Marina, welcome to the Patient Council. Please tell us about yourself and describe your personal experience of obesity:
My story is a story like that of many, a story intertwined with love and conflict with my mother. My mother was a cold woman, emotionally disconnected; now that I’m an adult I know she loved me as much as she was capable of loving, but this erases only part of my childhood pain.
The memories I have of her are only of attempts to please her, and personality upheavals and emotions so that my mother would see me, because my mother couldn’t love me. And it eventually became alarmingly clear that the only way to get her to notice me was by gaining weight.
I had no consciousness then. A young child deprived of a mother’s affection cannot understand the perversity of gaining attention finally by being supported by a dietician, identified by her mother, who put the child on a diet, and took an interest in her that to all the world might look like an unhealthy form of love.
The first dietician my mom brought me to asks: “Why bring her here, ma’am?” I was 17 years old and only a few pounds overweight. 3 pounds. 3 pounds that separated me from the love I craved. But losing the weight, I find that she still does not love me.
Control over my weight was manageable up to the time I was 25 years old. After 25, however, I could no longer manage the dieting yo-yo, the extra pounds become too much. Along with the weight grew my contempt for my mother. I began eating secretly, continuously, at every opportunity.
With my increasing weight my self hatred grew. I endeavoured to hide and become invisible; I dressed only in black or dark blue so the world could not see me.
Lies on lies: lies at home, lying to friends, lying to “experts;” I swallowed silent and desperate cries for help.
The years pass by and the anger and pain do not move from my heart; all the while my fat layer increases. I was happy and smiling on the outside and dead inside, with the classic, nervous and irritating “settlement”, giving in to a thousand compromises with yourself for any sign of love, so not to feel alone.
The lack of mother love sparked a frenzied emotional search for acknowledgement: “Look at me, I exist !!!”.
Always, I tried to be “as you want me”, a Marina that does not correspond to that buried in fat. Because Marina has lots to say NO, but she can never say NO to anyone, for fear that speaking out might deprive me of affection.
And then there were a series of family deaths, serious ones, the kind that’ll break your life into a thousand fragments, and you wonder if you shall ever manage to overcome them. My father died, as did my sister. My mother becomes sick, her illness imprisons her forever in a glass cage: Alzheimers disease.
The mother with whom I would argue, the mother who I was never able to really confront, was suddenly gone. She became a pile of bones, a hand that seeks yours, and trapped words.
“Mom where are you, how can I reach you?”
During this time, desperate for the magic wand to transform me from obesity to normal weight at the speed of light, I was lucky to find, in the most casual way, Amici Obesi Company (www.amiciobesi.it)
This opens up a world, and a new thought began to buzz in my head: I’m not bad or unloveable.
I’m not just a compulsive eater, I am compulsive in every area of my life. I am sick of compulsion 360 °. I decide to have bariatric surgery, specifically gastric banding, without delay.
It was 2004. I’m free, Mom cannot tell me what is right or wrong for me. I had reached a weight of nearly 136 kg. I’m always just looking for the magic wand.
In light of what we now know about managing obesity I sadly came to realise that I was just repeating behaviour I have experienced a thousand times in the past. I lost some weight, then a deadlock emerged. Not one gram of weight disappeared from my body. And I started looking for any way around it.
But why? Why not try to change some of the attitudes that led me to obesity?
I like to think of these most recent years of my life as a coming to consciousness, such a fantastic time that Marina is allowed, for the first time in her life, permission to be herself. So out with the black and blue dresses!
Amici Obesi is an immense help to me, and provides a place where I can meet a lot of people and test myself to see whether the Marina who is emerging makes sense, if the Marina who writes and interact on the forum is authentic.
And I am…protected by the digital world, protected by anonymity, I can really let let my story emerge.
I work a lot on myself, I experience a lot of Marine, and, slowly slowly, I begin to be more lenient with myself. Using every means to find myself: psychotherapy, reading, and many words …
Food still has enormous power over me, but I see it subside a bit more every day; it is no longer in charge. Every day that passes, I become a bit stronger and it is a bit weaker.
My new beginning led me to a gastric bypass surgery and the removal of the gastric band. With the second operation I lost 55 kilos, and I see myself without guilt, because I still feel like a fighter; I have to save myself. I know I can get better and, above all, I know, now, that my fat layer has lost its initial “utility.” I’m ready to live without this protection, I do not need more. I do not deny and reject it, as you deny past love: Obesity gave me a lot, and allowed me to be the person I am today and allows me to be able to say to that mother who is no longer alive: “I loved you so much, more than I ever thought I could”. Because only a great love could survive so much pain.
Tell us a bit about your country, Marina, and where you live:
I live in Italy, in a small town, Vercelli, beautiful countryside with rice fields.
Please share some of your favourite activities, hobbies, and interests:
My primary interest and my passion is information and treatment for obesity. I also love playing with my cats and dogs, I like listening to liri music, reading good books and writing.
I’ve written two books:
- Il peso irragionevole, (in English “Weight Unreasonable, Stories of Ordinary Obesity”) that you can read at http://www.amiciobesi.it/index.php/curarsi-2/news-obesita/item/224-il-peso-irragionevole-download
- Togliamoci il peso (in English “Let’s get weight: recognize and combat overweight and obesity”).
Please tell us what is, for you, the meaning of the word “obesity?”
- I’m not only a patient, I believe that simple and truly, I represent the disease.
- I am not only an economic cost, I am the daughter of our European failure in prevention; all of society has helped create obesity and we people with obesity have the right to treatment.
Because it is only when I talk about obesity am I certain you know what I mean, I feel authorised to do so, especially for people with obesity, because I am like them. I weighed 136 kg. I know is what obesity is for those affected, what it means, not only physically, but emotionally and in terms of pain, shame and guilt.
And you can not be guilty of an illness.
For our societies, across European nations, the very first step will be to accept obesity as a disease.
Years of obesity have taught me one thing, essentially: that no can understand obesity like another person with obesity.
We have to convince others like us to break the silence surrounding our disease, and the one and only way to do that is through association and discussion.
- In practice we have to fight for a right to treatment.
- We need the medical profession to recognise our illness.
- In addition, I think it is necessary to bring attention to the fact that obesity is a multifactorial disease.
There is no magic bullet. We need to treat each patient full circle: from psychotherapy to nutrition, and if necessary medication and surgery.
And then it is also essential, in my view, for human support from other patients, both real and virtual. Nothing gives you more strength and courage on the road to a new life than sharing and support from those who have been on the same journey. That’s why Amici Obesi Onlus exists in Italy. I hope to bring my knowledge and my experience to help other people who suffer from obesity.
I’m sure that together, we can make a real contribution!