I’m one of those bigger girls that confuses the medical community by being entirely healthy. It's no surprise that my doctor body shamed me.
CN: Weight loss
I was sitting in the doctor’s office, trying to maintain modesty in a medical gown that was too small, during a meeting with my new provider.
“Have you had your thyroid tested?” she asked. My previous doctor had retired, and we were discussing my history, making sure that there were no underlying issues that might have contributed to my recent miscarriage.
“Yes, last year,” I said. “I came in about not being able to lose weight, and the doctor ran a full thyroid panel.”
My first sign of trouble came when the doctor told me that there was no way for her to know if I was honest about my eating habits and workouts.
My provider looked confused.
“That’s not in your chart,” she said as she glanced down at the computer again, opening and closing new screens. “Nope, I can see that she ran a few tests, but no thyroid panel.”
Immediately my ordinarily pristine blood pressure began to rise with my fury. The previous summer I had come to the doctor after being unable to lose weight after my daughter’s birth and even having some unexplained weight gain.
I’m one of those bigger girls that confuses the medical community by being entirely healthy.
I’ve come to accept that my genes just predispose me to be bigger and I’ve chosen not to look for health problems where there aren’t any. Last summer, however, I felt for the first time that something may be off. I was eating healthy and exercising consistently, but I didn’t lose any weight. More importantly, my body didn’t feel right. Despite my reservations, I made a doctor’s appointment to discuss my concerns and rule out any underlying issues.
My first sign of trouble came when the doctor told me that there was no way for her to know if I was honest about my eating habits and workouts. Next, she told me to start spending two hours a day in the gym. She said that until I tried that she wouldn’t order any blood work and she didn’t conduct any other physical. I resisted my urge to ask the physician if she exercised for 14 hours a week, and instead left crying and embarrassed. I had made myself vulnerable in the quest for better health but wound up feeling disrespected and disenfranchised.
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However, I still wanted answers. At the provider’s insistence, I met with a nutritionist, who confirmed that my eating habits were just fine. When I returned to the doctor’s office weeks later weighing the same (down to the decimal point), she told me that she would order blood tests. I reminded her that I wanted a full thyroid screen, which seemed relevant after researching on my own and talking to a friend about a similar issue. She told me that’s what I was getting, along with a blood sugar screen and a few other tests.
A few weeks later my lab results arrived in the mail. With no medical training, I wasn’t able to understand much beyond the fact that everything was in the normal range. I googled any readings that were close to the high or low end of normal but felt convinced that the tests were showing what I had always believed: that my bigger body was perfectly healthy.
I never imagined that the doctor wouldn’t actually have ordered the tests she told me I was getting. I never thought that a medical provider would lie to my face about matters concerning my health. And yet.
“You’re sure?” I asked the new provider this year. She was. No thyroid panel had been run.
My provider this year ran the tests, and everything came back normal. The results, however, are not the point.
The fact that a doctor felt she knew better than I did what my body needed and explicitly told me that she could not trust my reports about my own body is ridiculous.
It's also alarmingly common, especially for people dealing with health conditions like mental illness, obesity, sexually-transmitted diseases and other stigmatized conditions. A doctor should never make a patient feel judged or less than, especially when that person is reaching out for help.
This year I had a wholly different experience with the new size-friendly provider. She listened to my concerns and asked questions that were entirely nonjudgmental. She provided affirmations of my health and was entirely honest with me about everything she was doing during the exam and for follow-up care. I left her office feeling empowered and confident that I was working with a professional who actually understood and cared about my health, which is exactly how healthcare should be.