Move Over Mary Poppins!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Doctor's Word

I was talking with (okay, emailing with, but let's not split hairs) my Weight Watchers buddy today, and she told me a story about her doctor that got me thinking.

As part of this whole love-my-body, self-care trip I'm on, I've been trying to go back and pinpoint when, and more importantly, why my relationship with food and my body image went wrong. It's a multifaceted issue, not one easily dissected in a blog post, but one particular event stands out in my mind.

When our family practician retired, my Mom continued to take us to the woman who had taken over for him in the office. It made sense, the offices were familiar, and finding a new doctor is a huge hassle, so why not.

This woman, we'll call her Dr. G to protect her, was no MD ingenue. She'd been around a while. This probably made my Mom more confident in making the switch. The first time I went to see her, I was a young teen. Maybe thirteen or so. She examined me, frowned, wrote on her chart. She released me to my mother with my health form for school in hand, my Mom payed for the visit, and we left.

Somewhere during that process I looked at the medical form for school. This is what I saw, on a piece of paper that would be in my file. At. School.


In reality, it was one of three checked off items in a long column, but in my head, in my heart, it looked that. Huge. Red. Seething with shame.

I was fat.

I was too ashamed to ask my mom what she thought. The doctor hadn't said anything to me. She'd just left a ticking time bomb of horror and fear and shame in a teen-aged girl's hands.

When I think about it, I still get a swooping sense of vertigo and burning embarrassment. Looking back on it through far older and hopefully wiser eyes, I feel rage for that girl. Silent and horrified that she'd both betrayed and been betrayed by her body.

You see, before that I knew that I wasn't the skinniest girl in school, but I wasn't the fattest either. I wasn't super into sports, and I had developed a few dangerous eating habits due to the availability of crappy food both in my school's cafeteria and at the house I went to after school for a few hours before my parents got home from work. I had a pretty strong sense of self at that point. I can see it start to erode from that day until some time in my twenties when I found myself again.

Seeing that word, with no actual knowledge to back it up made me retreat into the fat-girl corner. If you've ever been a fat girl, you know about the corner. It's quiet and dark and lonely, and no one notices you.

Ultimately, I was too much of an extrovert to stay there, so I became the happy, funny, smart girl in order to combat the feelings of inadequacy that develop from poor body image and general teen-age angst. I was akward about my body, which translated to awkward with boys, so boys weren't interested in dating me--which is a feedback loop of misery. Even if they didn't know it at the time, I was an emotional molotov cocktail, and I thank my friends and family for loving me enough to keep it from breaking open and destroying me.

I wonder now, would things have been different if the doctor had said to me, "I'm concerned about your weight. I'd like to see you try to get more exercise. How about riding your bike? And I want to help you make better choices when you eat. Try more fruits and veggies, and less snacks."

I'm fairly certain the teen-aged me would have been embarrassed, dismissive, and surly. Surely, though, after a conversation like that, the word, the awful word, might not have had such a lasting impact.

It's very likely I would have struggled with my weight no matter what, but that secret pain, just under my skin, never made it any easier.



Anonymous Megan (Best of Fates) said...

I'm so sorry you had such a terrible experience - I feel pain just reading about it.

5/18/10, 4:44 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

What really kills me is when I do that body test on the Wii fit and it makes your avatar all sad when it goes above the normal range. It took all I could to not throw the stupid balance board into the tv. I took a break that night....haven't taken the body test since. snotty little balance board.

Good luck to you. For some reason weight loss for people like us is the hardest thing to do.

5/18/10, 5:08 PM  
Blogger CDG said...

Oddly enough, I'm okay with the Mii and the Balance Board. I know I'm way above normal, and it does make me sad, but the chirpy little board wants to help me.

5/18/10, 10:36 PM  
Blogger CDG said...

@Megan (Best of Fates)
Thanks, Megan. Bless the blog, where we can tell our stories. Maybe now I can set that shamed part of myself free?

By, the way, loved your DC posts! The Korean War Memorial's been a favorite of mine for years.

5/18/10, 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Cam,
I am sorry I was so self absorbed at the time, I never realized... I never thought of you that way though... Katie

5/19/10, 2:28 PM  
Blogger CDG said...

Katie, we were *all* self-absorbed. Isn't that the definition of being a teen? Also, I think if I had talked about it sooner, I might have gained some much needed perspective.

5/19/10, 3:14 PM  
Anonymous kris said...

Secret pain is the sharpest sort of all.

I'm glad you let this out, so that the edges can be blunted.

And that doctor? She sucked.

A hugely obese amount, she sucked.

5/20/10, 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cam, i love reading your blog and i think you're really brave, smart, funny and honest!! i think a lot of doctors need to get real and learn how to speak to people.....xo julie

5/20/10, 8:39 PM  
Blogger Deb & Dave McCullough said...

I could have written that myself. You are not alone and I am so proud of you for moving forward for a healthier you! You are fabulous Cam!

Much love,
Deb aka Doc

5/20/10, 8:59 PM  
Blogger CDG said...

Thanks, everyone, for the acknowledgment and support. It makes it a little easier to make the right choices knowing that being honest has good consequences.

5/20/10, 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cam - I lurk your blog from time to time and read this post on my way to a week long raft trip, so I only now am able to comment. It takes a lot of guts to confront and bare these hurts. I knew you in college, which sounds like was your unhappy time. For what it's worth, I admired you for your good cheer, insight, and mostly for what I perceived (though you may disagree) as your confidence. No matter what number on the scale your health journey ends with, I hope you are able to purge the toxic effect of this memory.

And even though I haven't seen you in 10 years, I still admire you.

- Bonnie S

5/27/10, 8:02 PM  
Blogger CDG said...

Bonnie! Lurk no more! Comment! I love comments!

Thanks. I was probably unhappiest about my weight just after college, but the insecurity certainly built there, in the land of the blonde and fit.

That said, I love Middlebury and my friends! there so much. Tapping that love helped me do something about my weight in my mid twenties.

5/27/10, 8:06 PM  

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