[TW: eating disorders, suicide]
I came to you because I was getting a yearly physical for the upcoming season of cheerleading I had ahead of me. You asked what sorts of things I did with the squad with a weird look on your face, and I told you that I do what cheerleaders do: I cheer, I jump, I use my voice a lot, too! For some reason, you didn’t believe me. You still had that weird look on your face.
You continued on to tell me that my weight was out of the range for my age, height, and sex. You continued on to tell me that by the time that I was in my early 20s, I’d be so fat that I wouldn’t be able to move. You continued on to tell me that I would gain 50-100 pounds a year if I continued my ‘habits’. You told me that I would die. I thought this was weird because you were a woman, and you weren’t thin like people on tv. I didn’t understand why you were saying these things to me. I cried. I was roughly 200 pounds.
Then, you went on to ask me about my sexual experiences and you didn’t believe me when I told you that I’d never had sex. I told you that my periods were uncomfortable, heavy, and annoying—like any teenage girl would say. You told me that the best thing to do would be to give me a pap, right there. I felt violated by the simple thought of it, I didn’t know anything about pap smears, no one had ever touched me there, I was terrified. I cried. I wanted my mom.
You calmed me down as much as you could, and then went on with getting my blood pressure and blood work. I was confused as to why you were just now doing these things, after you’d told me how unhealthy I was already. You had a surprised look on your face when I was in the normal “healthy” range for my blood pressure, yet you still told me that I was unhealthy based on the measurement that the scale took of me. I was an active girl. I was a cheerleader which meant I had practice about twice a week and then two games on the weekends. You said the blood-work would most likely show a thyroid condition, and that would be an explanation for my weight problem. You told me that once we got that fixed, I’d be thin. (I have no thyroid problem)
I left your office that day feeling horrible. I felt like I had somehow lied to you, that you were a doctor and you knew what was best and maybe I just didn’t realize what I’d been doing all my life. Maybe I did have sex with someone and I didn’t know it. Hell, maybe my diet did need some work— and it did, but I didn’t know what healthy was because no one taught me. To me, healthy was being happy and loving the people around me and grasping onto them with all that I had. To me, comfort was food because when my dad died people gave us food. To me, comfort was food because when my sister died people gave us food. I was happy sometimes, sometimes my OCD roared its ugly head up. It had been a few years since my last bout of eating practically nothing in order to lose weight, and I thought I’d gotten better because I could eat again without feeling like I was going to throw up. I thought I’d gotten better because I didn’t need the anti-nausea medication anymore. I thought I’d gotten better because I didn’t want to kill myself anymore.
I left your office that day feeling ashamed of myself. I was a smart girl, I got good grades, people loved me, but I was fat. How could I have done that to myself? I walked out to my mother who was in the waiting room and told her we were leaving. I was starting to tear up again, and my mom put her hand on my shoulder and we left. We walked out of your office. I couldn’t tell my mom everything, but I told her some of what you said. I felt stupid, I cried the whole way home. To this day, I’ve probably been to the doctor a handful of times since this instance. You made me want to stay clear of doctors, you made me terrified of doctors, which in turn made me less healthy. I’m still terrified of going to the doctor and what they might say to me. Luckily, I never get sick.
Little did you know, I went on to have more intense disordered eating. I counted every last calorie I ate—including gum, I got an estimate for how many calories my body burned by just existing, and I worked my hardest to make it so that I would be burning so many calories each day to lose a pound in two days. I still ate crappy foods, but counted them into my calories. I worked out, I had a personal trainer at the gym that I worked at, and if I didn’t work out one day, I just wouldn’t eat anything. I didn’t know what healthy was, I just knew that I needed to be thin.
If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be roughly 300 pounds today. Your shame against my body made me hate my body the way you hated my body, and I treated it terribly. I tried counting calories, I did Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, I even fainted at a cheerleading practice because of how unhealthy I was. But you know what? I was still fat. I still never got below 200 pounds. I had this dream number, you know? I so badly wanted to be 160 pounds. I had a journal online that was dedicated to tracking my calorie intake and outtake, and I was in a community with other people who wanted to lose weight by any means possible. This group was an anorexia group. I figured they knew how to do it because they were the thin ones. But I got confused when I was doing the same things that they were and I still looked like me.
Food has been a constant friend to me, even when it was the enemy. It was something I feared, something I yearned for, something I could have when I was skinny. Now, I sometimes still go a day without eating and remember how happy I used to be when I felt the hunger growling up inside me. Now, I sometimes binge eat, because I don’t know what the feeling of full is because of how fucked up my eating habits have been in my lifetime. I can blog day in and day out, I can do research on fat/body politics, I can read Health at Every Size cover to cover and go on websites dedicated to it, and I still have disordered eating. You are one of the reasons. I hope you’re happy.
I’m still alive. I’m at the peak of my life, and it’s only getting better. If it wasn’t for people like you, I wouldn’t be researching what I’m researching, I wouldn’t be going to grad school, I wouldn’t be talking about body-positivity, I wouldn’t have gotten to lecture in classes at my college, I wouldn’t have gotten to do anything that I’m doing right now. I am the person I am today because of people like you.
Instead of telling your patients how terrible they are and how they’re going to die (which is a lie), tell them how to be healthier. Tell them that being active can be fun, not a chore and not only to lose weight. Tell them that fad diets don’t work. Put the energy of love into your patients, not hate. You don’t care about something that you hate.