Fat and Naked in the Doctor's Office
Monday, September 14, 2009
(Note: I am writing about the many ways my life is better since I lost 148 pounds. One way is in my relationship with my doctors. While it is not ever easy to go to the doctor, being so much slimmer has taken away some of my fears and embarrassments.)
Once, after her doctor had made one more comment about my sister’s having put on a few pounds, she asked him, “Tell me, doctor, do none of your thin patients ever die?”
It is not easy for most people to go to their doctor. One always feels somewhat powerless in the presence of one’s doctor. There she is, fully clothed, while the client appears in various stages of undress to be poked and prodded and questioned. There is always fear the doctor will tell the client something too frightening to know. And of course, there is the bill!
Seriously, though, the doctor’s office is not a favorite venue for most of us. I like my doctor. If she wanted to have lunch with me, I know I would enjoy her humor and insights. But I do not enjoy seeing her in her office. Period.
As uncomfortable as it is to visit the doctor, it is even more uncomfortable for people who are obese. The obese know their weight will always be a topic of conversation. No matter what they suffer from, their condition would be improved if only they would lose weight. And the doctor always explains that losing weight is easy: simply eat less and exercise more, and the excess weight will disappear. If the client can survive on 500 calories while running the Boston Marathon, so much the better.
Okay, I am exaggerating. But the doctor often presumes weight loss is much easier than it is. And the doctor, who has little instruction in nutrition imagines the fewer calories one eats, the thinner one will become.
Being the fat one and seeing the doctor is impossibly hard for many people. I have friends who have not seen their doctor in years because they have so much fear of the “obesity discussion.” I have other friends who have been deeply insulted by the cavalier attitude doctors have displayed toward their problem and the freedom with which they cast judgments. One of my friends has been eternally insulted by the doctor who poked him in the belly and said, “If you’d get rid of this, you’d feel a lot better.”
I always saw my doctor when my health demanded I should. But I never went happily. I did not like the doctor being able to see the fat rolls I so carefully covered in the way I dressed. I dreaded her telling me what I already knew—I had to lose weight. Every doctor had advice—go to Weight Watchers, get a stationary bike, go on no a fat diet, try Dr. Atkins. Do something! But, for God’s sake, lose that weight! I used to tell my friends if I went to the doctor with a broken arm, I would probably hear that would not have happened if I were not so FAT!
I always felt large in body, but small in personhood at the doctor’s office. The doctor had no more education than I have but somehow made me feel diminished. I always knew the doctor was correct. I WOULD feel better if I were slimmer. But I was not fat because I wanted to be. I needed more than nagging to get me to where I should be.
Since losing weight, I go to the doctor regularly—for checkups, to prepare for a trip abroad, to get necessary inoculations. I won’t pretend I love it. But having lost weight has empowered me. To be fair I have to say this particular doctor gave me the pass that led me to my gym. I had gone to her because I had determined I was done and wanted to lose weight once and for all. I wanted to make sure I was well enough to begin a diet and exercise program, and after examining me, she gave me the pass. I asked for another so my sister could go too. The rest is history. I went with my sister to gym, met my physiologist, and have been going almost every day since then. The physiologist instructed me about how to eat, and I followed his instructions.
I go to the doctor. I weigh in at the office. I tell her what is wrong. I feel okay about going there. I hope the reader can understand what that means. It feels okay for me to take care of my health by seeing a physician. Things have really changed for me.