I’m not a doctor and I don’t pretend to be one.
Before I start this, I know not all doctor’s 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 just 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. Sliding the weight 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 or get frustrated with my continual weight gain? The waiting in the exam room seemed eternal, and it actually was, 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, for because John and I had lived in the same town for a long time, 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, only two or three times in the ten years I was obese did a doctor ever comment 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 the lot 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. I was very good at ignoring advice, much to my own detriment.
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. I have a doctor friend who told me he brings up patient’s weight when necessary, but says he often gets little response from the patients. He said that some of them look surprised he has said anything, while others get a bit defensive with him. I’m sure it is hard for doctors as well.
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 needed to hear it often. 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.
What do you think a doctor’s response should be to an overweight patient? Did your doctor say much to you? Diane