This post may seem like a huge departure from my normal posts but I think it’s one that’s super important. It’s about why going to the doctor is hard for me. You see, the more I change and grow as a person, the more my brand and this blog changes.
More than anything this is a place for me to get it all out there, to tell my story and to heal. I sometimes get this overwhelming urge to share something even if it maybe feels off topic, it isn’t because it’s all part of this journey of self love and acceptance. And it’s part of who I am.
Why going to the doctor is hard for me.
It all started about 8 years ago, I went in for a yearly physical, blood work etc. At that time I was pretty intensely into Weight Watchers which for me meant severely restricting my calories plus training for a half marathon because I had to get those activity points in. I remember thinking that week, I can’t physically eat any less than I am already eating. Plus on top of that I was doing pretty significant mileage in training. 3-5 miles 4-5 times a week.
That’s a lot to put your body through especially when you aren’t adequately feeding it what it needs. But I was doing what I thought was taking care of my body. I had blood taken at a previous appointment so this was just the one where they go over your test results. The doctor came back in the room and said all of your blood work looks great, all of your tests came back within normal range except one thing, according to our BMI charts your BMI is too high. Have you thought about losing some weight?
Crushed, defeated, misunderstood, all feelings that were running through my mind. What I didn’t know then but I know now is that I was suffering from disordered eating. (You can read more about disordered eating here) There is a stigma in our culture about what an eating disorder looks like, an emaciated white girl who can’t eat or a girl who eats everything in the fridge and then goes to the bathroom to purge.
I didn’t know there were so many other diagnoses on and off the spectrum.
What my doctor also didn’t know at the time was that I was eating so little that my thoughts were constantly consumed with food. I would portion out the exact amount of food I was *allowed* to eat and then sit down for my meal. God forbid my husband try to sneak a piece of food off my plate, I would basically want to break his finger. I felt like an animal in the wild who was perched over their prey when another animal tried to get near their food, they snap. As crazy as that seems, this was my body’s natural reaction to deprivation.
What I also didn’t know then was I was starving myself…
…in order to fit into a very narrow standard of health.So when the doctor told me I needed to lose weight, I just lost it, right there in the exam room with her. Through tears I said, I don’t know how. She didn’t ask what my food intake looked liked, my exercise level, my stress, my sleeping habits, my self-care routine, my mental state, what my social life looked like, nothing. She was simply judging my health based on a number on the scale and a chart on the wall.
She continued on with the standard, just eat right and exercise. Well that’s what I’ve been doing I said, and her response was well just try harder. There it was, I would never live up, I would never measure up, no matter how hard I tried. That appointment and her words have been something I thought about every single day since. Doctors take a do no harm oath and in her defense I think she was doing what she thought was helping but in actuality it set me up for a lifetime of weight stigma, body image issues and so much more. Add to that the fact that every infertility specialist with the exception of our current one has advised me to lose weight to help us get pregnant. I have been given very few other options beyond that but that’s a whole other blog post for another time.
Now through therapy I am able to see so many things that happened that day and leading up to that day were not my fault. But given my experience I avoid going to the doctor, even when I’m sick. I refuse to go to a GP because they have a scale so I end up getting half rate care at the minute clinic and do you know why I go there? They don’t have a scale and they never ask for my weight. But this past month I was forced to deal with my fears.
I got sick and not like the get some rest and drink tea kind but the kind where you actually need the good drugs. I let it go on for weeks because I didn’t want to go to the actual doctor and face my fears. I ended up feeling so badly though that I just gave in and went to the doctor. I walked in and there it was, the moment I had been dreading. “If you’ll just step on the scale for me”, the nurse said. Shakily I asked, “is it medically necessary for you to get my weight for today’s visit?” She smiled, “no, it’s not. You have the right to refuse”.
Relief ran through my body.
Yes, I would like to refuse. And just like that we were on to the next thing and talking about my symptoms and the reason for my visit. I guess more than anything, I want to share my experience with you so that you know that you have the right to refuse being weighed at the doctor. For years, I didn’t know that it was an option until my therapist informed me of my patient rights. I mean obviously there are times when getting your weight is medically necessary like when determining how much medication to give etc. Even if they do have to weigh you, you can step on the scale backward and ask not to be told your weight. This is what I do at the new infertility practice I am going to, there is a note on my file to not tell me my weight. I found out the hard way though, it’s always a good idea to remind them with each visit. Even if there is a note, they don’t always see it. It’s empowering to speak up for yourself and your rights. It’s also a radical act of self care.
I want you to know that you are worthy and deeply loved and a number on the scale will not change that.