Fit vs. Fiction's Blog

Dr. Clueless

I stood on the scale, wearing only a pair of underwear and one of those flimsy robes that barely cover your butt at the doctor’s office. I didn’t want to be standing there. I had made that fact perfectly clear to my doctor. I had been very honest with him about what I was feeling. It was the beginning of September and just 3 months earlier, on May 28th,1987 I lost my brother to a liver disease no one knew he had until it was too late. He was only 21 years old and he was everything to me. From the day my father left the family when I was 10 years old, he took over as man of the house and I adored him. Soon after he had become ill, I had noticed myself becoming obsessed with food and what I was eating. It started with me rejecting the food that friends and family would bring to the the hospital in an effort to comfort us and continued through Billy’s funeral where I would watch my mother’s friends place platters of sandwiches and cookies on the table in front of me and I would revel in the hunger pains I felt, but would not feed, and into the weeks that followed. Luckily, in July, I was encouraged by friends and family, to accept a job offer to teach dance at an overnight camp. The same camp my brother had worked at the summer before. It ended up being a mostly positive experience as I started to loosen my grip on my diet and calorie counting and actually managed to enjoy the friendships I made and found comfort in the joy I got from dance and movement.

This made me feel like I was beginning to take small steps in the right direction by regaining some normalcy in my life. While I was aware of the fact that by eating without strict boundaries I had gained a little bit of weight, I wasn’t bothered by it. When I considered how thin I was before the summer, a 5 lb weight gain hardly seemed significant. At 17 years old, standing 5’6 inches tall and weighing in at no more 130 lbs, I was well within an acceptable range. Or so I thought. But there I was; in my doctor’s office, standing on that scale; feeling incredibly vulnerable, terribly uncomfortable and completely unprepared for what was about to happen.

For the next 15 minutes, my doctor, and I use that term loosely, proceeded to berate me with insult after insult about how fat I had gotten. He pointed at my stomach and with a look of disgust on his face said, “Look at that, what is that?!” He then explained that although “Medically speaking” I was not overweight, society was thin, and in order to fit in to society, I would have to lose 10 lbs. Keep in mind, I had NEVER been called fat in my entire life; this was devastating! He continued his assault by letting me know that if he were me, he would not be caught dead in a bathing suit. I refer to this experience as an “assault” because with a few years and many therapy sessions under my belt, I can now differentiate between a doctor’s well meaning advice and the twisted ranting of a man who may as well have gotten his medical degree from the bottom of a cereal box.

Sadly though, on this day, the difference wasn’t as clear to me and as much as I tried not to, I took his words to heart. What was he thinking? Speaking those words in that way to any teenage girl could be dangerous, but a teenage girl who had just been through the kind of traumatic experience I had, was completely asinine. The fact that I had been honest with him about the way my brother’s death had started to affect my body image made it even worse. I left his office with direct orders to write down everything I ate from that day forward in a journal to be shown to him at the end of each week. My first meal after that appointment was an order of toast from the hospital cafeteria where I had gone for some follow up blood work I needed to get related to my brother’s illness. My plan was to forget about what the doctor had said and just return to eating in a way that felt healthy and balanced. However, sitting in that cafeteria, butter and jam seemed a bit overindulgent and I opted to eat my toast dry instead. That was where the insanity started, but nowhere near to where it came to an end.

A few years later, during a moment of clarity, I wrote this man a letter. In it, I chose not to point fingers and make accusations that would fall on deaf ears anyway, but tried to educate him on the power of words when spoken by a person of perceived authority. I encouraged him to put more thought into his words as their impact can be devastating. I never got a response. Sadly, he probably doesn’t remember anything that he said to me that day, or even the fact that we spoke at all. But I remember every, single word like it was yesterday. Only it was 24 years worth of yesterdays.


One Response to 'Dr. Clueless'

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  1. I am speechless. Marci, I truly believe that doctor is part of the reason you are now trying to change things. Again, you inspire me.

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