“You know awhile back when there was the Fen-Phen controversy and some people died. This is the half of the combination that didn’t get taken off the market.”
This was the sales pitch given to me by a nurse practitioner when prescribing Phentermine for me. Sounds awesome, right? Hey, this is the stuff that WON’T kill you.
I had not asked for appetite suppressants. I mentioned that I had gained weight and was having a difficult time losing it. I knew how I gained the weight- three months in the state with the best beer and cupcakes (ahh, Oregon). But when I returned to AZ and slowed my roll on microbrews, the weight should have fell off- that’s how it has always worked for me anyway. But my metabolism had just seemed to shut down and no amount of exercise or dieting was making much of a difference.
A bit of a hypochondriac by nature, my first thought was “there is something wrong with me.” When I was in high school, my mother was diagnosed with a large brain tumor. The doctor advised that it had probably been growing for twenty years undetected. That knowledge plagues me. Whether it’s my constant state of hay fever or my six pound weight gain, I always imagine it’s a tumor. Maybe not a six pounder- I’m responsible for at least one to two of those bastards, but certainly a four pound tumor. Most likely a long tube-like tumor that falls over the waistline of my jeans. I mentioned the weight gain to the NP not to get pills but to ensure I shouldn’t be revamping my will.
Still, I am a child of the “better living through chemistry” age. If she was going to offer up a little medicinal help, who was I to say no?
I bounce between skeptic and sheep when it comes to drugs. I really wanted to believe that weight loss could be as easy as taking a pill- but if it was that simple, wouldn’t everyone be thin?
I felt the Phen almost immediately. Placebo effect or real deal? Who is to say. The NP had warned me to start out taking only half a pill because they tend to rev up your metabolism and can keep you awake. She was not joking. I was bouncing off the walls. When my husband returned from work, I proudly reiterated how I cleaned the house, baked bread, cooked a healthy meal, crafted with the kids, solved that world peace thing and a list of other activities- of course talking like I was channeling a junkie from on an episode of Breaking Bad. He quipped “what are you on?” Phen.
The boost to my energy made my spirits soar. I could go all day without getting tired, and without getting hungry. The first few days were AWESOME. I took the Phen before breakfast, and wouldn’t eat until noon. I’d force myself to eat a little cottage cheese or a piece of fruit, not because I was starving, but because I felt like I should eat something. By dinner, I was genuinely hungry and ate a normal meal.
Before you call up your doctor requesting this lightning in a bottle, let me describe the rest of the scenario. I couldn’t sleep, and I mean couldn’t. I would stay awake until 2-3am, knowing my kids would be up at 6am. Maybe if I had given over to it, I could have enjoyed those hours or at least made use of them. But it was that aggravating cycle of tossing, turning, looking at the clock, getting out of bed, watching TV, looking at the clock again, going back to bed, tossing, turning and starting the cycle all over again. A night here and there- annoying, but doable. Every night- well, I wasn’t going to win any Miss Congeniality titles.
I didn’t feel tired during the day- the Phen took care of that. But when my husband returned from work, instead of being forced to listen to all I had accomplished that day (Jedi costumes sewn for the boys, yes!) he was subjected to complaints of my jaw hurting from grinding my teeth all day. I like to believe I’m generally pretty easy going- or that I am a convincing fake. I don’t know if it was the Phen, the lack of sleep, depriving myself of food I enjoyed, focusing on my weight, or a combination of all of them, but my mood was sour to say the least. I was reminded of that line in Say Anything where Lloyd says something like “How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and just be in a good mood once in awhile?” It was fucking impossible.
Long story a tiny bit shorter, I quit taking it. I told my friend, L, I stopped because it put me in a bad mood.
She asked “why do you think that is?”
I replied “because I want to eat what I want to eat. I’d rather be fat and happy.”
Yes, it’s a simplistic answer, but a bit of truth as well. Happiness is a component of health, and more importantly, a goal of life. People who are happier are healthier. I was making myself into Cruella Deville over six stupid pounds.
I don’t want to be unhealthy, but I also don’t want to be unhappy. Against my better judgment, I had zeroed in on the numbers and not the problem or the solution. If I focus on my choices and not my scale, I win no matter what my weight is. And I don’t become an asshole in the process. Well, at least not more of one.