“Everything Is Killing You” is an ongoing series about my weirdo health problems and things I think you should be worried about.
Being fat can kill you, but not for the reasons you think. For four years, I had back problems, but didn’t go to my regular doctor to talk about them, because I was out of the habit of doing anything but the bare-minimum regular check-ups. And why was I out of the habit? Because when my thyroid crashed a couple years back, I put on forty pounds in a matter of months, and just like that, every single doctor’s appointment was about my weight. At first, I nicely tried to explain that I was eating a healthy diet. I even went to the nutritionist, and kept a food diary to show that I wasn’t overeating.
“I have a cold,” I’d tell my (old, now fired) doctor.
“Overweight people have lower immune systems,” she’d say. (Which, OK, even if that’s true, what was I supposed to do about it when diet and exercise weren’t working? It would take a few months of being on the right thyroid medicine for me to start losing. )
“I’ve been having trouble sleeping.”
“It’s probably sleep apnea, because of your weight,” she’d say. (Could be. But it would have been nice if she’d asked whether I was having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep before she assumed. As far as I know, being El Chubbo does not necessarily make it hard for you to fall asleep. In fact, if popular culture is to be believed, we fatties are all so lazy from cramming snacks into our mouths, we sleep almost constantly, except when we are being jolly or wheezing, which is how we spend the other 66 percent of our time.)
Once, I went for a pap smear and she made me get on the scale.
“What does that have to do with my cervix?” I asked her.
“Overweight people have a higher risk of cancer.” (Argh!)
“Well, I already know I’m overweight, due to the fact that I own both pants and a scale,” I said. “So can we skip it?”
“Let’s just get you on the scale,” she coaxed. “You don’t have to look.”
It didn’t matter whether or not I looked, because afterward, she said, “Now, let’s talk about what we’re going to do to shift those pounds!”
“I was thinking I’d spend a lot of time sharpening my knife collection,” I said.
“You’re so funny!” she said. Then she tried to get me to go to a doctor way out in Brooklyn who had a degree from some country ending in -stan and prescribed speed for every patient.
“I don’t think speed is a good idea for someone with metabolic problems,” I said. “All those models have to go on raw diets after they give up pills, because if they eat more than 900 calories of kale and salmon a day, they pork up like cows munching on soybeans.”
“It’s not speed. It’s [insert names of drugs here].”
“If it has a street value and speeds up your metabolism, it’s speed.”
After that, I fired her. I didn’t tell her why. That, and the fact that I got on the scale during the pap smear debacle, are the two things I’m most embarrassed about in my entire association with her. OK, those two things and the fact that, afterward, I avoided doctors like the plague, to the point where I wound up going to chiropractors and acupuncturists for things that a doctor should have really looked at, like my back. Why? Because alternative practitioners wouldn’t ever think to mention my weight. They certainly wouldn’t embarrass me into getting onto the scale as a punitive measure.
There’s nothing wrong with alternative practitioners, but if I’d gone to a doctor with access to X-ray technology, I never would have left my back to the point where it got so bad, I thought I had a serious degenerative condition. Even when I found nice new doctors, but I didn’t tell them about my back problem, because I didn’t want them to even mention that the weight gain might be a factor. I was afraid I’d have to fire them again.
I’ve lost twenty of the forty pounds I gained, and figured out the (non-weight-related) reason for my back problems, but even if I get back to my old weight, and rejoin the ranks of skinny people, I’ll never forget what it was like to be fat in a doctor’s office. I wish all doctors could experience it for a while, just so they could understand how spectacularly not useful it is to pester people about their weight. In fact, it just might persuade patients not to seek help when they need it.
Although, if you want to prove that being fat is deadly, I guess, bugging people until they never go to the doctor is one way to go about it.
Image: Disney Wikia