When I was 16, I caught a cold that developed into a nasty respiratory infection. Our family GP was out of town, and his office referred me to another doctor who was covering his patients. My mother took me. The first thing the nurse did was weigh me and take my vitals.
As soon as the doctor came into the exam room he started berating me for being fat and having high blood pressure – nothing about the respiratory infection that had brought me to his office. I tried to tell him that I had never had high blood pressure before, but he wouldn’t listen. He went on and on about my weight, my “high blood pressure” and how I was a heart attack or stroke waiting to happen. “It can and does happen, even to people your age when they’re as big as you are.” (I was about 190 at the time.)
My mother also told him my blood pressure had always been normal and perhaps – just perhaps – it was high at the moment because I was sick and feeling nervous about seeing a new doctor. (She has “white coat hypertension” herself, so it was a valid concern.) He was just as rude and dismissive of her. He told her she wasn’t helping me by “protecting me from the truth”, and that he was doing us a favor if it “scared some weight off” me because it would save my life. He was absolutely vile to both of us.
He then grudgingly wrote a prescription for antibiotics and cough syrup, and sent us off with a standard 1,000 calorie diet from a tear-off pad. He even told us to make a follow-up appointment with his nurse and he’d get my “health under control.” As if.
I left the office in tears. My mother, normally a mild-mannered, non-confrontational sort of woman, was furious. When we followed up a week later with our regular GP, he confirmed that my blood pressure was back to where it had always been – perfectly normal. He said my temporary high blood pressure could have been caused by any number of things, including the OTC cold medicines I’d been taking to treat my symptoms.
So why did Dr. Scaremonger apparently never consider this possibility? Raised blood pressure is a well-known side effect of the most popular decongestant, which is why those with actual hypertension can’t take it. You’d think this would occur to a doctor, right? Apparently not when treating fat patients. To him, I was in denial, a liar, and on death’s doorstep at 16, all because of the fat.