If Your Pediatrician Isn't Body Positive, Then It's Time To Breakup

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
little girl at doctor
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I’m grateful for my kids’ body positive pediatrician.

One of the first times I remember feeling self-conscious about my body I was in my pediatrician’s office. She was talking about my weight and size to my dad like I wasn’t present. She told him I was “very chubby” and then proceeded to ask him all about what I ate and how active I was. I remember sitting in that room feeling invisible and embarrassed, but I wasn’t even sure why. I didn’t know for sure that being “very chubby” was a bad thing, but it sure seemed like she wasn’t very happy about it.

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She sent me home with a chart of foods I should eat. At the top, it said “Always, Sometimes, Never.” Everything I loved was in the “Never” column. I was ashamed.

Until that day, I had no idea I was not perfect. After that, I never felt perfect again.

I know now that I was totally and completely perfect because I was five years old. I never should have been privy to a conversation like that about my body. My doctor should have been so much more sensitive and careful.

My parents were 20 years old when I was born, and they loved me with everything they had. They wanted to give me exactly what I needed. To them, that meant trusting my doctor. If she said I needed to lose weight to be healthy, why would they question that? They just wanted what was best for me.

We left that appointment, and I immediately began my very first diet.

I spent the next 25 years on diet after diet, chasing a thin body that always eluded me. When I had my own kids, I knew I wanted things to be different for them. I wanted them to trust their bodies and love what they saw in the mirror.

That meant finding a body positive pediatrician. I don’t think my kids’ doctor would ever specifically call herself body positive. It’s pretty clear she isn’t attempting to align herself with a movement or make a statement. She is just naturally careful, and gentle, and kind. She is intentional about how she talks about food, size and weight. It’s part of why I love her so much.

She knows I had a tough experience with my own pediatrician. I have told her about my long struggle to make peace with my weight. Our pediatrician knows it’s very important to me that my kids hear positive, affirming messages about their bodies.

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She makes me feel totally comfortable about all three of my kids exactly as they are. One of my boys tends to be heavier than “average.” One of my boys hasn’t gained a pound in a couple of years. My third child is a newborn. She was early and had a few feeding difficulties early on.

Our doctor reminds me that charts and percentiles are a good tool to quickly gauge whether my kids are on track, but as long as each of my kids is gaining weight, getting taller, and meeting their milestones on time-ish, she isn’t concerned about every bite they are eating or exactly how much they weigh. They are not in competition with anyone else. Their bodies will grow as they are intended to grow.

Of course, we will investigate and address any growth-related concerns if they arise, but she isn’t going to worry about perfectly healthy kids.

She’s awesome about body size, and she’s totally realistic about mealtimes too. She has three kids of her own, and she knows that fresh, Pinterest-worthy meals aren’t happening every single night. She recently admitted that her third child chews gum and sneaks sips of Coke when she’s not looking. With her first two, she would have put an end to that immediately, but third kids have different rules sometimes. Just like the rest of us, she offers hearty, nutritious meals as often as she can, and accepts that chicken nuggets and cookies are also going to happen.

I love seeing a health professional admit that a sip of soda or a bag of fruit snacks is not the end of the world. I love seeing another mom admit that we can’t be first-time moms three times. It just doesn’t work like that.

And I really love that my kids hear morally neutral food and body messages from the person I’ve chosen to monitor their health.

The reason I trust her so completely is because I know she will be honest with me if one of my kids falls outside a range than makes her comfortable. We have had difficult conversations about my kids’ health plenty of times. She is not afraid to tell me things I don’t want to hear.

But I also trust that she will have body and weight-related conversations with me in private. My kids are safe in her office. They’ll never leave with a humiliating food chart to stick to the refrigerator. They’ll never hear her say they are too big, too small, too anything.

She talks about their bodies like they are good.

I drive 45 minutes past 100 other doctors to see her because of it.

I teach my kids that healthy bodies come in all different sizes. In our house, we focus on how they’re growing. We don’t talk about healthy or unhealthy foods. Instead, we talk about how important it is to eat a wide variety of foods so their bodies can get a wide array of nutrients. We encourage our kids to use their bodies in joyful, active ways.

There are millions of right ways to have a body, and my kids have the right to a doctor who can see that.

I’m grateful to have found one.

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