Fat pediatrician shames fat child

Rose writes:

I’ve been a larger-sized person my entire life, and while my parents and many of my relatives are similarly-proportioned, we’ve all had quantum amounts of fat shame since I can remember. In my case I felt like I had to be the nicest or funniest or smartest, because I certainly wasn’t pretty. For an elementary-schooler, I was (I believed) freakishly fat. “Don’t say that. You’re just chubby,” said Mom (a fellow fat-shamer). “You’re just heavier.” But by third grade I was already at the point where I automatically scanned a room upon entering, to verify if I was the biggest kid present. However — miracle — I was tall for my age! Tall people looked skinnier, right? Mom said that all the time. So okay: I would just keep getting taller and then everything would be fine.

One of the doctors at our pediatrics clinic, though, felt differently, and she wasted no time telling me this when I went for a physical. “You’re not going to get much taller,” she said, because my mother was on the short side of average. Then she whipped out a chart and pointed out the normal weight range for ten-year-olds and lectured me on how much more than that I weighed. “If you keep going like this, you’ll be 200 pounds before you’re seventeen.” In the corner chair, my mother gasped quietly. The number horrified me. Two hundred? Oh my God. I wanted to die. My doctor then went on to detail, bluntly, the health problems/diseases I would have if I kept going the way I had been (diabetes! heart attacks in my twenties!! MORBID OBESITY!!!) and my mom became completely livid. We ended our appointment with my mother yelling at the doctor, dragging me out to the reception area, and forbidding the receptionist to ever schedule us with that doctor again.

I didn’t talk about this visit until last summer, ten years afterward, because I felt ashamed. Now it makes me angry — obviously — but more, it puzzles me. The doctor herself was fat, a former weight-loss success story that had gained it all back after quitting a diet. So she had to know how hard losing weight was, and furthermore (and more to the point) must have felt incredibly ashamed/insecure herself. So why the fuck would she say shaming things like that to a ten-year-old?

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  1. I’ve been shamed like this by a fat doctor before. You were mirroring back to her what she hated about herself. I find that these doctors that hate themselves for being fat are often the worst to their fat patients–even moreso if you are okay with being fat.

  2. Patsy Nevins

     /  September 28, 2009

    Also, BECAUSE they are doctors, as well as human beings themselves who have to occasionally consult OTHER doctors for their own care, they are hearing all the worst of lies/misinformation we are all being fed by the $80 million a year diet industry, the $500 billion a year pharmaceutical industry, & the ultra-greedy & unprincipled insurance industry, exaggerating…hell, WHY be nice?…blatantly LYING about the dangers of being fat, denying the many positive benefits, the overwhelming evidence that most, if not ALL, of any increase in health problems among fat people can be blamed on the emotional & psychological stress, anxiety, the abuse, the ostracism, as well as the uncaring & incompetent medical care we are given (when we are given ANY at all) rather than any ill effects which are actually directly attributable to fat itself. The accepted popular wisdom among at least 95% of the medical community is that fat is bad, fat kills, fat is caused by laziness & gluttony & is therefore a ‘choice’ & that losing weight will ‘solve’ or prevent health problems. The insurance companies, as I know from personal experience, are loudly harping on “personal responsibility”, taking care of our health, & making ‘lifestyle choices’ which will supposedly keep us healthier &/or help us live longer, even though there is really we can do aside from perhaps not smoking or using alcohol heavily which can have much affect on that. We have an aging population & the normal changes which come with aging, the diseases which NORMALLY show up more as we age, are being blamed on “lifestyle”, we are being encouraged to believe that we do not HAVE to age if we just live right.

    Also, with the fat doctor thing, not only is her medical training & all the crap she is being taught telling her that fat is bad, yadda, yadda, she is also a fat person & in our culture, at LEAST 95% of fat people BELIEVE all the hype, live on diets, or feel self-hatred, shame, & guilt if they are not on diets, so that is a double whammy. It in no way excuses abusing/bullying/scaring a patient, especially a child, but it is all too common.

    I live in Maine & we have a lot of fat people, a fair number of VERY fat people, & we are rather independent, ornery people who tend to live our own way & think for ourselves. However, even here, MOST fat people are at least somewhat cowed by doctors & accepting of ‘what everyone knows’ about fat, either dieting or planning to soon, or wishing that they had the ‘guts’ to take the weight off & keep it off. That kind of acceptance of the lies & the self-hatred makes it very easy for those who profit by selling weight loss & fat hatred.

  3. Miriam Heddy

     /  September 28, 2009

    There’s also a really sincere belief on the part of many fat (and thin) adults that maybe you *can’t* make a fat adult thin, but if you could only keep kids from *getting* fat…

    This idea’s actually gaining quite a bit of traction as more and more studies suggest how often diets fail. Faced with that, doctors and the public are turning to “prevention” and focusing on childhood fat.

    It sucks.

    My 5 year old daughter’s pediatrician, upon noting her height (above average) and her weight (average), said, “That’s good. Let’s keep it there.”

    And I’m scratching my head thinking, “What?”

    But I didn’t call attention to it because my daughter was in the room and hadn’t heard the comment.

    But blah.

  4. MargB

     /  September 29, 2009

    Why the fuck would she say shaming things like that to a ten-year-old?

    I believe it is called transference – transferring the hatred she felt for herself to someone else. Even a kid. Even though she had major duty of care to kid.

    Proof that doctors aren’t gods; they come in all the fallible guises the rest of us humans do.

  5. Geogrrl

     /  September 29, 2009

    Unfortunately, a person’s being in a professional capacity–even a doctor–doesn’t preclude their also being an arsehole.

  6. bloomingpsycho

     /  October 7, 2009

    She was projecting her own self hate onto you. Very unprofessional indeed.

  7. Samantha C.

     /  October 7, 2009

    Oh god, I love that. Because a *growing child* is gaining weight at a particular pace, that weight gain is CLEARLY going to continue indefiniately well past the point when the child stops growing. The same way that you can chart that if the Tower of Pisa is leaning at 5 degrees/ year, by 2500 it will have turned itself upside-down and be standing on its ceiling.

    I remember how honest-to-god shocked my childhood doctor was when I leveled off at ~180 pounds after growing consistantly. She kept congratulating me all through my teen years for maintaining my weight. i wasn’t doing anything. I just, gasp, exited puberty!


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