Some of my earliest memories as a kid are of feeling hungry and always wanting more.  When I grew up and moved out on my own, it only got worse. I was free to eat as much as I wanted, and did. I was ashamed of that, so I kept it a secret. 

My shame affected every aspect of my life for decades. There aren’t many photos of me with my two sons when they were little. I’ve never attended a school reunion. I avoided weddings and parties. I worried about keeping up on campus tours when my kids visited colleges. But the most important thing I put off was speaking to my doctor about my weight.

When I was 39, I decided I didn’t want to be ‘Fair, Fat, and Forty’, so I went on a diet and lost 100 lbs. When the weight came back, I was crushed. I mustered up the courage to talk to my doctor, but he was dismissive. Diet and exercise was the only advice he could offer. 

Now I know better, and with the support of others in the obesity community, I feel better too.

If there’s one message I want to share with health care providers, it’s that people like me WANT to be asked, respectfully, if we want to talk about our weight. Because obesity is linked to many weight-related disorders, and impacts our health. We want to understand why obesity is a disease like any other, and why it needs to be treated as such. Complete and respectful care is possible, and it can include lifestyle change, medicines and surgery. When I finally learned that obesity is a disease, and of the options available to help, it changed my life.

And speaking of life changes, one of my sons got married in July. When he announced his engagement, for the first time ever, I was free to completely enjoy the moment. And my first thought (after being happy for my son and future daughter-in-law) was, “I don’t need to lose any weight. I’m in control and fine just the way I am.”

Donna has a video message for people living with obesity: