I’m 36yrs old, chronically ill and a size 22, I am no stranger to a bit medical fat shaming. Sadly, I have had to develop a thick skin when it comes to interacting with the medical profession. Drs & nurses will say things to me that no one else would dare to. I have had to learn to advocate for myself when necessary & brush off a whole bunch of bullshit along the way. To be honest I thought I was fairly untouchable. I am entirely comfortable with my size & though often tiring to hear the same fat phobic lectures, it doesn’t hurt me. Infuriate, yes, but I never felt unable to deal with it. Until recently.
Earlier this year I had a miscarriage. It was not my first loss. My previous experiences of pregnancy & miscarriage were hugely traumatic and in fact played a major part in my mental health struggles. Losing another baby was horrendous. I had some complications and ended up having to spend a little time in hospital. The one small blessing was the support system I have in place and the kindness I was treated with whilst inpatient. Once home & physically recovered I visited my GP to discuss my general health & how to proceed fertility wise. That she wanted to talk about weight loss was not entirely unexpected. I know standard advice for anyone overweight talking about having a baby is lose weight. I know drs still hold rigidly to the BMI scale & that there is an upper limit for fertility treatment. I know fat women often have their pregnancies labelled high risk. What I wasn’t prepared for was this gp’s insinuation that my weight caused my miscarriage. So, unprepared was I that I convinced myself that I had misunderstood. I pushed it out of my mind & continued trying to process my grief. However, when I returned a week later and she still only wanted to talk about diet plans, what I ate, what I weighed now & how often she could weight me,I was more explicit. I explained my history of borderline eating disorders, of starvation diets & losing vast amounts of weight only to regain it. I told her I did not and would engage with rigid diets or weight loss programmes. Her response was given my multiple miscarriages, I might want to re think that. I enquired If she was saying I miscarried because I was fat & she confirmed that she thought it likely.
I walked out feeling a rage that quickly melted away to sadness. I was left wanting to crawl into bed and never get out again. I have struggled with PTSD for many years; my original trauma was an emotionally abusive relationship & my the circumstances surrounding my first miscarriage. It has taken me literally my entire adult life to get control of my shame and guilt. Years of self harm, debilitating depression, panic attacks, flash backs and nightmares all centred around how the loss of my child and subsequent illness was all my fault. One thoughtless dr had thrust back into that damaging thought cycle. On top of that I have fought to reclaim my body as acceptable. I have had to work to enjoy my life in this fat scarred body. My history is well documented in my medical records and I have personally discussed it with the dr. That truth is she wants me to be thin more than she wants to me be happy & healthy. Her complete disregard for my mental health was cruel. That she hadn’t even bothered to investigate my history before speaking is unacceptable. A cursory glance at my notes would have revealed that I was not over weight at the time of my other pregnancy losses. She would also have seen that I am currently taking a medication for PCOS that causes weight loss. The drug is harsh on my already inflamed digestive system meaning that I throw up daily. In addition one of it’s major side effects is appetite reduction. Hence, I have been slowly shedding pounds since I commenced this treatment. I also have diagnosed gynaecological issues, which are much more likely to play a part in my inability to carry to term. The conversation she forced upon me was not only insensitive, but entirely irrelevant. That said, it is never ok to blame a vulnerable women for the loss of her child.
I have chosen not to see that GP again. I attend a fairly large practise and as a freelancer have the freedom to wait for appointments with another dr. I have yet to confront the issue as it still feels so raw. However I feel a strange sense of duty; I feel I must tackle this to prevent it happening to someone else. I recognise that there were times in my past when this dr’s assertions would have entirely destroyed me. I hate that the responsibility to educate & challenge falls to people like me. I cannot understand why a profession who swear to ‘do no harm’ are so married to fat phobia. Why is care and compassion is so often disregarded purely because a patient is fat?