MY most memorable doctor experience: ReVolution

In lieu of a cooking post, which is almost ready and lacking only pictures, I wanted to reminisce a bit about what I consider to be the most memorable bad experience I had with a doctor in my youth.  This is in the spirit of ReVolution; it is a memory which sparks, even now, my urge to push the fat-friendly message of loving your body As It Is Right Now. And, all considered, it isn’t that horrible a memory.  But is HAS stuck with me a long time…

Flash back with me now…further and further, further and further…. I am young.  Very young.  Perhaps 7 or 8.  I am sitting on the crinkly paper of the exam table. The dressing gown covering me is, of course, not quite able to fully close in the back.  My mother is dressed in street cloths and hovering beside me, awaiting the doctor’s feedback. I am pretty sure this was a normal physical exam, routine.

The doctor enters.  Her body fills the room.  I remember distinctly, even now more than 25 years later, how she sat on the short black-plastic-covered stool and her butt-checks seemed to ooze over the sides.  My doctor was a large woman, but more importantly,  she had my file in hand.

She asked a few questions, got my nervous answers; and then she said to my mother the words that my young and already self-conscious mind dreaded, “Well, she could stand to lose some weight.”

I was baffled.  I mean, I already felt uncomfortable in my body at this young age, knew I was a huge encumbrance and awkward, but here was this huge woman, spilling over her seat, and looking me in my little 7 or 8 year old eyes and telling ME that I needed to work on shrinking myself.  I was aghast, devastated, and PISSED.

I don’t even know what else she might have said at that point because I was fuming and internally fighting the tears burning at my eyes for the indignity of it all. The minute the doctor left the room I turned to my mother and with a hiccup that proceeded my shame and anger I said, “That fat COW tells me *I* need to lose weight?!?”  I still remember it.  I don’t remember my mom’s exact reaction; perhaps a shocked giggle and admonishment, who knows.  But I will for some reason always remember the unfairness of a woman who was clearly already HERSELF a very large body; telling my much smaller body to shrink.  It felt…awful honestly.

I railed and ranted and raged against the doctor to my mother on the drive home, calling her all sorts of names and bemoaning that here was a woman proscribing a “treatment” which had so obviously failed even her to a girl who DIDN’T eat Twinkies and sit around all day. It felt like the most cruel injustice in the world to my 7 or 8 year old mind.  It was like my first ever trollish encounter: someone filled with self-hate, pinning all their own failings onto me instead (though at the time I would not think of it as anything other than a jerk telling me to do what she couldn’t even manage).

Through my life that label of “Medically Fat” has followed me and resulted in what have been sometimes tearful, sometimes hopeful, sometimes frustrating, sometimes encouraging medical appointments.  One other, more recent, doctor experience was at the gyno.  I was getting chatted up by the nurse as she got my information, etc.  She was all friendly and happy-go-lucky; until she saw my weight number.  Then the tone became less happy and friendly and seemed to take on that of a friend calling on a sick or dying loved one; concern and anxiety.  All due to the way that those damn weight numbers affect our perceptions of a person’s health.  (PS: Yes, I was fine at the appointment and have been since too; no need to speak as though I am at death’s door, okay?)

So, anyways, where does that bring me today?  Aside from the twinge of shame that I STILL get from this memory for the name-calling I did for this doctor, there is a bit of instruction in it for me.  Mainly it reinforces to me the reality that even people who have been continually failed by diets; will dutifully proscribe them as a cure-all.  Maybe my former doctor from my youth truly believed in her hearts of hearts that a simple “Eat Less, Move More” mantra was only failing her because she was somehow doing it wrong; not because Diets Don’t Work.

Sadly, this continues even today.  It wasn’t a fluke of medicine that this woman would proscribe for others a failing prospect with little to no success rate to speak of.  Everyone just “KNOWS” that in order to not be fat, in order to prevent diabetes and all sorts of horrible fates, one MUST diet and be shamed into doing so; because the only way to GET Fat, of course, is by a lack of self-control leading to sloth and gluttony.  No.  And you know what, even if that IS the manner in which a person went about “Getting Fat”; it all boils down to what I consider one of the few universal truths: “It is none of anyone else’s business”.  Got that? HOW or WHY a person is fat, or otherwise does not fit your narrow perception of Ideal Health and Beauty, is irrelevant: no one is beholden to you to look the way you think they should.  No one.  Every person’s body is their own.  Bodies are personal, got it?  Your own judgments on it or suggestions for it are worthless in the face of that one solid grain of truth: it is not your business.

So that’s what I get from this memory.  A reminder that even 25 plus years ago people were failing at the very “cures” they would continue to proscribe to me throughout my life for “fixing” a body that was actually working very nicely to do all the things it needed to do, thank you very much.  But doesn’t it sting, even just a bit, to realize just how many people get through all day without once thinking of how amazing it is to have The Body They Have Right Now?  Take a moment now, reflect upon the fact that, no matter your issues with it, chances are your body still does some pretty amazing things on a very regular basis: and it is all your own.  Doesn’t that make it worth loving and treating well?  And not hating and trying to force it to look different?

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7 thoughts on “MY most memorable doctor experience: ReVolution

  1. My memories are crammed with incidents like these, April, which is why I have a serious case of White Coat-Itis. My BP goes up, I shake, my pulse races, and I hear a ringing in my ears every time I get near anything medically related. Because I heard all those same things when I was a kid (a kid, mind you, you lacked the ability to sit still and resenting having to come inside for supper).

    The docs would take a look at my chart, shake their heads, sigh, and give my mother The Look. Then they’d say, “Your daughter needs to lose weight. She’s too heavy” like I wasn’t there. That was the part that got me, talking to me like I was an irregularly formed piece of shit that someone had deposited onto their exam table, interrupting the natural flow of things, throwing off the balance. My mom would never say anything in my defense, even adding, “Well, she seems to me to have a very large appetite all the time”, sometimes even siding with the docs and nodding gravely at my moral decay…when her own butt cheeks spilled over the sides of the chair and her pack of cigarettes visible in her open purse.

    Hypocrisy abounds on all levels. Consider that doctors have the highest rate of alcohol and drug addiction, divorce, infidelity, and general marital strife. Their job may be to help us be healthy, but it seems like even with them, you have to consider the source, that even though they are healers, they are not saints and don’t always speak from a place of concern. I grew up being terrified of doctors, placing them in the same category as Principals, Priests, and Police…but since I’ve lived in Germany, I’ve learnt not to revere them quite so much. They’re as flawed as any of us, they buy into whatever health trend is giving the public a hard-on, and so many of them just need to be in the research field and not in the practical one. Having one say, “You’re too fat” is exactly the same as the playground bullies we’ve put up with over the years saying, “Hey, Fattie, lose weight because you’re UGLY”, only in a doc’s office, you’re paying for it.

    A fat person knows they’re fat, just like a black person knows what colour their skin is. Would you say to someone, “You’re too black…lighten up or you’ll die of breast cancer”? and expect her to do something about it RIGHT THEN AND THERE?? Or to an Asian person, “Your eyes are too slanty…you’ll have problems seeing when you’re older”? Makes as much sense as saying, “If you don’t lose weight, you’ll get diabetes”, right?

    • I think the problem; which I’m sure that other oppressed groups still feel despite its illogic, is when people put the onus of BLAME upon someone for one of their body’s characteristics. Be it size, shape, color, what-have-you; when people make a certain characteristic into something that ONLY happens to people who behave (or don’t) in proscribed ways; then you get this culture of “Well, it’s your fault: FIX IT!” and thus we get all these bullshit “remedies” like extreme dieting and WLS, and diet-pills, etc for weight-loss to “fix” fatness. But I think that it isn’t JUST that people spout out “IF you don’t do Illogical, Impractical, Impossible Thing X (lose weight For Your Health); THEN you will Die, Be Diseased, Be Destroyed, Suffer”; it is that there seems to be this correlated belief that therefore it follows if a person DOES do Illogical, Impractical, Impossible Thing X (lose weight For Your Health); then NOTHING BAD WILL EVER HAPPEN TO YOU. The evidence points to the contrary but yet this belief prevails…

  2. What we all have to remember is just one little thing, a piece of wisdom imparted to me by my wonderful GYN Marvin (rest his soul!) of over 20 years: “We (doctors) are just repairmen. You bring us something broken, our job is to fix it. What’s not broken, we’re supposed to leave alone”. In all the years as Marvin’s patient, not a word was ever said about my weight; it wasn’t relevant to my health. Thanks to Marvin’s sensible attitude, any doc I’ve encountered who HAS mentioned size has been quoted the above; boy, does THAT ever bring ’em up short!

    It’s all part of the continuing education (by us) of the fatophobes out there. It’s NEVER easy, but we have to keep at it.

    Must tell you that I really love this blog – you’ve got some great things to say & I always look forward to your cooking stuff.

  3. Thank you for sharing this! I sent this link to my husband to check out. We were just talking about whether we’d ever put our (still hypothetical) kid on a diet. Me: no, never! Him: maybe, depending. This was a good conversation piece. Thanks again.

  4. I wouldn’t ever put a kid on a diet unless it was medically necessary (like a food allergy or Prader-Willi Syndrome, something like that). I don’t like the term DIET, and the only way I ever use is to say “I have a healthy diet”, not “I will go on a diet”.

    In our house, we don’t eat crap (the occasional take-away being the exception). There are lots of fruit and veg, whole grains, milk and juice. No ice cream, no junk food (that’s for parties only or other special occasions), and we’re getting to the point where we’re eliminating meat from our diets. Look in my fridge, and you won’t see sodas or fruit “drinks”, crap food, or anything like that. “Prepared foods” never make it over the threshold. In fact, my son has candy that’s about 6 years old that he’s gotten in goodie bags from parties and Halloween. He eats it so slowly (one small piece for dessert if he’s eaten enough veg, etc) that it gets gunky before he can get to it.

    THAT’S a diet. It’s a way of eating and understanding the idea that eating well comes first, and that a diet is not something you go on, it’s just something you grow up with.

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