When I was in high school, my doctor always assumed I was pregnant. It didn’t matter if I went in for migraines, dizzy spells, or a twisted ankle. As soon as she entered the room, pregnancy was the topic of conversation. I remember how frustrated I would get when she didn’t believe me that there was ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NO WAY I was pregnant. She would look concerned and ask my dad to leave the room only to receive the same answer that yes, I was indeed a virgin, and no, I was indeed not pregnant. Sometimes, I swear she did a pregnancy test anyway.
With every pound I’ve put on since high school, doctors have grown more and more deaf to my voice. Once again, it doesn’t matter what I go in for, it always circles around to my weight. “If you just lose 30 pounds, your muscles will stop hurting, your pain will go away, your periods will normalize, your immune system will start working.” And honestly, that isn’t what bothers me. I know that my health will be better if I lose weight.
What makes me angry, what raises my blood pressure and makes me dread the doctor’s office is that look of condescension. The fat-shaming tone of her voice when she says, “and you NEED to keep it under 2000 calories a day,
you fat cow” like I’m a child who doesn’t know how calories work. It doesn’t matter if I tell her that I only average 1500 calories per day and that I hardly ever go over 2000. She sees my body and makes a series of assumptions that silence my voice.
Fat = Glutton
Fat = Delusional
Fat = Lying to herself
Fat = Hides candy bars in every corner
Fat = Stupid
I see these assumptions cross her face, and no matter how hard I try to break through them, the counsel is always the same. Eat less. Move more. No addressing the fact that I am already moving or that I’m already tracking my dietary intake, or that I’ve already tried all of this numerous times with no success. Just a look of pity, a watered-down “educational” conversation about calories, and no help at all.
My doctor was fat-shaming me. She was discriminating against me based solely on my weight and appearance. Is my weight a health concern? Absolutely. Is it as simple as eat less, move more? Not always, and certainly not for me.
Yesterday, for the first time, I met a doctor who listened to me. He looked at my test results and in seconds, diagnosed me with PCOS.
“You need to lose weight,” he said.
My heart sank and I braced myself for the humiliating assault.
He continued, “but it doesn’t matter what you do. If we don’t help your body lose weight, you won’t.”
I looked up with just a glimmer of hope in my eyes. Did he have a solution? Did he know I had already tried the gym and the vegetables? Was there something that really could help me?
He talked to me like a human being. He talked about PCOS and how it causes insulin resistance. He prescribed me a medication to increase my body’s sensitivity to insulin. He gave me options, involved me in the process, and didn’t make any snap judgments. Rather than assuming that I was an idiot who’d never gone a day without chocolate cake in her life, he treated me with respect and kindness.
I know PCOS is probably only part of my health problem, but this doctor gave me hope that there are doctors out there who will help me. I don’t have to leave the doctor’s office feeling fat-shamed and humiliated. I can leave with my dignity intact, and my health invigorated.
So what’s the take-away?
If you are dealing with PCOS and/or struggling with fertility in the St. Louis area, you should definitely check out my awesome new doctor. His name is Dr. Simckes, and he really listens to what you have to say. You can read his post about obesity and fertility here. It’s pretty insightful.
And if you’d like to read more posts about being plus size, check out the new blog my mom and I created together. It’s called Fatfully – a plus size blog about this and fat. Our goal is to empower, educate, and entertain full-figured women with posts about style, parenting, health, society, inspiration, and relationships.
What’s your experience with doctors? Do you have advice for finding one that will listen to your concerns? Share in the comments below.
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