In the mid-90s, I was married to an active duty Army officer and thus receiving medical care from the military hospital and clinic on the post where he was stationed (and where he worked as an emergency nurse). I had an old back injury from when I was in my teens and very thin (I was a gymnast). I had always had back pain, but began to have increased back pain and was concerned that I had re-injured myself. I went to the family practice clinic to which I was assigned, and saw a new civilian physician’s assistant. He insisted on focusing only on my weight (I had a BMI of 29 at the time), and insisted that if I lost weight I would have less back pain. He prescribed the Atkins diet. I told him I was a vegan. He then spent 20 minutes explaining to me that eating “all of those carbs” was the reason I was “obese” and that anyway there couldn’t possibly be enough protein in a vegan diet to support health. A few weeks later, my husband spoke about my unrelenting back pain to a doctor he knew at the hospital. One CT scan later and I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and given appropriate treatment.
Since divorcing my husband in 2001, I have had no health insurance and have been unable to afford regular medical care. However, after being sexually assaulted in 2007, I didn’t cope well with the PTSD and in 2009 my symptoms came to a head with a “breakdown.” I began to receive mental health care at the local free community mental health center. They obtained a grant to implement a wellness clinic on site. I now get basic health care services there, which is great, but I see a caregiver an average of 2-3 times before she or he is replaced by somebody else, since the doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners who see patients don’t seem to stay around long. At each appointment, I am lectured about weight loss. I have been told that my migraines are caused by being obese. (They are not, they are part of a pattern I believe to be Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.) I have, of course, been told that my progressive neuropathic, joint, and muscle pain are caused by being obese. (I believe they may be fibromyalgia, along with my degenerative disc disease.) Essentially every complaint with which I present is explained away by my obesity. I am invited to join in on their yoga classes (thanks, I have been a yoga practitioner for over a decade and prefer to do yoga at home where I don’t have to worry about how I look when I do it!), bike rides, walking groups, etc. I am lectured on diet (I think I’ve done more nutrition research than all of them put together). Even after losing 45 lbs in the past year due to adding supplements to my diet that improved my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (because of my own research, not because they ever offered me any advice on that except, you guessed it, “lose weight,” even though I’ve had IBS since I was a skinny little kid), all I got from them was, “Keep dieting and exercising!” My blood pressure is healthy. My cholesterol is good; in fact, all of my vital signs and labwork are good. It is disheartening and depressing. I am grateful for Health At Every Size, Fat Nutritionist, Dances with Fat, and other blogs/websites/organizations that have helped me love my body no matter what its size.
Thanks for this site! It really made me feel less alone in being fat-shamed by my healthcare practitioners.