Let me start by stating that I’m overweight. Since January I’ve lost two stone, mainly due to illness and an inability to eat. Some of that weight has been lost through diet and exercise. Even after shedding two stone, I’m still overweight and I have a way to go.
Weight is a hot topic and it always will be. Anyone can throw in their two cents whether they’re overweight, underweight, normal weight, they’ve lost weight or gained it. First-hand experience with weight issues doesn’t seem to be a factor when TV shows hire guest speakers or spats break out on Twitter. Everyone has an opinion one way or another.
I’ve never been proud of my body. Ever. That’s the sad fact of my life and a 32-year struggle. I’ve definitely become more comfortable since hitting 30 and gaining a ‘life is short’ mentality. But even as a child, I hated myself.
I was hard-wired to believe that fat equals bad, skinny equals good.
Think about it.
How many times do people say, “Oh wow, you’re looking amazing! You’ve put on a few pounds, you go girl!”
How many times do people say, “Oh my god, have you lost weight? you look amazing”
That acceptance from friends, family and peers when you shift a few pounds is enough to solidify the fact that you look better when you lose weight. Therefore, if you put weight on you immediately recoil and assume you look worse.
Being Told To Lose Weight By Doctors
Over the past couple of years, I’ve gained a healthier relationship with food. For the first time in my life, I maintained a similar weight. I was still overweight, but I wasn’t driving myself crazy with Yo-Yo dieting.
Then, I was hit with the rare illness Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) in January and suddenly the numbers on the scale were the focal point.
Before I was diagnosed, I’d already had my suspicions as to what it was. Thanks, Google.
As the article advised that “overweight women” are the majority of sufferers, I felt ashamed and stupid. I assumed my weight was why I was ill. Taking some time to rationalise it, I realise that it’s a risk factor but not the full story. Otherwise, all overweight women would have this disease.
When my eyes were checked due to visual disturbances, the doctor casually and insensitively just said “Lose weight” with a straight face when I asked her what I could do immediately to try and save my eyes from permanent damage.
I then spoke with a consultant after I had a bunch of blood tests and scans. He was beating around the bush, trying to say ‘lose weight’ and eventually I kind of had to help him say it. He told me he was trying to be as sensitive as possible, and in this day and age, I get it.
I then spoke with a neurologist who also delicately told me to lose weight, because it’s a proven form of treatment for my condition.
Did I feel offended?
Are you kidding?
I’d just been hit with the reality that if I didn’t start losing weight, I could have permanent migraines and impaired vision for the rest of my life. I ran out of the hospital just to burn some calories.
This isn’t the first time I was told I should consider losing weight. I approached the subject with my osteopath as well as a physiotherapist because I’d been suffering from lower back pain for over a year. They both said losing weight would help ease my pain, so I was already trying to exercise as much as I could while living in constant agony.
Why do doctors and health professionals tell patients to lose weight?
Why do doctors and health professionals tell us to lose weight?
Because they’re fat-shaming arse holes? Or is it because they’re medically trained professionals that know if being overweight is detrimental to an existing ailment?
Being told to lose weight was uncomfortable and a little embarrassing, sure. It also gave me the massive kick up the arse that I needed to get healthy and more importantly, stay healthy for a long time.
It’s so much easier to get to the gym now and watch what I’m eating because I’m not losing weight to appease anyone else’s view on how women should look, it’s because I’m terrified of being ill for the rest of my life. My lovely GP told me that my condition could have a negative impact on my quality of life.
I’m not going to sit back and let it happen, just because I don’t want to address the fact that chocolate makes me happy for five minutes, or because a big bowl of pasta comforts me after a stressful, emotionally draining day.
Being told by numerous doctors that I needed to lose weight was liberating, not demoralising.
Doctors have a duty to care for their patients, no matter what. The first doctor I spoke to was a bit of an insensitive robot but all of the other doctors have been great.
Hearing I had IIH was far worse than hearing the words ‘lose weight’.
Health is the big picture.
Mental Health and Weight Loss
Our mental health is imperative. I’ve suffered from depression and I have anxiety. I understand it, completely.
That’s why I think it’s important to ask for help from a doctor, speak to a friend, seek out a therapist or try to engage with our own mind. Self-reflect and try to recognise our unique self-sabotage eating patterns. CBT is a great way to do this, and it should help with the weight loss as it’s a vehicle for understanding ourselves better.
I do think there’s a lack of direction for patients who are told to lose weight, who possibly don’t have the mental strength to do it or the knowledge. When I was told to lose weight, I wasn’t given a guide or offered assistance with how I should lose weight. However, the NHS does provide this online in the form of a 12-week weight loss programme with a supporting online community and weekly progress charts.
This programme not only tracks food, five-a-day and fitness but it also educates with advice about nutrients, food types, portion sizes and even gives motivational tips for working out. It’s also downloadable as an app, for ease of access.
I know obesity can be a side effect of a mental health condition. Yes, the NHS and medical professionals should be more sensitive knowing this fact. But at the same time, they have a duty to protect both physical and mental health issues. If weight loss will help give a patient a head start on recovery from a condition, or in some cases, eradicate a medical condition then it needs to be addressed urgently.
This doesn’t give people any right to fat shame, but for the love of God, doctors need to do their job and it’s not always going to be what we want to hear as patients.
Clearly, there is a difference between a suggestion of weight loss for health reasons and an unnecessary snide comment or a put-down. I think we all know the difference and I’ll never defend a doctor who’s a bully or inappropriate because I’m aware it happens. There are bad apples in all industries, even in medicine. But we can’t allow the bad apples to get in the way of a doctor doing their job, protecting our health and giving us medical advice that they’re qualified to do.
Doctors have to be honest and arm their patients with the facts, not skirt around issues just in case they become the latest target of a Twitter smear campaign or hashtag.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!