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Fear of the Doctor

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I haven't been to my regular physician in four years, since 2009 (not long after my dad had been hospitalized, and I realized I needed to keep an eye on my health/visit my doctor - yeah, that didn't last long). And it's not because I've been busy, because I've had my health insurance change like 4 times, because I've been unemployed, or because I don't care for my physician anymore - although all of those are excuses I could have easily used to defend my choice for not seeing a doctor.

I am afraid of the doctor telling me I'm fat.

I'm afraid of walking in there, having the nurse record my weight, my sitting in a sterile room in my underthings with only a billowy hospital gown giving me any decency and listening to the doctor say, "You know, you really should try to lose weight."

Ever since I was a child, I've been the Chunky Girl. The Pudgy Girl. The one who was never within her weight range. And especially once I hit puberty, I got to hear constantly that I was fat and needed to lose weight.

"Why don't you try to hop on that bike and ride around more?"

"You know, the more you weigh, the more susceptible you are to diabetes..."

"You are too young to be having high blood pressure. If you lose weight..."

"A healthy range is between..."

The fear many have about going to the dentist, being under the bright lights and having a drill in their grill, is the fear I have to the doctor. I am sitting, exposed, as the doctor scalpels into me, telling me that I'm fat because I don't fall within narrowly defined BMI ranges.

Now, many of those times, my weight WAS a problem. The last time I went to the doctor, I believe I was about 240 pounds. (My scales always seem to differ from doctor's scales by AT LEAST 10 - 15 pounds - WRONG!) But I was fairly regularly going to the gym (probably around 5X a week). And I was attempting to get back on Weight Watchers. But my doctor didn't care - instead, she spent a good 15 minutes talking about how I needed to lose weight and how she didn't want to see me get diabetes or something like that.

You would think I shouldn't be nervous, as I'm a "tiny" 165 pounds (a weight I haven't been since...childhood???). That is BARELY out of the BMI range for my height (the cutoff is 155).

But recently, my workplace offered a Health Report. I took the report, feeling all giddy and happy, until I got to the results:


Talk about a freaking downer! This stupid report didn't know where I came from - that I lost a FREAKING PERSON to get down to 165! It didn't know that I went from having sleep apnea and probably high blood pressure/pre-diabetes to where I am today.

When I told my sister this, she, being the super amazing supportive sister that she is, told me that very thing: that I can't take the dumb computer report too seriously. That I *HAVE* come a long ways and that I am WAY healthier than I was.

Fact is, I am afraid going to this new doctor (because there is no way I am going back to my old "Let's spend 15 minutes talking about how fat you are and how you should miraculously get rid of that weight" doctor) is going to be like taking that report. I'm going to go in, see I'm 175 pounds (because, again, doctor's scales and all that wrought), be pleased - only to have the doctor come in and go, "Uh, yeah, you're fat - lose some weight, Chubster."

(OK, so I doubt the doctor would actually say that - but it was moderately amusing.)

This is why I haven't made an appointment in four years. But if I am going to embrace a new healthy lifestyle, I need to get over this fear. I need to start cultivating a relationship with my doctor - to find a doctor that I can trust and rely on. And that is why I made an appointment. My hands might have shook as I was on the phone, scheduling the appointment, but I didn't waver or hang up or just forget about it like I normally would.

But one thing is certain: when I go to see this doctor, before she ever says a word about my weight, I'm going to tell her this:

"Before you mention anything about my weight, I need to tell you this: I used to weight over 268 pounds. Since November of last year, I have lost over 100 pounds. I went from having sleep apnea and being too tired to cook or exercise, to sleeping amazing at night and exercising 40 mins 3X a week. And I have about 20 more pounds to go before I am done. So while I know I am technically "overweight" according to my BMI, I am aware of it and am working to change it."

It might not do anything - but at least it will make me feel good :)
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Your plan is a good one. Burst right into that office and tell them how far you've come.

    Doctor's do this to everyone. When I weighed 145, I had a doctor lecture me about how I should never weigh more that 140. When I weighed 110, I had a doctor lecture me about how I needed to gain weight. Seriously.

    1696 days ago
    I hate hearing about your past experiences with doctors (always keep in mind: 50% of them graduated in the bottom half of their class - they're not all superhuman!), and am very happy that you're going to a new one. Please try to let go of any preconceptions, and wait to judge the new one based on their own attitude and behaviour - you could end up pleasantly surprised!

    I've had some fabulous docs, and a big part of that has been looking at it from the perspective that they are part of my "team" to support me in being healthier. I get great responses from the docs, RNs, and nurse practitioners when I approach them with the attitude that getting me healthier is our top priority, and the assumption that they think that, too. I share with them what I've done, and ask for their suggestions and support on where to go from here.

    While I understand your thought process, especially with your history, your "opening statement" sounds a bit defensive and antagonistic. That might not get the best response. I really like PRETTYPITHY's suggestion (no surprise - she's one smart cookie!), but I would word it that "getting healthier" is the top priority, instead of "losing weight". Put that with a big, confident smile and a warm tone of voice, and odds are that you'll get the friendly support that you deserve.

    Kudos on taking the first little step past the fear, and another giant leap in to a healthier life!
    1696 days ago
    Go Carolyn ! You should be so proud of yourself for taking another BIG step on the journey to health. You have accomplished so much I doubt you will get anything but praise & encouragement. If you don't like this doctor, find another one. You usually get a few minutes with a nurse before you talk to the doctor - maybe you can tell her your story & then it will already be in your chart before you see the doctor. Good luck !! You've got this !
    1697 days ago
    Your old Doctor should have been listening to you not just ignoring what you said in favor of lecturing you. Sometimes Doctors really annoy me and I work for a big group of them. You have made incredible progress and if this Doc doesn't realize how far you have come then keep changing until you find one that you like, listens to you and you are comfortable with.

    emoticon you now!
    1697 days ago
    My doctor is obese and I am not.

    You might find yourself in the same position... LOL
    1697 days ago
  • WILDKAT781
    I've seen the same doctor for 7 years and the same clinic for 10 years so I don't have the problems you do (my doctor jumped for joy at the weight I've lost) Just hold your head high and don't be scared...you've done a fantastic job and the doctor will figure that out quickly

    1697 days ago
  • DIANE7786
    Congratulations on your weight loss success! Your fear is from past experiences when you were very overweight. Your new doctor isn't too concerned about 10-20 excess lbs. My suggestion is you arrive at the office at least ten mins early so you can relax. Deep breathing and distracting yourself with a magazine helps. It will be over in less than an hour! Someone will weigh you before you go to the exam room. Step on that former iron monster with pride. Mention that you used to hate getting weighed. Now that you've lost over 100 lbs it's fun! That person will likely compliment you. The doctor has a routine so it's best to follow his/her lead so nothing is missed. You'll have a chance to mention your weight loss, but make it short and positive. The doctor can't do anything about what previous doctors said to you. You'll be fine!
    1697 days ago
    Yes, definitely tell your new doctor about your journey to a much healthier place!

    You should feel good about your progress. You worked hard and you keep working. You have so much to be proud about!
    1697 days ago
    Good for you for having a strong statement ready for your doctor! I fired my doctor (yeah, she's sitting in an Unemployment Office somewhere in my dreams). Her only words about weight loss were, "Stop eating fast food or I'll put you on blood pressure medication." a) fast food was not MY problem, b) my blood pressure wasn't elevated until AFTER I saw her.

    It's sad that doctors aren't doing a better job. I applaud you for diagnosing and treating yourself, but I recognize that having a good doctor will benefit you in the long run.

    We in this for the health of it!
    1697 days ago
  • MUFFIY831
    I love your post and can 1000000000% relate. I just went to the doctor for the first time since, oh, a pediatrician, and told her the same thing you end your post with - "Look, I used to wear size 22W pants and now I'm a 14P. I know I'm not there yet, but it's a work in progress." And she was GREAT about it. Good luck!
    1697 days ago
    If I were you, and I'm not, I wouldn't open with "Before you say anything about my weight..." That is tantamount to apologizing for yourself, which, may I be the first to tell you, is unfounded. Since the part of you that is insecure about your weight, present and past, is expecting to be greeted with boxing gloves, go for the dramatic effect. If and when the doctor broaches the subject, sock her with your brilliant, 100-pound weight loss. You'll get the upper glove by cutting her off at the ropes, but she'll shower you with admiration.

    Now to be completely serious, my late, beloved internist only one time in our 25-year relationship mentioned my weight. He gently, briefly suggested I lose some. He had the wisdom to know that repeating it at subsequent office visits would be silly. Why keep telling a person something that she already knows? Any doctor who is a reasonable, right-thinking person of minimal social skills will function that way. If she doesn't, a calm, brief comment, "I know..." will deliver your message. If your voice cracks, your message will be enforced.

    The fear is in your lovely head, not out there in the world. Hold your head high and stay on top of your health.
    1697 days ago
    Doctors can be real jerks sometimes. I'd look into seeing a Nurse Practitioner, too. They seem to have a better bedside manner than doctors.

    Look at how far you've come. If a doctor said something like that to me, I'd be like: "Look here, buddy, I've lost x amount of pounds & I work out x number of times a week. I walk 10000 steps per day, drink my 8 glasses of water, eat my 5 freggies, my lean protiens & my whole grains. My blood pressure is better, my cholesterol is better. Lighten up!"

    You can hire them, but you can also fire them.

    You look AMAZING!!!! Keep up the awesome work!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1697 days ago
    As someone with a history of fear and anxiety of doctors, congratulations to you on being honest with yourself about it and facing it and making the appointment. That stuff is hard to do, good luck with the rest :)

    Just a hopefully helpful tidbit as well, I weighed in at 187 at my last physical (and a healthy bmi range for my height is up to 155) and no one gave me any lectures about it. I told the dr about my weight loss efforts and she said "Great! what are you doing?" and that was that. So it's possible to not be shamed, I promise :)
    1697 days ago
  • KJACOBS1111
    I think they would be more likely to say something if your blood sugar or blood pressure was also high. You might consider stopping in before the appointment with a note as part of your medical history. This way the nurse will see it in the chart. Good for you for going!
    1697 days ago
  • TINYRN2011
    As an RN, I try and tell my patients to be proactive about their health; congrats to you for doing so! I love that you decided to find a new MD; lots of people think docs know it all. Simply put, they don't. You are the master of your mind and body!

    On a side note, and I may have mentioned this in a blog of my own, a doctor once told me I'd be the perfect weight if I was 5'9" (I'm 4'9"). I now see a nurse practitioner instead!

    Congrats again for taking charge of yourself!
    1697 days ago
    Not all docs have such horrible bedside manner. My last two have both been supportive & encouraging.
    1697 days ago
    I think your approach is exactly the right one. Your past doctor probably thought he/she was doing you a great favour by pointing out your weight and going on about how you should cut back on it. Of course, they don't know where you've come from and you they definitely don't know about the fantastic changes you've made in your life recently. It is something that you are working on and succeeding at! Absolutely make sure they know it before the tirade starts!

    OH FYI, I started with a new family doctor recently. I was about 15 pounds outside of the normal BMI range (I think I was 10 pounds away but 15 according to the doctor's scale ;)). Not only did the doctor NOT launch into the standard weight loss spiel, but she also dismissed my concerns about being overweight for pregnancy. Based on my experience, you might not even get a peep out of the doctor! She said it wasn't a big deal because I wasn't that far out of the BMI.

    P.S. I can understand the doctor fear. I have this very distinct and traumatizing memory from childhood of my mom taking me to see our family doctor for a lump on the back of my neck. He said it was a fat lump and when my mom went on about why would I have such a thing he kept saying "Because she's fat." *sigh*
    1697 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/23/2013 1:43:09 PM
  • CHERYLA2012
    I can see why all your prior experiences would lead you to believe there might be a negative outcome but there is just as much chance there will be a positive one!

    Your journey to becoming the healthiest you can be is of utmost importance to you, but your doctor has a lot of ground to cover and may not even focus on your weight!

    That said, I agree with PRETTYPITHY. Have a brief synopsis of what you've accomplished so far so the doctor knows you're walking the walk, not just talking the talk. You may also choose to print off some of the reports that SP has to show your progress!

    And as for BMI... From Nerd Fitness regarding BMI (Body Mass Index):

    'Your BMI has absolutely NOTHING to do with your body composition It only factors in your height and weight. It will give you the same reading if you're made of 180 pounds of pure muscle, or 180 pounds of pure Cheetos.'
    1697 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/23/2013 1:35:58 PM
    Your previous doctor sounds like a jerk and an idiot. My doctor told me gently I was overweight, and gave me small suggestions. But when I was ready, and found SparkPeople, I lost that weight. And you know what? Every time I go in there he tells me how proud of me he is.

    I like the idea of telling your doctor, but if your doctor lectures you about being 10 lbs overweight, then he/she is an a**hat. You have done so well, and whether she knows it or not, YOU know it. So screw her!
    1697 days ago
    Sounds like a plan.
    1697 days ago
    Maybe you can start by telling the Dr how much weight you have lost and your plans for losing the last bit...then get onto what you really came for...but at least he/she will be in on the whole picture.
    1697 days ago
    Some tough love, but its sounds like you want acknowledgement for what you've accomplished from someone who hasn't participated in your journey.

    I'm sure you'll loose the next 20 pounds. Perhaps if you told the doctor your plans on how, you'll get them involved in your weight loss. It is your body and your journey.
    1697 days ago
    I also do a little preamble for the doctor. "Losing weight is my top priority -- I've lost 73 pounds already. What else can I do to improve my health?" It lets them know they don't have to give the shpiel because you're on it.
    1697 days ago
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