My name is Renetté McDaniel and when I am not working as an Events Co-ordinator, I am developing healthy recipes, loving my friends and family (and my cat) and writing a book on my journey into a holistic healthy lifestyle.
At my heaviest in 2014, I was a few grams short of 150 kilograms. I had absolutely no idea why I was so different to everyone else. Why was I such a greedy-guts? Why could I never follow through on a diet? Why am I such a LOSER? Why did I become such a fat slob? What was wrong with me?
My addiction to food only started in 1994, when against all odds in 1993, I fell pregnant with my son Roan and at thirty four weeks, on an early and balmy Wednesday morning in January, my little unborn boy gave up his long struggle with life and passed away.
I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia in the twelfth week of my pregnancy and he had really suffered for a long time. The day he died, he had pushed up right into my diaphragm. I had terrible heartburn which kept me awake all night.
I remember sitting in the lounge with my three cats sleeping around me having a little chat with my son. Two weeks before, the scans had shown that his head was starting to lag behind in development which spelt trouble for little Roan. The human body is a wondrous and fantastic thing and in the event of something going wrong with the development of the foetus, the development of the head will always get priority over the rest of the body. My gynaecologist had said that, in his opinion, Roan would not survive full term and suggested that we do an emergency Caesarean Section at thirty six weeks.
After trying to fall pregnant for about two years and at twenty seven years of age, after only a month of hormone therapy for non-ovulation, I found out that I was five weeks pregnant. I was the happiest person on the planet. I walked around with a goofy grin on my face as if I had a delightful secret and within a couple of weeks, I was wearing pretty maternity wear and had the baby’s nursery sorted.
I had read that babies developed better if they had bright colours surrounding them in their nurseries so I had chosen a soft white fabric with brightly coloured clowns, with small bowler hats, oversized shoes and pom-poms down the front of their clown-suits, juggling brightly coloured balls and riding on tiny red bicycles, which I made the curtains and bed-linen for my son’s nursery and wooden cot of. I had purchased a gorgeous second-hand wooden rocking chair which I restored by scraping it down and painting it white with lead-free paint. I sat in the rocking chair whenever I had the chance, softly talking to Roan and listening to Mozart.
I think that Roan would have been a good son and strangely enough, I knew exactly when I conceived him and I knew instinctively that I was carrying a boy and on this particular and fateful morning, I was sitting in the lounge, on the couch he was conceived on eight months earlier and I was incredibly worried as Roan’s gossamer butterfly movements were already very faint. The frightful thought that maybe he was struggling to stay alive suddenly sprang into my increasingly worried mind.
I lost Roan
Cradling my belly, I was telling Roan how brave he was when I felt him move away from my diaphragm. I was very worried that I had inadvertently given my son permission to die. I was starting to panic and extremely worried that my son had actually died so I got dressed, got into my car and rushed over to my gynaecologist’s offices. I was waiting for him to open his doors at 06h00.
Sadly foetal demise was confirmed and I remember the hot and uncontrollable tears streaming down my face as I violently wept driving to my husband’s workshop to give him the sad news a few hours later.
My heart was shattered. What did I do wrong? Could I have saved him by eating other food? Was I too active? Should I have stayed in bed that night? What could I have done to save my little boy?
My gynaecologist opted for me to give natural childbirth as opposed to a Caesarean Section because he advised that I was mentally strong enough to handle natural childbirth and warned that a C-Section was a major operation. He said that if we opted for a C-section, I would have to recuperate from the physical operation for many weeks whilst also trying to recuperate from the emotional trauma I went through. He thought it was too much and that I should agree to natural childbirth. What I did not know, and what he failed to tell me is that a pre-eclampsia natural childbirth was deemed very dangerous by the medical profession at that time and that I could have stroked with the high blood pressure I had.
I was in labour for 36 hours before I gave birth to Roan and I went home from the hospital the next morning, empty armed but carrying more sorrow than I had thought possible for a mortal psyche to cope with. My sadness was like a nightmare in which I was either drowning in dark, black mud or caught up in an evil and sadistic tornado being thrown around mercilessly like a rag doll with no way of calming the viciousness down or getting out of the never-ending cesspool and abyss of grief.
My sorrow was a cloying, heavy darkness that ruled my life for years to come. I felt as if I wanted to scream out to the world “JUST STOP! My son has died and you have the audacity to go on regardless!”
Thinking back, I am sure that my loss and the whole experience of giving birth to my dead son screwed my mind up so much that I became obsessed with taking whatever I wanted. Somehow, I found comfort in food and I think that I became a hoarder of food – always scared that I was not going to have enough. It was an insatiable madness! The sense of ‘not having’ was something that had put my mind into a very eerie, obsessed and hedonistic space. I used food as filler for the holes in my heart, life and my soul. Food made me feel better temporarily and mealtimes reminded me of love and warmth, like the meeting of an old friend whom you hadn’t seen for a long time.
Having a genetic blood condition, I had to take Warfarin (a blood thinner) and couldn’t eat a lot of green leafy vegetables because they are high in vitamin K (which clots your blood) so I simply ballooned over the years and basically became a meat and potatoes girl.
Anyone who has ever been obese or overweight will tell you that it comes with its own set of issues.
It seems as if we blame everything on our obesity. I did not get the job – must be because I am fat. My husband shouted at me – must be because I am fat. My boss hates me – must be because I am fat. The cat had kittens – must be because I am fat.
Healthy, normal weighted people do not know the intricate issues that come with being overweight (and why would they?) and I am listing the issues I had and I am sure that some people reading this story can relate to some of these points.
- The constant tiredness
- Fear of breaking the toilet
- Physical exercise is difficult both emotionally and physically
- Fat people usually shower because they cannot fit into their baths
- Wiping your bum gets more difficult the fatter you get
- Blow drying your hair where you reach the hair on top of your head gets more difficult the fatter you get
- Fat people cannot cross their legs
- It is painful to kneel
- We have a fear of falling or fainting because we are scared that nobody would be able to lift us
- Our knees and feet are almost always painful
- We cannot pamper ourselves because beauty treatments and spas are embarrassing because we cannot easily get onto treatment tables, lie on our backs for too long and they do not make towels and gowns big enough
- Deep muscle massage is almost impossible and usually quite painful
- Sleeping is painful because however you lie, some part of your body is under the strain of your bulky weight
- We prefer to sit on a chair to sitting on the ground because we cannot get up without help
- Getting in and out of cars, especially high bakkies, is a nightmare
- Fat people experience both physical and emotional pain on a daily basis
- Clothes shopping is very difficult and nice or pretty clothes for the fuller figure is hard to come by
- Underwear for the larger bust is usually in black, white or nude and is not very feminine or sexy. The phrase “Over the shoulder boulder holder” comes to mind
- We all usually suffer from experienced cellulite
- We cannot buy strappy shoes or a shoe that needs to be tied around the ankle because our feet are usually swollen and our ankles are usually too thick for regular shoes
- Fitting into standard chairs is a major issue for fat people
- Catering to fat people is an issue if you intend on giving them healthy food. People seem to think that all salads are healthy and offer us beetroot with loads of sugar, potato salad and coleslaw with loads of mayonnaise
- Penetrative sex is difficult
- Snoring and sleep apnoea is common
- Fat people are glass-half-full people when it comes to food – Half a pizza is ok. “At least I have the willpower to not have eaten two full large pizzas” or “This little piece of cake will not kill me”
- We have good personalities to hide our weight and make people like us – BIG myth
- Fat ladies cannot reach far enough to cut or paint their toenails
- Stairs are the devil incarnate
- We are not lazy – we are exhausted. Use a good military bergen and try carrying an extra twenty, thirty, forty or fifty kilograms on your back the whole day and see how sprightly you are
- We cannot tie our shoes
- We generally also suffer from water retention and high blood pressure or diabetes
- After the umpteenth diet fails, we say “I give up. It is too much effort – I will die fat but at least I will die happy” – we certainly won’t die happy
- Our obesity hurt us, our families and friends… just like any other addiction does
- Fat people are not happy. They are fat because they are UNHAPPY
The watershed moment came at Christmas 2015 when I was publicly humiliated.
We spent Christmas with family at my brothers farm and one of the more vociferous and pugnacious members of our party decided that he now had a platform to speak his mind and voice his opinion of me. I was almost one hundred and fifty kilograms at that stage and he had decided that he needed to say exactly what he wanted to in front of the whole crowd of family and friends.
His tirade went like this: “Renetté, how could you have let yourself go like this? Do you know what you look like? Do you like what you see in the mirror? Do you know how much you ate last night? When we were young, all the boys in the neighbourhood wanted you to be their girlfriend. You were so beautiful and so sexy. Now look at you! I was so disappointed when I saw you getting out the car yesterday. I could not believe that it was you. You have got so fat!”
I was stunned. My brain stopped working and it felt as if I was hit by a bolt of lightning that picked me up and slammed me into the cement wall. The whole group of people were stunned into silence! I do not think anybody could believe that they had actually heard what he had just said.
Because I did not want to burst into tears in front of everybody, I whispered some boggled excuse and went to the bathroom. What was even more embarrassing was the fact that the couch I was sitting on was very low and it took me a few attempts to winch myself off it. It must have been a pitiful sight.
Once in the bathroom, I closed the door behind me and sat on the edge of the bath to catch my breath. I honestly thought that I was having a panic attack because I could feel the electrifying sensation of litres of blood surging through my veins and my heart seemed to pounding at one hundred miles per hour. I felt dizzy and nauseated. I tried extremely hard to fight back the tears but could not. My stinging tears just rolled down my flushed and bloated cheeks as I replayed every word he had said, over and over again.
I was terribly embarrassed and it felt as if everything that was negative in my life just came crashing down on top of me at that precise moment. I felt so incredibly hurt and could not believe that he could have said that to me in front of all those people. It did not matter that they were family! It was still extremely embarrassing and humiliating.
When we said our goodbyes, the man stiffly and half-heartedly apologised for his outburst. Someone had obviously spoken to him about the embarrassment he had caused.
His scathing speech bothered me immensely and the more I relived it in my mind, the angrier I became. In the imaginary show down I had with him in my head, I screamed “Who do you think you are to criticise me? You do not know me. You do not know my life… you have the manners of a Brussel sprout, you (big swear word) uncouth bastard!”
This man’s attack and insult really hit me hard and I felt violated and it was this overwhelming feeling of self-pity and humiliation which made me promise myself that I was going to turn things around in my life and that no-one will ever be permitted to embarrass me like that ever again. With a sense of superiority, I convinced myself that that person was not worthy of another thought and that I was better than him.
We have had the caveman or feral dog of human reaction bred out of us, so if I was not more meek and conscientious of my surroundings, I would have probably taken to his throat with a broken bottle but I’ve realised that, generally, we fatties have been whipped into apologetic subservience and the because of common attitude against our size by general society, defending ourselves by flying into this ill-mannered behaviour would just not be accepted by polite society. So, instead, I felt sorry for myself for being so humiliated and had many arguments with him in my head, in which my intelligent wit and scathing insults left him whimpering in the corner. The bastard!
However, instead of bombing his car, with him in it, a few days later I made an appointment to go see my beloved GP, Dr. Jacques Jooste, and told him that I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired and I was completely fed up with being obese. I did not tell him what made me come to this decision – he did not need to know and I was still immensely embarrassed at what had transpired.
I asked Dr. Jacques to check what other drug I could take as a substitute for Warfarin. I have to admit that I was blaming everything on the Warfarin and I was sure that it affecting other areas of my health negatively while keeping me from clotting and dying.
He put me on Xarelto and I could finally start eating huge amounts of veggies and salads.
I have lost 58 kilograms in 2.5 years and this story is not about me starting out weighing close to one hundred and fifty kilograms, diligently dieting and then painstakingly losing all my excess weight by wielding titanium strong will-power and discipline by denying myself all the delicious food I was used to, so that I could go on to win a gold medal in the Iron Man triathlon or running the Comrades marathon in two hours to prove how healthy and fit I have become.
Food was my addiction
No, this is a story of an fifty plus years old woman who will probably never be fifty or sixty kilograms ever again and is just an ordinary woman with ordinary day-to-day challenges. What I did have is a less-than-perfect past, and documenting my feelings while I lost weight, made me realise what had contributed towards me finding comfort in food.
It dawned on me that food was my addiction of choice and that Lasagne, Vodka and Cocaine are all the same.
Many people have health issues and are overweight because of it. I have written this story for people like me. ‘Healthy’ people who are addicted to food and use food to make themselves feel better. People who are consumed by their lust for food and feel as if they have lost control and do not have the energy, strength or the necessary tools it takes to get out of the downward spiral of obesity.
When I realised this, I started putting my emotional issues into separate boxes. I could then focus on that particular problem and deal with it without being muddled by all the other stuff allowing to formulate an action plan on how I would overcome that particular issue.
I used the same methodology when I was facing financial problems. I wrote down all my debt and how much I had to pay to stay ahead of our repayments. I became very frugal and only spent money on what I really had to. I then focussed on one debt that I had to pay off and pumped as much money into that debt until I paid it up which meant that I could take the repayments I had to make on that particular debt and pump it into the next debt and so forth. Systematically I repaid all my creditors that way.
It is a long and arduous process and I have realised that people do not actually want to write down what they owe. We do not want to face it – It would be too much of a reality check for us. It forces us to recognise and admit our failures so we procrastinate and try to ignore it – just like we do not want to open our closets and take stock of all our emotional skeletons.
I am healthy, confident and happy. I am going to the gym and although I want to still lose another 15 kilograms I am eating awesome food. I am still obsessed with food but in a positive way… I now respect food.
Believe me if I can do this, ANYONE can.
My tips are:
1) Start by opening that feared closet door and let all your skeletons out
2) Face your demons
3) Work on your emotional issues – not only will you feel better but people will notice the difference in you
4) Compile a feel good music mix (CD or USB) which you can listen to in the car or in your office – I smile and wave at people when they notice me dancing in my car seat in the morning
5) Dance whenever you can
6) Tell jokes
7) Clean out your grocery cupboards. Give all the chips and chocolates away to street corner beggars – it’s good karma
8) When you get home from work, put some dance music on, pour yourself a glass of dry wine and dance while you cook
9) Put a diet and gym action plan together and stick to it because you can only feel better and realise that every small achievement grows into a huge result
10) Realise that diet is hard, being overweight is hard – choose your hard
11) FAT is not a four letter word – Don’t be scared of it – Don’t sugar coat the fact that you are fat… you know and people can see it so don’t apologise for it – just work at it
12) Don’t take no for an answer. You DESERVE to be happy, you DESERVE all the best that this life can offer you and this is not rocket science… what you put into your mouth is what you become. Do good to yourself and to other people – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy
13) Be kind to yourself – love yourself. Why have a bath if you can have a bubble-bath?
And lastly… share your story. Everyone has a story and those who have overcome their demons owe it to the world to educate on the social stigma and inspire others. Go out there and add value to the world.
Lots of love and light,