I went to a new doctor this morning, an allergist. My rhinitis has been horrible since early spring to the point that Ledcat convinced me to see my PCP because my typical treatment wasn’t working very well.The PCP gave me some stop-gap suggestions and referred me to the allergist, suggesting that I might need allergy shots. Doctors are some of the most frequent body shamers I’ve ever met. My current PCP and I have come to an understanding that she is not going to lecture me about weight loss since I am holding steady at my current weight. Her predecessor required me to watch a ten minute video about weight loss before he would treat me for a sinus infection. His predecessor (all the same practice) had watched over my bout of weight loss in 2010, encouraging me to eat 850 calories a day and completely missing the fact that I was manic as all get out and thus not losing weight in anything resembling a healthy manner. So I headed into this appointment with expectations of lectures and sly references to how my weight contributed to my allergies.
That proved untrue. This doctor never said a word about it. Instead, he asked me about my symptoms and did a thorough exam. Then we talked about treatment options, allergy testing and the time frame for when I would notice relief. I ended up asking him about my weight, mostly because I was curious. He told me that weight is not a causal factor in allergies because it is my immune system at play, not my gastrointestinal system. He told me that while losing weight and getting more exercise could strengthen my immune system, it doesn’t necessarily mean my symptoms will abate. Then he said the magic words
Losing weight isn’t necessarily an indicator of health.
I admit that I need to improve my fitness level and general strength, but those have not been the primary health concerns for me of late. When I lost 50+ lbs in 2010, I was very sick and almost lost the battle to my illness. Gaining the weight back was almost a relief as I realized I could get back to a normal level of functioning for me. I often jest that I’d rather be fat and sane, than the other way around. But I’m not jesting – I look in the mirror and see my fat body and feel grateful to be alive and have great treatment and all of that. I am grateful to feel so grounded and affirmed by my body. Weight and fitness are not always in our control.
I’m not saying that doctors shouldn’t discuss our weight with us as part of their approach to healthcare. Weight is an indicator, but it shouldn’t become a value judgement. BMI is also not very useful. And doctors know this. Requiring me to watch a video was beyond the pale. I did it because I needed healthcare. I wish he had talked with me and laid his concerns out rather than make all sorts of assumptions. I was a fat woman with great blood pressure sitting in his office, struggling to breathe through a terrible sinus infection. I need antibiotics and nasal spray to be able to breathe, not to lose 20 lbs magically in 24 hours.
Doctors should treat us with respect and certainly ask us questions without casting judgment.
I dislike body shaming and find it very sad that so many people in the LGBTQ community engage in that particular form of cruel behavior. I’ll be returning to this topic from time to time. If you are interested, I suggest the blog Dances With Fat.