do the bulk of the killing; two tanks, who wear heavy armor and take all the damage to save the others; and two healers, who try to keep the whole team alive. I was playing as a damage dealer. The instance we were running was familiar to all of us, and we were all just running it to get our daily allotment of in-game currency. We were trying to get through as quickly as possible.
Inevitably, one of the damage dealers makes a mistake and dies. The character’s lifeless body is in a heap on the ground. Even though the character is dead, he can still speak with the rest of the party via the chat box on the screen. He tells the healers that he died so they would have something to do (up until this point it had been a clean run and no one had died). Then he tried to make a joke.
“They raped me,” he typed.
In gamer culture, this is not uncommon. If a particular boss is giving someone a beating, it’s not unusual for the person to say that they are being raped by the boss. It always makes me uncomfortable. If someone complains about something not going their way, they are said to be “butthurt” about the topic. I hate this just as much.
But on Sunday when I was playing, and this person said that he was essentially raped to death, it didn’t stop. The rape talk continued. One of the tanks chimed in, adding more “jokes” about rape and being raped. After it went on for about 10 more minutes, I had to do something.
I had a few options: I could have turned off the chat log and ignored it. I could have dropped out of the duty. But I didn’t want to turn off my chat log because I might have missed something actually necessary for completing the dungeon (there is one fight in the instance that works best if you coordinate with your teammates, and party chat is the only way to do that). I didn’t want to drop out of the duty because then I would have missed out on the in-game currency (the only reason I was in there in the first place). So I chose option C: speak up.
“Can we please stop with all the rape talk?” I asked.
I was then told (by the original offender, referred to now as Player D) that I had too much emotion associated with the word – that “rape” was just a word and I needed to get over it.
Then I decided I needed to give a lecture. I’m paraphrasing here, but I said that our culture (meaning gamer culture in general) tends to trivialize rape, which teaches people that it’s ok to rape people. But it’s never ok.
Player D replied and said that our culture isn’t teaching people that it’s good to rape.
I replied that I wasn’t saying that people thought that rape was good, just that the way everyone talks about rape so casually was telling people that it was ok to do it and that they could get away with it. That it happens far more often than is reported. And it is never ok.
Player D had another retort for me, and again told me that I needed to take the emotion out of the word.
I decided at this time that my words were falling on deaf ears, and I said one last thing. “Just remember that you never know if someone you meet has been the victim of sexual assault. And that’s all I’m going to say about the matter.”
At that point, Player D apologized, in a half-assed way. “Sorry if I offended you,” or something like that. But he kept making jokes and snide remarks throughout the rest of the dungeon.
Final Fantasy XIV has a system in place where if you’re in a dungeon instance with other random players, after it’s concluded, you can award a player commendation to the person you felt was the MVP. Most of these points are awarded to tanks and healers because of the nature of their jobs. As a damage dealer, I rarely got any commendations. Player D was joking at the end that he probably wasn’t going to get any commendations.
I awarded my commendation to the healer who kept his mouth shut during the dungeon. I was personally awarded two commendations, which was interesting. Perhaps my message got through to people.
Even so, after the instance concluded, I went to add Player D to my blacklist (an in-game function so you never have to see messages from that person again), but he wasn’t from my server, so it wasn’t an option. I reported him for harassment, though. Square Enix, the company that makes the game, takes these reports very seriously, so I hope I taught Player D a lesson.

Here’s the thing: in gamer culture, rape talk is commonplace. The community is mostly made up of young males in their teens and twenties (though the age range is growing as the general gaming populace is aging), but I happen to know many women who play this particular game, and I know more women who play others. Women are also a growing demographic in games.
We women gamers need to take a stand. Men, you need to get involved, too. We can’t let the rape talk continue. I don’t care what Player D said back in that dungeon. I stand by what I said. The prevalence of rape talk in our culture is teaching our boys and young men that rape is normal. That it’s trivial. That it’s a part of life. That offenders can do it and get away with it. That if you are raped, it’s meaningless, and that it was probably your fault.
It’s not “just a word.” We need to stop seeing it as that, and we need to stop using it that way. It has to have meaning, emotion, feeling. Because otherwise how will anyone know how awful it really is? How will we learn if it’s just treated as a joke?
A friend of mine posted a question on Facebook the other day. She asked that if we had just one wish for the world right now, what would it be. I said mine was that I wish that no woman anywhere would ever again have to live in fear of violence or abuse.
So I beg: please, if you hear about someone casually joking about rape, say something. Speak up. Tell them that the jokes aren’t funny.  Speak up. Have a voice. Someone will listen. The more we speak up, the more people will listen. Then we can start to see change.