I was reading your website and have a story that I think is important to share with physicians (if they are reading) and overweight patients who may, like me, have the cause of an illness missed because the first assumption is to blame the fat.
In my 20s I developed depression and was prescribed a popular but relatively new drug treatment. The medication was at least partially successful in treating the symptoms of depression but I gained a great deal of weight (which everyone assumed to be associated with the depression) and developed high blood pressure (which everyone including my doctor assumed to be associated with the weight gain). I was encouraged to work on improving my diet and exercise, which I did, but I struggled to lose any weight. My doctor talked about putting me on another drug (beta blockers) to deal with the high blood pressure. I resisted this as a side effect of these drugs is to increase lethargy which makes it harder to exercise and was likely to see me gain even more weight.
My doctor was very reluctant for me to go off the antidepressant medication for fear that I would spiral back into my depression – and this did happen the first two times I did this. Last year, as I wished to try and get pregnant, I went off the antidepressant medication for a third time and have now been off it for more than a year. It’s been tough but I’ve coped. I lost a few kilos but am still very overweight. Recently I was hospitalised for an unrelated issue. During a week of constant monitoring it emerged that my blood pressure had reverted to a very healthy normal range. I was delighted but puzzled. Everyone claimed that this was probably due to the fact that I had lost some weight and was regularly exercising. I thought that this was unlikely to be the case as I am still about 10-15 kilograms heavier than when I was first diagnosed with high blood pressure.
I started researching the antidepressant drug I had been on for the best part of a decade and discovered that a known possible side-effect was hypertension (high blood pressure) along with weight gain. In other words, it was the prescribed drug that caused the high blood pressure, rather than the fat (and in fact a fair bit of the weight gain may have also been due to this drug). And this was never picked up because everyone, including the medical profession, assumed that the fat was the cause of the problem rather than a symptom of the problem (that I was experiencing dangerous side effects from a popular drug and should probably not be taking it).
I am trying not to be angry about the fact that for 10 years I experienced a condition that in the long-term can be life-threatening due to the doctors’ misguided assumptions about the cause of my high blood pressure. I would rather people, especially GPs, learn from my experience. My doctor is a good and experience practitioner who I know has my welfare at heart – but he made a mistake that could have had a major impact on my health and I’m sure there are many other doctors and patients in the same situation.
I urge anyone who has been diagnosed with a medical condition such as high blood pressure to seek a second opinion as to its cause and to specifically request a review of any prescribed or over-the-counter medication they are taking (there are pharmacists and other specialists who are particularly good at the latter). Even the best doctors can make mistakes or be unknowing victims of fat prejudice.