I went to a doctor today, one specializing in weight management. It was a referral and I think this will be one of the most difficult posts I’ll ever write so I might as well jump right in.
At the start of the year, I figured I’m not getting any younger and should establish a primary care physician for the first time in my adult life. That chick was cool and I’m glad I did the research to find the perfect PCP for me. From that appointment, I received a couple of referrals for additional avenues I wanted to go down; reproductive medicine and weight management. We’re focusing on the latter here.
Prior to today’s appointment it may help anyone bothering reading to know the thousand-foot-view of my history. I’ve been overweight in some capacity most of my life. It wasn’t a post-high school/freshmen-15 type of weight gain. Nicknames like “Oreo Fat” started circulating circa 1997 aka the 1st grade. Kids are great, aren’t they?
I grew up in a world full of blonde Barbie dolls and mom’s to match. Not only was it a severe character flaw to be red-headed and freckle-faced, but it was even worse to be fat.
Time passed, bully’s (even though I hate that term. Little assholes is a better one but I digress) came and went. While I didn’t think so in the moment, I did thin out at certain periods of time growing up; 6th grade rings a bell for some reason. I think that’s when I hit my peak height, 5’8″.
Even though my past self at age 16, for example would be considered normal size now, it wasn’t then. The societal image of beauty was defined as rail thin bones; think Paris Hilton and Mischa Barton on the red carpet. Anything other than that in my small northern Minnesotan town (or otherwise) was deemed unacceptable.
The first time I was put on a diet was the summer after 5th grade. I stayed a good chunk of the summer, if I remember correctly, at my aunt’s house a few hours away. She was a Weight Watchers leader at the time and drilled WW into my 11 year old little skull the same as if I was a 35 year old woman. Diet #1: Age ELEVEN.
It worked, obviously. I lost weight that summer. I was a thinner version of myself come fall when school started. More self-confident? No. Happier? No. More friends? No. But I had collarbones.
The rotating door of diets began so young that it scares me to think I’ve been conditioned to be mindful of everything I put in my mouth and what I look like for decades. I’m only 31 for fuck’s sake. And since then, I’ve tried all the things. WW, Jenny Craig, juice cleanses, intermittent fasting, exercise, pills, starvation. You name it, your girl has tried it. And they all work, for about 30 pounds of trying, give or take.
I sometimes think people see me and think I’m lazy or don’t believe me when I say I’ve been trying [insert diet or routine here] for awhile now. I might not look it but I do know what I need to do. It’s more math than it is science to me, I get it. And while I’m fat, I’m not blind. I can see the “oh really” and “you poor thing” sparkle in your eyes.
The really awesome thing about a blip of culture today is the #BoPo aka body positivity movement taking off. For the first time in the history of my life, I see people all over the internet flaunting what their mama’s gave ’em. I see women (and men) of all sizes not giving a damn F what society thinks. Living, dressing, acting, however they please in the bodies they were blessed with, take it or leave it. And I’m here for it! I LOVE seeing people unapologetically embrace who they are, how they are, and what they are. I want to know whatever magical fairy dust they found to garnish that kind of confidence! Seriously, please share.
However, while any improvement is leaps and bounds beyond what I had growing up, some of it stings worse than the ghosts of past and present.
I do genuinely believe people of all body types go through bouts of insecurities. The #BoPo movement sometimes, like 40% of the time, is so full of shit though. I said it. So often, it’s just another filter to pretend behind. Showing a before and after photo of you sitting in two different poses proves that your biggest fear on earth is to be fat. Well, try actually being fat.
- Pose 1: You’re slouching, your bikini bottom is cutting into your hips, your hair is a mess, and you’re making a gross face. You look sluggish and tired, obviously.
- Pose 2: You’re sitting straight, sucking in, and positioning your body at some perfect angle and the sun hits your jawline like it’s a diamond. You hiked up your bottoms to accentuate your curves, plumped up your boobs, let your hair down and threw your head back laughing. You look hot AF. No shit.
You think you’re telling your followers that it all has to do with an angle. You’re not fat, you’re just posing wrong. The thing is, girlfriend, you weren’t fat to begin with. You can pose the shit out of me and I’d never look like that.
Now, this is just one example of many where thin or average size people want to insert themselves into a movement meant to build people up, not tear them down even further. But by pointing out this example, I’m the asshole. I’m the one body-shaming. It’s so far from that though.
I recognize that thinner people can have body dysmorphia just as severely as someone who is fat. Mid-size bodies can feel groggy and bloated just as much as any other body type. Super duper thin or super duper tall people can have a hard time shopping for clothes. People of all shapes and ethnicities can have stretch marks.
But if you’ve never legitimately struggled with weight, it’s simply not even in the same ballpark; it never has been and it never will be. I just wish there was some sort of universal definitive distinction between being skinny-fat and the actuality of being fat-fat.
This brings me to today: referral day. I’d waited nearly 3 months for this referral appointment. In the meantime, I started (kinda) working with a trainer. She provided me with an exercise a week and I committed to working out 2-3 times per week on my own. I’ve stuck to that and found consistency which is pretty damn awesome and worth a pat on the back if I do say so myself.
She also started to work with me on some healthy eating habits. That’s been going okay-ish. I’d say my weeks are 75% successful. But I struggle with binge-eating on the weekends because I end up making up for being so “good” during the week by overindulging on Saturday. How fucked up is that?
I’ve lost a little weight since then, nothing noticeable or really worth celebrating but I am feeling good with the lifestyle choices I’d been making on my own in preparation for today. I was really looking forward to sitting down with a professional to talk about everything. My history, my issues, my binging, my sleep habits, my progress, all the things. Right?
Before we dove into anything, she suggested surgery as the only route for me to lead a thinner life and I backed that train way the fuck up because #cuewaterworks.
Surgery is not new information to me but it’s a non-starter. I won’t get into the nitty gritty today but it’s a “no for me, dog” for a multitude of reasons. Not only is it in my file but I told the nurse less than 5 minutes prior that I’m not currently considering it. I want to have a healthy and constructive conversation about my health, about ALL my options; not the one you are going to pressure me into. I want to discuss sustainable ways to survive, I want to be mindful of the choices I make. I do not want a “fix” without resolving the underlying issues. I shouldn’t have to explain that to a medical professional. But I did.
To top it off, I have no desire to “be thin” and she’d learn to know that had she bothered asking what my health-related goals are. Just because I’m in a weight-management clinic does not confirm that I have the desire to look like a Hollywood actress. And how much more of a confirmation of how unrealistic and disgusting my body is than by a doctor suggesting gastric bypass before even asking what I’m doing right now to better my health?
Sure, I do want to lose weight but not because I have an ideal figure in mind. I want to be healthy, live a healthy life. I don’t want my weight or health to limit me in any capacity or adventure that life has to offer. I want to carry babies safely; I want to love the body I have been blessed with, regardless of the number on the scale. Surgery alone simply will not do that, medical degree or not.
What this doctor failed to understand is that it took me YEARS to even convince myself to seek and ask for a referral to be professionally evaluated. Between tears, I tried to explain how embarrassing it is to have to deal with this. Have to think about it every day. How painful it is to compare myself to every other woman walking this earth.
Her response: If you had high blood pressure, you wouldn’t be embarassed.
You’re fucking right, I wouldn’t be. Because high blood pressure is not mocked and taunted in the hallways between class. High blood pressure isn’t a make or break to being asked out on a date. High blood pressure isn’t the reason you hate what you see in the mirror. High blood pressure cannot, in any world, be compared to being fat in the modern age.
Not only did it take me years to get myself to the doctor, but she doctor-splained to me about how fat people are fat. It’s all science.
Bullshit on all of that, respectively.
I may not be a doctor, but I’m an expert at being fat. And you cannot tell me that the mental aspect to the “chronic disease” I suffer from is not relevant or valid. Yes, it is science. But it’s also math. It’s also psychology. It’s awareness. It’s so much more than being predisposed.
Why do you think so many people who have elected to get surgery have gained the weight back? (More power to you if you did and kudo’s, this is not a diss on the choice. I know many people personally that have gone this route.) Because the underlying issue was NOT addressed. The emotional aspect, the trauma, the reason why you eat or binge or throw up.. It was not addressed.
And it needs to be.
I need it to be.
Maybe I sought guidance in the wrong avenue. I was under the impression that this was going to be a comprehensive consultation keeping in mind that holistic lifestyle change approaches were preferred and medical intervention was a last resort. I was wrong and that’s on me for assuming.
The resolution to today’s appointment was a prescription to two medications; a hunger suppressant and a craving suppressant. I think it was her way of meeting me in the middle. I don’t doubt that this medication could help with the hunger and cravings but it’s not tackling what’s going on at the root and I struggle with the lack of empathy I experienced today.
“Here, take these pills. You’ll lose weight. And we’ll talk about surgery again next time.”
I hope I can look back at this a year from now with a big “FU” to the gal who told me today that the only way to a thin life is by cutting my stomach in half, literally. I hope that someone who actually can relate to some of this finds this and doesn’t feel as alone. Because even with all the really awesome body acceptance stuff going on, I still find it incredibly difficult to sort through and actually find women that “get it.”
Four final notes:
- The last thing I want to do is offend anyone who is or has ever tried to contribute to the #BoPo movement by sharing their experiences. I believe in woman building woman up and know that insecurities, trauma, and self-loathing comes in all shapes and sizes. Your thoughts and feelings are just as valid and relevant as my responses to examples I provided are.
- While they are sometimes difficult to find, there are some really badass woman on Insta that I follow and genuinely love. I encourage you to look ’em up (and plz share in the comments who else we need to know about!): @brenzaart, @sassyconfetti, @tessholliday, @thefatsextherapist, @swipefat, @lizzobeeating, @ashleygraham, @niccinunez, @visiontwins (guys not gals but still great).
- Loving thyself is a lifelong journey. This post isn’t a cry for help or even a pity party. However, I don’t have a single person in my everyday life that can specifically relate to the issues I have run into with fatphobia and fat-shaming. From a childhood of mean girls to finding clothes that fit the fashionista you are; from the realization that men either like what they see but are embarrassed of you in public to not being attracted to us all together. I hope this reaches at least one person that can be like: PREACH GIRL.
- Lastly, I know the doctor I saw today was “just doing her job” but quite frankly it was done without tact, consideration, or proper evaluation for my circumstances. Fat people have been treated unfairly and had problems minimalized in both society and in medical offices for decades. It’s getting old.
Anyway, thanks for coming to my TED Talk.