What it feels like when your doctor calls you fat

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday. Thanks to my recent gypsy-like lifestyle, it was the first one in a looong long time.

I wouldn’t generally categorize myself as a hypochondriac – but I’ll be honest, when you put that much chronological space between trips to the doctor’s office, you start to get a little panicky. Every headache becomes a potential brain tumor, every cough sounds like tuberculosis. Freckles start to look suspicious. And you think: I’m the case study. I’m the cautionary tale. I’m gonna be their example, the “if only she’d made an appointment sooner…” horror story.

I was googling “how to tell if you’re having a panic attack” in the waiting room when they called my name.

A nurse named Brenda, who had to be no older than I am, lead me into the back office. I said, “Hi, how are you?” and she answered, “Great, thanks” without reciprocating the question.

Aren’t I the one visiting the doctor right now? Shouldn’t she be concerned how I am?

I decided not to like Brenda.

She let me know that they would be taking my height and weight, and instructed me to step on the scale – while she stood nearby with a clipboard on her big non-question-reciprocating pedestal.

I held my breath and closed my eyes.

When I opened them, I was absolutely paralyzed by the number in front of me.

It was waaay-hay-hay too high.

I blinked a few times, hoping maybe it was some poisonous speck in my eye that made these numbers appear so distorted. I squinted again at the small display, but it remained unchanged.

I had a moment of disoriented awe, mildly impressed that scales could even go that high. Should I get off? Will I break it? I half-expected to hear a crack and watch the whole thing collapse.

It was a number that made me reconsider my career choice – since I am so obviously better suited for sumo wrestling.

It made me fear the ocean – what if I drown out there, and the waves roll me up onto the shore, and they have to call in big beeping forklifts to clear my carcass from the beach?

If I was a wild animal in some remote jungle, my body could keep a local village fed for ages. They would dance around my roasting flesh for days, praising the gods for such an enormous, blubbery feast.

That number can’t be right.

Here, Brenda, let me take this scarf off. This scarf is like an anvil around my neck.

And these earrings – these EARRINGS! – little dangling dumbbells.

I’m telling you, Brenda, I’m packed like a camel. Let me just unload some of this gear – surely that’s it. That’s all it is. I’ll strip down naked for you right here, Brenda.

I also have to pee right now, which seems important. That’s a thing, right? There is literally excess liquid inside of me. Please, for the love of God, Brenda – let me pee real quick. That number cannot be right.

But Brenda did not let me strip naked, and she did not let me pee. And I swear I saw her smirk a little when she wrote it down.

Fucking Brenda.

She then measured my height – 5’6″ – which is absolutely and totally WRONG. I’ve had 5’7″ on my driver’s license since I was 16, and it’s not like I’m shrinking.

Maybe I’m just feeling a little demoralized after that humiliating weigh sesh, Brenda, did you ever think of that? (Why on Earth don’t they weigh people second? It would add an inch to every medical record.)

As if this whole ordeal wasn’t enough, my actual doctor’s appointment hadn’t even started yet.

When I sat down with my doctor, everything seemed on the up-and-up, except that she had one minor concern she wanted to discuss with me.

“So, Susie, talk to me about your weight.”

Have worse words ever been uttered? Talk to me about your weight. How about you talk to me about your student loan debt. Or your marital troubles. Or the last psychological trauma you experienced.

Talk to me about your weight.

I do not have a weight problem. I’m not skinny and I’d like to be… but I imagine this to be true of 99% of American females, so I’ve never considered it an actual issue. Like many, my weight management story is just schizophrenic, that’s all. I do try to work out semi-regularly… but I also hate running and I hate the gym. I try to eat as healthily as I can… but I’m also the type of person who devotes an entire blog post to a burrito. You do the math.

“I only ask because I’m wondering where we can work to find improvements to help you keep it down.”

It was like every insecurity I’ve ever had was herded together and ushered into the small office with us. My poor body image, low self-esteem, every guy who’d ever turned me down… all shuffled into the room, a crowd of hot breath and elbows. I became claustrophobic.

“Don’t worry, you’re healthy – I just want to make sure you stay that way.”

I thanked the doctor and trudged out of the office – probably clocking in at around 4’11” – and held my official Doctor’s Office Printout to my chest. It was right there, next to all my vitals and prescriptions: “Look for improvements in diet and exercise to keep weight healthy.”

Black ink. On my permanent medical record.

This was vaguely reminiscent of a Louie CK bit, where he recalls a similar conversation with his own doctor.

Doctor: “You’re only cosmetically overweight.”
Louis: “What does that mean?”
Doctor: “It means you’re overweight, but it isn’t affecting your health.”
Louis: “Okay, so you could have just kept your mouth shut then, jackass.”

4 thoughts on “What it feels like when your doctor calls you fat

  1. Susie, I haven’t read your blog for awhile at my tremendous loss! I just caught up on a few and your doctor visit was hilarious. My only disappointment is that nobody was home/answered when I called their cells to read a piece of my actual life to them. I almost called thin friends but they can’t really relate the way we people who have “concerns about our weight” can. I go to Weight Watchers now mainly because they do let you strip down, pee first, and you just tell them your height at 5’9″ even though my doctor shows me at a short 5’8-1/2″. Plus at WW when you gain weight they ask u if it was worth it which truth be told the chocolate cake was and they simply say ok then. Today is a new day. And you are willing to believe it. And if you actually lose say 0.2 lbs they congratulate you and do the happy dance. It is why I go to WW every Tuesday and to the fuckin’ Doctor only every couple of years under duress.

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