Upon discharge from the hospital, I was given no medication and virtually no help. "Lose weight and bring down that blood pressure," cautioned one doctor, "or you'll never..." Embarrassed, he looked up into my young face, ruffled my hair, and walking down the hall, called back, "Take care now, hear?"
Knowing of no other alternatives, I did what I saw adults do then and what many still do today. I continued the same practices that had proved unsuccessful in the first place, promising myself that this time I would try harder.
I tried harder and harder and harder, but the results never improved. At fourteen they hospitalized me again, this time trying to determine the cause of headaches, foggy thinking, and an odd assortment of seemingly unrelated symptoms such as panic attacks and sweating. I was addicted to diet pills by this time and used the hospital stay as a chance to break the drugs' hold on me. Still, my doctors were intent on finding a cause for my neurological problems. Had they but checked my insulin and blood sugar levels after I ate high-carbohydrate foods, they would have uncovered the blood sugar swings that were causing these classic hypoglycemic responses. Instead, they did a multitude of brain scans and EEGs and were never able to find proof of the petit mal epilepsy they believed to be responsible for my symptoms.
Back at home, the torrent of teasing, ridicule, and humiliation that filled my every waking moment was unspeakable, and had I been able to do anything -- anything -- about it at all, I would have. And though doctors told my parents that I obviously didn't want to lose weight or I would have done so, they were terribly wrong.
To me, a typical adolescence would not have been a time of turmoil and distress. It was my fondest wish.
I know now that, like my parents and brother before me, I was the unfortunate victim of a physical imbalance that caused me to gain weight easily and to crave starches, snack foods, junk foods, and sweets with an intensity that I could hold off for only so long. My body ached for these high-carbohydrate foods, it screamed for them, and though at times I literally cried as I ate them, I could not stop myself. Sometimes I would eat them until I was sick, then fall into a semi-stupor of sleep or walk around in a kind of drugged fog.
My weight climbed, and the state of my health plummeted. By seventeen I weighed more than three hundred pounds. My blood pressure remained dangerously high, and my heart was unable to handle the strain. By my mid-teens I had developed an irregular heartbeat and a murmur; a young heart that should have been healthy and strong was literally being torn apart from within. Now any exertion brought heart pain. It was not long before I was diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes. In high school I spent most of my senior year at home, though I'm not sure whether I really felt ill or just wanted to avoid my classmates' unrelenting abuse.
The irony of this horrendous state of affairs is that I had done everything in my power to lose weight and get healthy. At nine years of age, I had a weekly appointment with a weight-loss doctor. I was a veteran of diets and diet pills by the time I was eleven. A year later I knew the calorie count of every food in the supermarket. From diet pills to diet pops, from cellulose cookies to calorie counting, I had tried them all before I had even hit my teens. Nothing worked.
With each new weight-loss approach, the story was the same. I would boost my motivation, talk myself into action and commitment, and be successful for a few days or a few weeks. Then, sooner or later, the cravings would return, and I would find myself out of control. With each attempt I became more frustrated, angry with myself, fatter, and sicker. I was clearly in a lose-lose situation with regard to just about everything. I couldn't give up, and it made no sense to keep trying. But keep trying I did--every new book, new approach, new diet. I would try it, and though with each new attempt I felt my enthusiasm wane, I still gave it my best. In the long run, I always failed. Then I'd wait until I couldn't stand it any longer, and I would try something new.
Excerpted from The Carbohydrate Addict's Healthy Heart Program by Richard & Rachael Heller/Frederic Vagnini. Copyright© 1999 by Richard & Rachael Heller/Frederic Vagnini. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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