It’s 2012 and I’ve just lost 100 lbs. In the past year and a half, my life had been dedicated to weight loss. I had been working with our military base Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist, and a personal trainer to get the weight off of me. During that time I had ran several 5k’s, 10k’s, mud runs and also two half-marathons. When the Exercise Physiologist had conducted the VO2max assessment I fell within the “elite athlete” category. During my last BodPod (a machine that measure’s body fat percentage), I fell within the normal body fat range for a female. However, if you solely looked at my BMI (which should NOT be used as a gauge of health* ) it would tell you I’m obese. When I gathered up the evidence concerning my health the scales were tipped towards me being healthy. From everything I, and the people working with me, saw, I was a human that had a large skeletal frame and carried more muscle mass than the average female. The only way I would ever be a “normal” BMI would be to lose 50 pounds of mostly muscle.
Keeping all this in mind, I decided to finally go see an OB/GYN for that super special appointment we all love. I hadn’t been to an OB since my daughter had been born 5 years ago. Doctors and I didn’t have the best relationship. As a military family, we rotate through our main doctors (PCM) quite a bit. We’re lucky if we have the same doctor for a year or more. I didn’t problems taking my kids to the pediatrician, but I avoided doctors for myself at all costs. Normally this is how the doctor visit would go.
“Hi Doctor, I have a sore throat and don’t feel so well”.
“Hmmm it says here you weigh 296 pounds. Have you considered doing anything about your weight?”
“Yes, but right now it hurts to swallow. Do you think it’s STREP? My kid just had it.”
“Maybe. But you know, you would have STREP if you weren’t obese.”
This is an actual conversation with one of my previous doctors. Instead of looking at my throat, I received a lecture on how I was killing myself and that just because I didn’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or glucose issues that they could show up at any time. This wasn’t an unusual visit either. I would often leave doctors visits feeling ashamed and not heard.
However, since losing 100 pounds, I felt that it was safe to visit a doctor and have him/her really dive into my health. I needed to have my lady parts looked at because I had been too ashamed to see a doctor in years. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for larger humans like myself to not seek medical attention due to medical fat shaming*.
It’s the day of my appointment and I sitting on a cold table wearing a flimsy paper gown. I’m waiting for the doctor to show up, feel my boobs and swab my goods. She enters the room holding my chart and I instantly know things aren’t good. Her whole face is scrunched up like she can’t believe she has to deal with me right now. She sits down, looks at me and says, “You weighed in at 198 pounds today. Do you know what your BMI is?” Well !$%* here we go. I don’t say anything, and she gets out of her chair and walks up to a massive BMI chart hanging on the wall and points to my BMI… which is obese. I feel myself shrinking in front of her. My brain says “I told you so. You aren’t good enough! You haven’t done enough to be good woman. You aren’t worthy.” I should have got up right then, tore off my stupid gown, throw my clothes on and walked out. Instead, I continued to negotiate my worth with her. I questioned myself and rationalized believing her.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t believe your doctor; however, I had other medical professionals monitoring my health and they were NOT concerned with my BMI; however, they were using the plethora of evidence (besides BMI) to determine I was healthy. This doctor ONLY looked at BMI. She didn’t ask me why I had lost 100 pounds, if I had done it intentionally, what my eating habits were, if I was exercising, if I had been seeing a dietitian or had had my body fat tested. She didn’t even ask to see blood work! Yet, I gave her an immense amount of power, and let her negotiate my worth with myself.
Looking back. I don’t think it matters what I could have done or said, I think what would have mattered was my internal dialog TO MYSELF, and this is heart of the issue. Part of this process.. this whole working on whole person health… is noticing how we move through the world, and how we consciously give our power away. When someone makes a snide comment on our clothing, our social media, or our food choices how do we react, and more importantly WHAT DO WE SAY TO OURSELVES? We may react angrily and put that person in their place, but what is going on in our minds? Have we already sided with that person? Did we let that person set up shop in our mind and invite those criticisms over for dinner? Our actions are important, but what’s even more important is what conversations and feelings are happening internally.
I don’t know about you, but I have been negotiating my worth with far to many people for far too long. I am slowly starting to shut all negotiations down, and this is a process because there are situations where I wasn’t aware I was doing this! As you move through your journey of health, where have you noticed yourself negotiating your worth? How do you think you’ll address this?
Thanks for reading,
* Impact of weight bias and stigma on quality of care and outcomes for patients with obesity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4381543/
* The relationship of obesity to the frequency of pelvic examinations: do physician and patient attitudes make a difference? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8372479
* Fat Shaming in the Doctor’s Office Can Be Mentally and Physically Harmful https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/08/fat-shaming.aspx
* Underdosing of common antibiotics for obese patients in the ED. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22169576
* Body Mass Index: Is the Formula Flawed? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/255712.php