- Dina Cohen
Let's Talk About Doctors
Now's the time of year when many of us are starting to tackle the list of things we said we'd do "after the summer" or "once the school year starts." This may include scheduling appointments to visit the doctor. If this fills you with dread, you're not alone. Lots of people have negative associations with medical appointments, and unfortunately, this is sometimes for good reason.
If you live in a larger body or have recently gained weight, going to the doctor might be an experience filled with shame. You may go to see the doctor for a concern completely unrelated to weight and then had to sit through a lecture about...your weight! Sadly, doctors may make assumptions about your habits based on your body size. They may recommend healthy behaviors that you're already doing, or they may give nutrition advice that is unhelpful or dangerous. I know these are strong words, but I have worked with many clients who have had awful experiences at the doctor and it is time to bring this issue to light. Your doctor - or your child's doctor - may be a wonderful person who is a) very pressed for time and therefore unable to ask important questions about your lifestyle, b) not up to date on the latest recommendations regarding nutrition and weight concerns, or c) marinating in the same diet culture as we all are and has not yet overcome his or own biases. This is problematic on many levels.
Feeling ashamed to go to the doctor is awful and it is also unsafe. If you have medical concerns but avoid going to the doctor because you don't want to be weighed and criticized for the number, that is dangerous to your health.
If your child is made to feel bad about his or her weight at the doctor's office, he or she may resort to risky behaviors to lose weight or avoid weight gain and this can lead to serious issues or even a full-blown eating disorder. It is so upsetting when an experience that should be filled with caring, encouragment, and respect turns into something unpleasant or even harmful.
The good news is that you can advocate for yourself and for your child. Here are some resources that can help you take back the reins on your health. And the best part is that if you can help educate your health care provider, you can start a ripple effect. The more your doctor knows, the more people in your community will be helped! Please check out the links below:
This article titled A Letter To Your Child's Doctor details the issues that might arise at a pediatric visit and provides information about how to navigate appointments. It also includes a helpful letter you can bring to your doctor. To access the letter directly, click here.
Helpful Phrases at the Doctor's Office and Helpful Research for the Doctor's Office, both by Ragen Chastain, can help you feel more empowered in your own discussions with your doctor.
Please note that this article is not intended to bash doctors. They are some of the most hard-working and caring professionals I know! It IS intended to highlight a very real problem in healthcare. Fortunately, we can each do our part to help each other so that we can create an environment of respect where true health can be achieved.