“You’ve lost [insert number here] pounds since I saw you two months ago! That’s a great start!”
I’m fairly certain if my jaw could literally hit the floor, it would have been immediately dropped and in desperate need of being scooped up. I gave my doctor a blank stare as she continued with her unsolicited praise for weight loss I was not actually attempting, giving me numbers I didn’t want.
With a chuckle (and lack of genuine concern) she added,
“It wasn’t from purging I hope!”
By this point I’m pretty sure my eyes were about to pop out of my head as this doctor, a MEDICAL DOCTOR, made a joke about my battle with an eating disorder, rattled off numbers, and told me she gave me a medication that aids in weight loss. Oh, and I forgot to mention, my daughter was in the room with me because my appointment was on the way to her school in the middle of rush hour so it was easier to bring her along. Needless to say I was fuming.
Continuing with her insidious monologue regarding my weight and health, she went on to exclaim how my blood pressure was well within normal range, my cholesterol was excellent, and my kidney and liver function were great. So, why exactly was my weight even mentioned, and why was she congratulating me- a person with a history of utilizing unhealthy behaviors- on my weight loss? She was mentioning it because I am not a size that is socially acceptable. How can I POSSIBLY be, by all accounts, healthy and yet be this size? That doctor is human and clearly ascribes to the socially acceptable standard of beauty in regards to size.
Internally my body is functioning very well, even though I am labeled “obese” by the BMI charts (again, never actually intended to be a measurement for health). And, if we want to get technical, I border the line for “morbidly obese” given my height, weight (which, thanks to the neglect of that doctor’s assistant, I now know). This physician is one that would be categorized in the eating disorder recovery community as a “nightmare” and completely uneducated as to how eating disorders function. The body is a machine, yes, and mine might be bigger than “average” or “recommended” but it is running like a very loved and cared for machine.
At my first appointment with this doctor in March, when I was establishing care with this physician in our new area, I told her I had a history…a LONG history…of battling eating disorders and that I still had days where I would engage in behaviors of purging and severe restriction. Even given this information, she still prescribed Wellbutrin to help with depression and anxiety over an SSRI; however, I went into the appointment today prepared to advocate for my health by asking how to wean off the medication or looking to change medication.
Causing an increased risk of seizures in eating disorder patients, Wellbutrin is CONTRAINDICATED FOR PEOPLE WITH A HISTORY OF EATING DISORDERS ON THE WARNING LABEL because the seizure threshold in those patients is already lowered. When I, with a much clearer head, asked her about it at my appointment this morning, giving her full details about how often I had been engaging in behaviors just prior to having the medication prescribed, she looked at me like I had three heads. With a condescending smirk she said, “For only purging? No, you can be on it, you’re fine.” Then she continued to rattle off diseases where people shouldn’t take the medication.
I was in complete shock for how I was being treated, the condescension, the lack of regard for my mental and emotional well-being, and quite honestly the disregard for my health. The physician I had in Ohio was WONDERFUL when it came to my history, current size, and appropriateness of realizing my body was very healthy and my weight didn’t actually matter. Even the OBGYN I saw in South Carolina just a week before meeting this general practitioner told me not to worry about my weight or size because I am healthy. Those two doctors are the women who SHOULD be treating people with a history of eating disorders and people who might be afraid to see physicians based on how they could be judged for their physical size.
Until today I’ve never experienced such ignorance from a medical doctor. I’d read about horror stories like this from others in the eating disorder recovery community who had doctors behave similarly, even women who were labeled “thin” but their internal functioning was not optimal. Unfortunately we often forget our medical doctors are simply human, too. They are pressured by society, just like we are, to look a certain way, wear a certain size, and ascribe to socially accepted standards of beauty.
In situations like I had today it is up to us to find our courage and advocate for ourselves by bringing awareness to the medical practitioner. We must try to educate medical doctors about how eating disorders function in the brain and that there truly can be health at every size before damage is done to another person who might be struggling.
While I was too stunned to speak up this morning, I will be writing a letter to that practice letting them know why I will not be returning and why I won’t bother to fill any of the years’ worth of Wellbutrin she called into the pharmacy. Today reminded me that sometimes it is difficult to stand up for yourself while you’re in recovery, but it is absolutely necessary, no matter who the recipient of your advocacy might be.
With Body Love,