I was reading a Facebook’s friend post about her friction with her doctor over her weight, and I found myself nodding in agreement as I read. I’ve shared my own horror stories about insensitive doctors and my weight, and I’ve had several, but one really sticks out in my head. At the time, I was trying to find a anti-depression medication that worked to no avail. I’ve had good luck with SSRIs in the past, but each only worked for roughly a year. Once I ran out of new ones to try, my therapist* and I decided to try Prozac again. It was a disaster. I was deeply suicidal, so I quickly got off that. Tried Celexa, but with the same result. All I could do was think about killing myself. I’ve been suicidal before, but it’s always been a more passive kind–“I wish I were dead.” This was hyper-aggressive, and I had to physically restrain myself from slitting my wrists, ramming my car into a median, leaving the car on while sitting in the garage, etc.
This went on for a month. Needless to say, I wasn’t eating during this time. Nor was I sleeping much (even less than I normally do). Again, I wasn’t doing much more than making sure I stayed alive. After a month of this and the second SSRI to reject me, I went back to my doctor to try something different. Now, remember, I hate going to the doctor is the first place, and I often delay it just so I don’t have to weigh myself. I know it sounds stupid to someone who doesn’t have eating disorder issues, but just accept that this is a thing. Anyway, I got weighed facing away from the scales as always, then was taken into the examining room. I was totally depressed and dispirited, but I knew I had to try something. It was my last gasp, if you will.
My doctor bustled in all perky and energetic. Her specialty was weight management, which should have been a red flag to me from the start. She was a relatively new doctor, and I had left the one before, whom I adored for a long time, because she tried to cite the BMI at me. I told her she knew it was bullshit, and she admitted she did, but she had to say it because their new health insurance manager required it. I cannot abide someone lying to me, especially knowingly, so I regretfully left her to find a new doctor. Anyway, the new doc looked at my chart and burbled that I had lost 19 pounds in a month and how great it was. I stared at her dully and said it was because I was actively suicidal from the SSRI, and she said, without missing a beat, “Who cares how it happened as long as it happened!”
Let’s take a moment to appreciate how egregious that statement was. My doctor, the person who was supposed to be looking after my well-being, She just told me in no uncertain terms that me being skinny was more important than me not killing myself. At the time, I was too depressed to say anything to her, but I wish I had told her how fucking inappropriate her comment was. I also realize she might have been joking because she was uncomfortable with my confession of suicidal ideation because she’s not a psychologist, but still. That was the worst possible response she could have made.
Sadly, though, our society still tells people, especially women, that you are better off dead than fat. It’s slowly and agonizingly becoming less acceptable to tell random people on the streets that they’re fat. By the way, fat people know we’re fat. Believe me, we aren’t allowed to escape the fact that we’re fat. You telling us we’re fat isn’t going to help in any way, shape, or form. Do not think couching it in terms of health fools us at all, either. We know what you really mean. You wouldn’t look at someone who’s too skinny and say, “You should eat more. I’m just worried about your health”, would you? No, you wouldn’t. When I was anorexic, my mother never once mentioned it except to express envy that I was thinner than she was. When I’m fat, though….She used to mention it all the time under the guise of being concerned about my health. It got so bad that I had to explicitly tell her she was not allowed to mention my weight any longer. She once offered my money to lose weight. Can you imagine how that made me feel? She’s also the one who put me on my first diet when I was seven, and she’s obsessed with her own weight, which is where I learned it from.
In addition, it’s better to be severely obese than severely underweight. I’ve known this for some time, and it both amuses and angers me that people don’t know this or choose not to believe it. It just shows that the notion that being fat is bad is so deeply entrenched in our society, evidence to the opposite is ignored or decried. One reason we need fat is because, in lay people’s terms, it holds organs in place and buffers them from injury. It also is a reserve your body draws from if you have no other option for sustenance. In other words, all those avowals of, “I’m just worried about your health” are bullshit. I’m not saying the person uttering this contrivance is being duplicitous, but that they have bought into the anti-fat sentiment that pervades American society.
More to the point, even if everything we’ve heard about fat is true, why the hell is it up to you, random person, to yell at me about it? You’re not doing any good, and you know you’re only doing it, no matter how you couch it, to feel better about yourself. But, again, it’s not true, so you can shut your gob.
Back to my doctor story. After I left and never went back, I quit taking the Celexa, suffered through the side effects, and I haven’t been on anything since. I gained back some of the weight I’d lost, but I consider it a fair trade to no longer have to stop myself from throwing myself off a cliff every second of the goddamn day. About a year ago, I made a decision to start working on my diet. Not, I hasten to add, go on a diet. They don’t work. But, I eat like shit, and I knew I would feel better if I didn’t eat solely crap. I cut out muffins, chips (which I’ve bought now and then, and also crackers, and white cheddar popcorn, which is my weakness), and bagels. I’ve added more fruits and veggies, but I still have far to go. The thing is, though, I know I have to make it about habits and lifestyle changes rather than a drastic upheaval that I will never retain. The last time I went to my new doc (whom I adore), she said I lost five pounds and was very positive about it. It made me feel good about the changes I’ve made without making me feel self-conscious.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I hate being fat. Even knowing all I know about the issue, I still feel gross when I look in the mirror. It’s decades of conditioning, and I’m working on it in a roundabout way. Eating more non-junk food makes me feel better. Doing taiji makes me feel better. Going for a walk doesn’t make me feel better because I hate walking, but I know it’s good for me. The point is, I can focus on my health without obsessing about my weight. At least, I hope I can. I’m certainly giving it a good try.
*My GP actually proscribed the drugs, of course. Just want to make that clear.