My Big Fat American Liver Disease: Intro

a new blog series

My three favorite foods as a child: potatoes, canned vegetarian meat, and more varieties of potatoes. When diabetes runs heavily in your family, this may not be the best dietary approach to prevent disease. As a preteen I was told I was pre-diabetic — goodbye sweet, beautiful potatoes. I was able to reach the safe zone at my next checkup, but unfortunately I carried over some disordered views on food and the body — my body more specifically. Reaching high school I was lucky to finally recognize my flawed science on “health” by joining a supportive recovery group on tumblr of all places. There I began to learn about proper nutrition, exercise, and the many mental health issues that can come with an ever-changing human body (spoiler alert: all of our bodies are opt for change). I felt so proud preventing my highly inheritable condition — until I was diagnosed with Fatty Liver Disease.

Fatty Liver Disease (I’m gonna call it FLD) is as glamorous as it sounds: I have too much fat in my liver. There are two types of fatty liver disease: non-alcoholic and alcoholic. No worries folks, I have the non-alcoholic version, although there isn’t a noticeable difference between the two when looking at the liver itself. I recently saw a Gastroenterology specialist and he said there’s also two kinds of nonalcoholic FLD. One is where you simply have fat in the liver and you can reverse it with fat loss (simply FLD). The other version is more serious, meaning not only do you have excess fat in the liver but there’s also inflammation which can’t be cured via fat loss (known as NASH). We aren’t sure which one I have yet, but I’ll go over the rest of those details in a later post.

When I was first diagnosed last year the first thing I felt was shame. I was so ashamed at how far I let myself go. I felt like a failure, like I couldn’t even take care of my body so what was the point in doing anything? All the negative self-talk I fought against for years suddenly came flooding back. At first it was motivating. I started exercising and saying no to more unhealthy foods, but it soon snowballed and I started to have panic attacks. I couldn’t stop thinking about my future if I couldn’t reverse this disease. Will I get cirrhosis, diabetes, or even liver cancer? I thought I was being honest with myself when really I needed to cut myself some slack.

For one thing, my genetics are not in my control. I was born with the risk of this disease, and I naturally gain weight in my abdomen which makes it worse. For a long time I felt incredibly bitter against my friends who could freely eat all the pizza and chips with no consequence, while I had to carefully monitor my diet. My catch phrase whenever I ate something I knew I shouldn’t was, “Well it’s not that bad!”

What I realize now is that even though it might not be awful for one person, my body is extra sensitive to those types of foods, and that’s something I need to accept if I want to get better. One thing I am exploring is how to love myself even in the midst of illness, when it doesn’t work like the average person’s. When I’m in those moments of self-blame I have to chant the magical Lady Gaga mantra:

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way.

I’m slightly joking, but in all seriousness I am learning so much about myself because of FLD. It’s forced me to be more mindful about how I feel throughout the day, which foods affect me positively versus negatively, and has even helped me follow some advice my grandpa regularly gives me:

Enjoy your youth.

Thank you for reading! With this series I hope to share my progress and (fingers crossed) reverse my FLD. We’ll cover topics such as healthy fat-loss, body positivity, ending stigma, and much more. My next post will dive deep into my meeting with a Gastroenterology specialist and our current game plan for treatment.