It’s ok to starve to death but not ok to be 10 lbs “overweight”

Kitty writes:

When I was 10 years old I went my pediatrician for tonsil problems. However, all that seemed important after getting off the scale was my weight. While I was sitting there in terrible pain from tonsillitis (which I’ve been seemingly getting monthly my whole life), he just kept going on about how dangerous it was that I was 10 pounds “overweight.” He guaranteed her that I’d get type 2 diabetes. This is not the first time my doctor visit has went like so. As soon as I was at risk of being “overweight” when I was about nine, he’s been telling my mom to put me on a diet.
In fact, my parents have already tried to put me on a diet. They’ve been trying since I was 8 years old. After that doctor visit my parents humiliated me and said they’d pay me $10 for every 10 lbs I lose. I decided to go on a diet. By the time I was 12 I was 5’5′ and 72 lbs. I was very underweight and couldn’t go to the mall without passing out from exhaustion. My mom brought me to a doctor to see if I was anorexic. I would not admit it then but I was. I ate no more that 400 calories a day and thought about nothing but calories. We went to my pediatrician (the same one as earlier) and he said that I was going through what all teenagers do as far as worrying about my weight and that my parents shouldn’t worry. I ended up having to go to the emergency room a week later because I was unable to defecate in over a month due to starving myself. After that ordeal I was sent to a eating disorder clinic. Point being, my doctor saw being 10 pounds “overweight” and even at risk of being “overweight” as a serious issue. Anorexia however, was not.

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  1. cate

     /  November 30, 2009

    I’m so sorry you went through that. I had similiar childhood experiences with doctors and diets. I never starved myself, but my 16 yr old daughter with ocd has become anorexic. How are you now?

  2. theknitaholic

     /  November 30, 2009

    I feel like I’m constantly typing the same comment on this blog but THIS IS APPALLING. Stories like this upset me so much. Anyone who can’t see there is a problem with a 5’5″ kid who weighs just 72lbs should be struck off the medical register. I really hope you are OK now and the anorexia had no lasting affects on your development.

  3. lilacsigil

     /  December 1, 2009

    Oh no, the old “as long as you’re thin!” problem. I’m so sorry to hear that it went that far – I had the parent bribery too, but never lost a pound, which, on reading your story, is a pretty good outcome for me. I hope you’re doing well now.

  4. Sarah

     /  December 2, 2009

    This attitude is so frightening, disgusting and just plain destructive. If a child is in the 90th percentile in height do doctors tell the parents to starve it so that we stunt its growth? Maybe to send it to surgery and take a few inches off the leg bones to keep the height down? Hell no. So why the panic when a child is a few pounds ‘overweight’? Natural variation anyone?

  5. Yes, let’s all be so thin that our bodies have to consume our heart muscles to survive. My mother dragged me to so many diet docs I don’t even remember, except for the last one when I was 12, and they put me on speed and injections. And guess what? I wasn’t overweight, just not the Barbie/Twiggy that my mother thought I should be.

  6. Our stories are similiar but every diet enforced on me since age 8 resulted in weight gain. When I was in the 9th grade I wore a size 9 which was not good enough for my mother or doctor. I was a “humiliating” size 14 when I started college. I’ve never been good enough, I guess.

    I have serious “female” problems with endometrosis. I will not go to a doctor because I’ve heard it all before – lose weight. I need help with my thyroid – lose weight.

    I am told how bad I am, how bad my health is, but I’m not the one who will end up with kidney failure in the next year or so. My perfectly thin sister refuses to eat and is killing herself. She does have a good figure, so she is the “good one”. I’m fat, so I’m bad.


  7. Both extremes are a problem. That’s all I’m going to say.

  8. Erin S.

     /  December 15, 2009

    10lbs overweight is an “extreme”?

  9. vesta44

     /  December 16, 2009

    Erin – I think what commenter #7 was trying to say is that the extremes of severe underweight and severe obesity are a problem, not that 10 lbs “overweight” is an extreme.
    But again, that is an individual thing. Some people are perfectly healthy and fit even though they could be considered severely underweight and the same can be said for some people who could be considered severely obese.
    Health and fitness are not exactly the same even for people of approximately the same size and weight, so to expect people of smaller or larger sizes to have exactly the same health and fitness levels as everyone else is not very realistic, nor is it attainable for everyone, IMO. We do the best we can with what we’re given, and hope that’s enough.

    • Ditto with what Vesta said.

      I am 1.52m for 43 kilos (weighted yesterday by ob/gyn). If I convert in American measures, it would be something like 5’0 for 98lbs (not sure for the Am converting).
      If I calculate BMI with the metric system, it gives 18.6.
      I usually weight 42 kilos, which gives roughly 97lbs. It gives me a BMI 18.2 if I calculate with the metric system, so considered as “underweight”.
      You can be happy if I weight 44 kilos.

      ADHD medications are powerful appetite suppressant, but ADHD does NOT help me to increase my weight with bouncing all the time from one place to another. Except if you attach me on the bed and force feed with peanut butter, sour cream, fast food and such, which is NOT realistic at all in the real world (come on, babe !!).
      And even if I stay in bed one month and a half in bed while I ate 2500 cal/day, I could put only 1.5 kilo (BTDT when I had a pericarditis from a virus. It was in bed until healing or a heart failure for the rest of my life. Obviously, I chose the bed).
      My father was 1.78m for 58 kilos (so, as thin as a rake) and even my mom was jealous about how healthy he was. My father’s mother was like me, short and thin, even gracile.
      Younger sister took my mother’s side, robust bone frame and the risk for metabolic issues (on mom’s side, type 2 diabetes and hypothyroidism).

      Before we were born, I guess that sister and I swapped the metabolic issues (she can put on weight very easily, she got countless minor UTI and three kidney infections in her life) from mom’s side against ADHD from my father’s side.

      So, charts consider me as “underweight”. I am fine with it, as long as I can carry on my activities and enjoy my life.
      I don’t ask about putting on weight for the sake of putting on weight.
      I just want to be healthy and happy in my life. Period.

  10. It’s not okay to be either, anorexic or obese. Both are unhealthy, can lead to other medical problems and need to be treated before the problem cascades into a person dying. It’s also not okay for people to make fun of people because of their size (thin or otherwise), yet I see it happen on both ends of the spectrum.

  11. Gwen

     /  January 29, 2010

    ^ This is important, Tay! Small women have feelings too. Yeah, yeah, it’s more “acceptable” to be thin, but being as such doesn’t excuse you from life’s problems. Thin =/= eternal happiness, especially if a person is eating disordered: that’s about the unhappiest existence ever.

  12. KrisP

     /  January 30, 2010

    @vesta44: I am so sorry for your experience. I had a similar experience with a doctor when I was 10–my parents didn’t jump on the bandwagon with him quite as readily, but I did the work for them. I began a lifelong love affair with dieting and disordered eating pretty much that evening at dinner. This went on until my late twenties, and I have just come out of a fairly severe relapse stemming from post-partum depression.

    I changed pediatricians, and my new one was more compassionate (and female), but the damage was done. Doctors are intelligent people who have to learn a lot of complicated concepts to earn their degrees–why they often seem incapable of fitting compassion or tact in there is beyond me.

  13. vesta44

     /  January 31, 2010

    KrisP – It wasn’t my experience with the doctor, it was Kitty’s experience. I was pretty lucky as a kid, I didn’t have to see doctors very often and they usually didn’t bring up my weight. But I was a kid back in the 1960’s and doctors back then weren’t as concerned about fat kids as they are now (no “obesity epipanic” back then).


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