I’ve gotten pretty good at reacting to things in my life. Happy things, like hearing my babies’ heart beats for the first time. Scary things, like the day my husband came home and told me he had lost his job. And funny things, like finding my child in her crib, playing with her own feces.
All of these situations–happy, scary, and funny–elicited relatively easy reactions from me. Were they to happen again, I would know exactly what to do. I know what my next steps would be. I could probably even demonstrate which faces I would make and what I would do with my hands.
There is one reaction, however, that I have not been able to nail down. Despite getting older and wiser. Despite giving myself pep talks in my car. Despite practicing in my shower the night before. I still don’t know the answer.
How are you supposed to react when a doctor calls you fat?
The answer to this question has evaded me for years. You see, I’m a bit of an expert in this field.
In high school, my family practitioner encouraged me to join his “physician monitored” weight loss program. He assured me that I was the perfect candidate. I drove to his office every other week to weigh in and receive my refill of diet pills.
Two years ago, I had a doctor evaluate me and tell me that my “Health Grade” was an F. At the time, I was doing CrossFit 3 times a week and running 3-5 miles on the days in between. I was the lowest weight I had been since college. BUT, according to their parameters, my weight was still too high to get anything more than a failing grade.
This summer, pregnant, hot, and miserable, most of my prenatal appointments began with the sentence “You know I hate to bring it up but…let’s talk about your weight.” One midwife said she expected to come in and see me swollen, with the extreme water retention and high blood pressure that comes with preeclampsia (Think, pregnant Kim Kardashian). All of my tests and vitals assured her that I didn’t have a life-threatening condition. I was just fat.
Finally, last month I went to the doctor for strep throat. It was an open and shut case. Swallowing razor blades? Swollen glands? Fever? Boom. Your antibiotic is waiting for you at CVS. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t finish there.
“How old is your baby?”
“She’s almost 5 months.”
“Hmmm. Interesting. Based on your chart, and the weight we took today, I really think you should have lost more weight by now. It doesn’t seem to be coming off fast enough.”
I wanted to tell this man to go f*ck himself. I wanted to storm up to the front desk and demand my records be transferred because I would no longer be their patient. I wanted to drive home blasting “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan with the windows down, while telling my daughters that mommy loves her body and her curves, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
…but I didn’t. Partially because I had strep throat and it hurt to talk. But mostly because even after decades of being told the same thing by doctor after doctor, I was caught off guard, again. I felt ashamed, again. I stammered through an “Oh, okay, well…” again. And I cried in my car in the parking lot. Again.
Maybe he was looking for an emphatic, “THANK YOU!”
Perhaps next time I’ll be clever enough to say, “You’re right, MALE doctor. Now that you mention it, four months is a long time. How long did it take you to get back to your pre-baby weight?”
Or, and this is really out there, but maybe we could stop making people feel like their weight equals their worth.
I very much want to be the person who could wrap this story up in a pretty #selflove #bodypositive bow. I’m not quite there yet.
What I can say, is that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, this is your reminder to take a deep breath and give yourself some grace. You are beautiful, you are important, and you are worthy. Even if your doctor thinks you’re fat.
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