I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one in real life or on the Internet!
I know that all doctors are a little different, but I thought it would be interesting for me to tell you about how my doctors reacted to my obesity and contrast that with how other doctor’s handle a patient who needs to lose weight.
Like many people large and small, I really abhorred going to the doctor. The more I weighed the less I liked stepping foot into a doctor’s office. I’m still not sure what the most embarrassing part of a visit was – standing on the scale, which was usually right in the main hallway, watching the nurse’s face when she pretended not to be horrified by the huge number she was writing down, or the awful anticipation of having the doctor look at my weight on the chart. In truth, they were all pretty bad.
I always felt ashamed when I stood on the scale. I would imagine ways to avoid getting on it, but I could never think of a way that may actually work so I always ended up just hauling myself up on the scale and trying to pretend I was somewhere else. Like Switzerland or Iceland.
After standing on the scale I’d silently yell at the nurse to hurry up already. It used to annoy me when she’d start the scale weight at the 150 mark when I obviously weighed a LOT more than 150 pounds. Finally she’d figure out that I was close to 300 pounds and record my weight. I’d reluctantly follow her to the exam room, already dreading whatever it was my doctor was going to say to me about my weight.
Would he yell at me? Would he seem frustrated because I weighed more than I had the last time he saw me? Finally he’d come in and say something along the lines of, “Hello Diane, how are you?” I’d speak politely to him, but the whole time I was talking I was cringing inside about my weight. After all, this was the same doctor who met me when I was a newlywed who weighed about 165 pounds and now I was about 300 pounds.
Surprisingly, in the 10 years that I was obese, only a couple of my doctors ever said anything negative about my weight. For most of the visits, not one word was spoken about the fact that I weighed more than a football player, weighed twice what I used to, or was continuing to gain weight year after year. Nonetheless, I still worried about it every single time.
The first time my doctor said anything about my weight was when I went over 200 pounds or so. 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 to the doctor’s appointment 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 “doctorly” 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, perhaps because I fried or smothered that chicken and finished off my chicken meal with at least two desserts!
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 eating and gaining weight.
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.
A midwife said something once, and one or two other times my doctors said I should lose weight, but they said it almost in passing and I did not take their advice to heart.
In talking to a ton of people about weight issues, I tend to see two camps. There are doctors who really do address the weight issue head-on, and there are other doctors who seem to tiptoe around the weight issue or avoid it entirely.
I wonder if you have had doctors who gave you practical advice, doctors who ignored the issues, or doctors who made you feel badly about yourself?
What’s the right balance? Is it better for a doctor to risk offending a patient and address the weight issues upfront or have doctors who just let it all slide?
And as a side note, 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