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Dr. Diet and the Fat Panic

May 11, 2012

Trigger warning: This post includes a story of a doctor being a diet-promoting jackass.

The universe has a funny way of dealing with me. I’ve been so aware of International No Diet Day lately, and so happy to participate during our week of awesome posts, that I think the universe has decided to test me.

My brother went to see the doctor recently. He hasn’t seen a doctor in years and asked me to come with him because he was nervous. I asked if it was okay if I asked the doctor some questions about weight and John said it was fine.

We went into the waiting room and there were no seats for larger people and all the chairs had arms, so when we checked in, I suggested they get seating for bigger people. The nurse was very understanding and said that she agreed and that she had talked to her boss about it and would do so again.

While we waited, my brother asked me if he had to get weighed. I said that it was his choice and that he didn’t have to, but because this was a new doctor and because he hadn’t been to the doctor or been weighed in a while that it might be better if he did. He thought about it and decided he would get weighed β€” 418 pounds.

It was about what we both expected. He’s 6 foot 4 and broad-shouldered so it wasn’t a shock and the nurse was very professional. Then she took his blood pressure. My blood pressure is a bit high, so I was worried that Johnny would have elevated blood pressure too. I was ecstatic to find out it was normal.

Finally the doctor came in. The first thing he said was that Johnny should try to lose weight β€” not a surprising response to someone Johnny’s size.

“You could try cutting all of your portions in half,” the doctor said.

“Wouldn’t that cut his calories in half?” I asked.

“Yes, of course.” replied the doctor while checking my brother’s throat, ears, and abdomen. “He could also try Overeaters Anonymous. It’s the same kind of thing they use for alcoholics.”

I was absolutely flabbergasted. My brother had never been to this doctor before and the doctor had known Johnny for probably 10 minutes, 15 tops, when he suggested my brother stop eating half of what he does. He doesn’t know what my brother eats. He didn’t suggest keeping a food diary and bringing it in, he just assumed that my brother eats enough to cut it in half with no problem or health risks. I started to get angry.

“Not all fat people are fat because they eat too much,” I said, calmly.

The doctor sat down and looked at me. “I’ve tested hundreds of thyroids because everyone thinks that’s why they’re fat. I’ve only ever found two patients who actually had hypothyroidism. Most people who suffer from hypothyroidism are skinny because they don’t have the energy to eat,” he said. “He needs to go on a diet.”

“What about studies that say that 95% of diets fail within five years?” I asked.

“People cheat,” he responded curtly.

I shut up at that point. I’d already taken over the visit. But I was livid. My brother’s tests were all normal and the doctor knew my brother’s history only by what he read on charts, and he had the nerve to tell Johnny to lose weight and suggested how to lose weight without so much as a food diary.

Hearing the news that my brother was healthy, my mom quickly decided we all needed to lose weight. While watching TV last night, my mom asked if I would join Jenny Craig with her and Johnny. I said that I would fully support them if that’s what they chose, but that I couldn’t join it for the sake of my mental and emotional health. I told her that it took too long to repair the hate that I felt toward my body and to risk all the work I’d done was not an option.

“You won’t even do it for Johnny?” she asked. “For his health?”

I almost agreed at this point. I love my brother more than anyone in my family and I want him to be healthy. Then I remembered…

“He is healthy,” I said. “All of his tests were normal. Will I cook dinner more and work out with you guys? Yeah. Every day. I love doing that. But I’m not going to join some program so someone can congratulate or wag their finger at me over my body.”

And that’s what I’m writing for No Diet Day. I hate that my mom has such a long history (a lifelong history) with diets, diet pills, and illegal drugs, all of the sake of this false self that she can only break free from it for so long. The moment the idea is planted in her head that she’s too fat or I’m too fat or her son’s too fat, she falls right back into believing that something has to work so that we can be what? Normal? Happier? Healthier? Prettier? Better?

I hate that the second a doctor sees a number on the scale he knows that the “eat half of your current intake” diet will work. He knows diets don’t work just because fatties cheat. He knows Johnny wants to lose weight because look at him.

Well, yeah. Look at him. He’s beautiful. He’s kind. He’s funny. He believes people are good. He’s smart and sensitive and strong and protective and perfect. And I’m not going to let diets kill all of that in him because people think he should be something he’s not.

My big little brother. We call him Yeti.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    May 11, 2012 9:07 am

    Yay for you standing up for your brother!! And I agree with you, I think your brother is just fine the way he is. He looks like someone I’d want to get to know, just from your description of him, without even seeing his picture (and seeing his picture, and that smile of his, well, yeah, he looks like a fun person to know).

  2. May 11, 2012 10:09 am

    Would you please tell Yeti (I love the nickname) that I think he’s pretty darned handsome just as he is, and I’m THRILLED that he’s in good health? At 418 lbs, he’s in better health than I am at 370 (and 5’4″). What a PITA of a doctor. If your bro wants to talk to someone else who gets it, please contact me and I’ll send you my email. Vesta is exactly right in that he sounds like someone I would like to know (I LOVE funny people).

    Also, bravo for you for standing up to your mom. I hope Yeti will think twice about the options he has. His health is too precious to waste on narrow-mindedness.

    • May 11, 2012 5:34 pm

      He’ll be thrilled that you and everyone here supports him and who he is. (I wanted to post the picture of him in the medical gown posed like Marilyn Monroe, but he was too shy.)

      I’ll ask him if he wants a penpal. ^_____^

  3. May 11, 2012 10:21 am

    @helena LOLLLLLLLLLLLLL a PITA? Is this an acronym? I found it hilarious to picture myself the doctor, pita-bread shaped, with an nice SHIT FILLING ! πŸ™‚

    @lexiedi, I think Yeti looks great and I am happy he is in good health. This MD is a piece of shit and I hope he will never go see him again.

    Everything you said was perfect. You stood up like a boss! Cooking and working out as a family will strenghten your bonds, and eventually your mother might see the light (hopefully.)

    *applause* πŸ™‚

  4. May 11, 2012 11:00 am

    I hope that this doesn’t frighten your brother away from future doctor visits with a GOOD doctor (as opposed to the one he saw this time). It is important to get those regular checkups no matter what size you are, and it infuriates me that doctors like this one are part of the reason that people stop going to get checkups or routine care and end up in emergency situations. I would write a letter of complaint to him and to the local medical board, personally. 😦

    • May 11, 2012 11:05 am

      Absolutely. It’s irresponsible medicine.

    • May 11, 2012 5:30 pm

      He asked me if he had to keep this doctor and I assured him that he could change his doctor and find one more in tune with what he wants for his body and his health.

      I would happily write a letter of complaint but this doctor is also my father’s doctor and my father really respects him.

  5. May 11, 2012 11:07 am

    I would have walked out. And told my brother to walk out. You can’t reason with illogical people, and that doctor is the epitome of illogical.

    I also freely admit I’d have cussed him out a blue streak before walking out. But I’m not a nice person when people disrespect me.

  6. May 11, 2012 2:46 pm

    soo…completely off topic (and out of bounds for me anyway, as i am happily freshly married) is your brother single? because i love me some bears and rawr hes adorable.

  7. May 11, 2012 8:29 pm

    He’s adorable. I wish I had friends like you two! You seem like fun people.

  8. May 11, 2012 9:13 pm

    I had a similar situation with a PA. My DH has slightly high blood pressure and at his previous physical the doc suggested he lose weight, and when he went back due to a sore throat (strep) and his weight wasn’t down, the PA just said that obviously my DH wasn’t committed to losing weight without even asking what he was eating or if he was exercising. (He’s not trying to lose weight, but the point is that the PA didn’t even ask what he was eating.)

    I also find it incredibly hard to believe that the doctor your brother saw only has two hypothyroid patients. I think it’s more likely that larger patients just ran from his practice as fast as they could.

    And I also agree that your brother is adorable and if I were single, my heart would go pitter pat, I’m such a sucker for big tall men. If he’s a nerd, then I’d just be over the moon.

    • Hamsterdam permalink
      May 12, 2012 2:12 am

      It could be the doctor is using a severely outdated chart. What’s considered hypothyroid has changed in recent years, and doctors who hold fast to the old charts are hurting their patients.

  9. Erin S. permalink
    May 11, 2012 9:31 pm

    I would have totally ripped that doctor a new one… here he is completely ignoring actual metabolic markers, test results, etc to prescribe a treatment to “cure” diseases that haven’t even and may NEVER happen, all because of weight. While my husband’s favorite uncle just underwent his second bypass operation because, even though he was going to the doctor and reporting symptoms that frequently do mean heart issues… all he was told was “you’re fine, your weight is good, you probably just had a little bit of a cold or something”.

    He’s never been over 150 in his life, and he’s married to a NURSE for heaven’s sake, and he collapses and almost dies from heart problems that his doctor and wife have been ignoring for five years at least since he’s a “healthy” weight… and your brother is getting lectures even though actual tests prove he’s healthy… because he’s at an “unhealthy” weight.

    This is how the weight = health mindset hurts everyone. Right there, in a nutshell.

    I agree with Lys, hopefully this doesn’t scare him off doctors entirely. Just find one whose head isn’t quite so far up his rear end heh.

    • June 12, 2012 8:06 pm

      Ironic as hell, isn’t it? See my post below… I go to the doctor because I do have a cold and am preached at about bariatric surgery–in my case my red throat is NOT a “just a cold” because I’m fat…Then your husband goes seeking help for heart issues and because he’s thin he’s told it’s “just a cold”!!! God what a screwed up world!!!

  10. lifeonfats permalink
    May 12, 2012 10:00 pm

    This proves we could be the most healthy people on the planet, metabolic wise, yet it’s still not good enough because the numbers on the scale are too high. Doctors really need to step back and start realizing not everyone is going to be thin and deal with it.

  11. Fab@54 permalink
    May 13, 2012 12:45 pm

    Proud of you both! And your brother is a real cutie! He needs to find a doctor who will respect him and his needs for management and CARE… not dismissive lectures or eye-rolling frustration from a doctor.

  12. May 14, 2012 5:01 am

    That doctor made me pretty mad, and that’s only while I’m listening to electronic music. I’d be even madder if it wasn’t for that. I wonder if calmly telling the doctor, “Do you know that people become this fat, because of the starvation diets doctors like you send them to? That you tell them eating less than what would be healthy for a thin person, is going to benefit them? It only makes their body hold on to more fat, and you would know that if you did a minute’s worth of research on the subject of diets and long-term success. Be prepared for having more of these frank discussions in the future with your fat patients, because we have done the research. We will not let you tell us to harm ourselves anymore for our health, IT DOES NOT WORK. You know why your thin patients are thin, genes. Starving a person makes them more fat,not thinner. You will not be being paid for this visit, my brother and I will go and attempt to find a competent doctor.”

    That is what I would love to have said to him.

  13. The Real Cie permalink
    May 22, 2012 5:49 am

    Only two people with hypothyroidism? And “people with hypothyroidism don’t usually have the energy to eat?” MY ASS! The sound of ducks quacking is getting almost deafening in here! Only the most severe cases of hypothyroidism would cause people to be that fatigued.
    Your brother looks like a really cool guy. I’m glad that he’s healthy, and I hope he can find another doctor, one that isn’t a braying jackass! Sorry, I just insulted both jackasses and ducks in the same post.

    • June 12, 2012 8:00 pm

      Yes you should apologize to those poor innocent jackasses and ducks! it’s sorta like the guy who starts pounding on the bar shouting “All lawyers are assholes!” and some guy comes up to him and says “Watch your mouth!” the first guy says, why? are you a lawyer? and the second guy says, NO, I’M AN ASSHOLE!!! Although I shouldn’t insult lawyers because one wrote a great book, “The Obesity Myth”.

  14. June 12, 2012 7:55 pm

    Today I went to the dr. for a cold that has gone into a red throat and ear infection and guess what he tried to push on me as a cure–BARIATRIC SURGERY! Because my throat is so swelled up “it’s really crowded in there because of all the fat around your neck”… I hope my attempt to change my user name shows because I can see all the haters and trolls (probably even including some of my FB “friends”) coming on here and saying this serves me right for being such a lardbutt etc.

  15. June 12, 2012 8:07 pm

    Johnny “Yeti” is a cutie!! πŸ™‚

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