I’m not a doctor and I don’t pretend to be one. Before I start this, I know not all doctors are the same – I just wanted to share my experiences as an obese woman and the reactions of my various doctors through the years. I never liked going to the doctor and once my weight ballooned my intense dislike of doctor visits increased exponentially. I was never sure which was more embarrassing, standing on the scale, listening to the nurse’s sharp intake of breath, or having the doctor see the number on the chart.
Standing on the scale held a shame of its own. My mind would race with ideas on how to avoid the scale, but each idea was as fruitless as the one before. I’d reluctantly follow the nurse all the while trying to decide whether it would be more embarrassing to take my shoes off or weigh one pound more. I usually took my shoes off, often joking with the nurse, “These shoes are really heavy.” She’d nod knowingly and proceed to get the scale set. She’d start the big weight at 150, quickly see that wasn’t going to work, and loudly clunk it over to 200. Clearly she had a perception problem. I wanted to yell at her, “I weighed 275 last time woman – do I look any smaller to you?!” But I restrained myself, and stood obediently on the scale as she once again flipped the big weight. Now we were getting somewhere. Sliding the thingy over, she’d record my weight and cheerfully say, “Follow me.” We’d walk single file to the exam room where she’d leave me to anticipate all the terrible things my doctor might say about my weight gain.
Would he yell? Would he get frustrated? Would he cry? The waiting in the exam room seemed eternal, but the doctor would finally come in and say, “How are you doing today Diane?” I’d exchange pleasantries with him, but the whole time I was anticipating his comments about my weight. I had reason to worry. I had had the same group of doctors for years. They had seen me expand from an average size to a plus sized woman and beyond. But surprisingly, in the ten years I was obese, only a couple of doctors ever commented on my astonishing weight gain. My anticipation and anxiety were ill placed, and unfounded, but I still experienced it each and every time I visited the doctor.
The first time a doctor commented on my weight was when I went over the 200 mark. He said, “Diane, you are such a young woman. You really should do something about your weight.” I nodded and said I had joined Weight Watchers recently. I didn’t tell him I had also stopped at McDonald’s for a chocolate milk shake for fortification on the way there though! He then continued, “You’d lose weight on your own if you would just eat a piece of chicken for dinner and take a walk.” I looked at that man in disbelief. That was his advice? Eat a piece of chicken and take a walk? I had been eating enough chicken to turn into one, and I certainly hadn’t lost any weight. And as for walking, did having to park in the back of his parking lot because there were so many cars count? I dismissed his advice as lame and went merrily along. The second time a doctor commented on my weight was several years after the first incident. An OB/GYN said to me, “You know, it’s pretty unusual to be able to get pregnant at your weight. A lot of people with weight issues have fertility problems.” That was it. I took it as a compliment, and kept right on eating.
These days I have mixed feelings about doctor’s weight loss advice. It seems to me that some doctors avoid the subject entirely, and some can’t seem to let it go. With the obesity epidemic climbing I would like to see doctors offer real life, practical advice to overweight patients. As a previously overweight woman I didn’t want to hear it, but I should have been hearing it. In the weight loss classes I’ve taught the situations are mixed. Some of their doctors offer advice and others ignore their weight like the proverbial “elephant in the room.” My advice to you is this: If you are having trouble with your weight, talk to your doctor even if he/she doesn’t bring it up. Initiate a conversation with them about your concerns and perhaps their advice and your concern can help you get motivated to change. Diane