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?