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  • Experiences of an Obese Patient
  • Christine R. Brass

In the middle of an annual pelvic exam, the gynecologist said to me, “You should apply to be on ‘The Biggest Loser.’” I was too stunned and embarrassed to mutter anything more than a [End Page 88] comment that I didn’t think that, being quite introverted, I was a good candidate for a reality TV show. She argued with me about that. I felt blindsided, intensely vulnerable, and dumbstruck—completely unable to respond—and later, when the shock wore off, incandescent with impotent rage.

Four years later, I still don’t have words to adequately describe my outrage at this comment. It was only the second time I’d see this medical professional. The first time was the previous year, when she had been filling in for my regular doctor who was on maternity leave. At neither appointment did this physician ask me any questions about my lifestyle, whether or not I saw a primary care physician, or even if I had any concerns that day. She was very brisk, efficient and did not engage in conversation. Such a statement coming from a health care provider, who did not seek to understand or gather more information, surprised and dismayed me.

Other incidents where physicians’ statements were not helpful:

  • • Pediatrician: “Well, my wife has had great success with Weight Watchers.”—I was age 12, about 5’5 and weighted about 145 lbs. at that time. If you look at photos of me at the time, you would see I was not overweight.

  • • Orthopedic Surgeon: “If you want her to look better, make her lose weight.”—This was directed to my mother. I was 19, weighed about 200 lbs., and in his office as per his directions to come back in seven years to see if the surgery he had done on my neck needed more attention.

  • • Internist: “How did you get all those stretch marks?”—I was age 24, weighed approximately 220 lbs., and had lost and gained 50 or so pounds several times as a teenager and in college.

  • • Gynecologist: “Lose weight and your periods will be regular.”—I was age 27, weighed 227 lbs. and my periods, which started at age 15, had never been regular.

  • • Another Orthopedic Surgeon: “You don’t have to worry about osteoporosis; everything you do is a weight–bearing exercise.”—I was age 42 and weighed 300 lbs. This was after follow up surgery to remove pins from a broken ankle that had healed and I had asked about whether or not I should have a bone density test.

Coming from a genetic heritage of predominately tall, large–boned people, I was tall and proportionally large compared to other girls my age until high school, when the others caught up. I was told I had to “watch my weight” by family members from my pre–teen years. Enforced dieting ensued, with little result because I wasn’t fat. I did not begin to be overweight until my junior and senior years of high school. I was 5’7” when I graduated from high school and weighed 187. By the time I graduated from college, I was no taller but 50 lbs. heavier. Now, nearing my 40th high school reunion, I am 120 lbs heavier than that. During the intervening years, I have done Weight Watchers®, TOPS®, medically–supervised programs (group and individual), and other popular diets, with periodic but temporary success, and hypnosis and aversion therapy, with no success at all.

Over the years, I have been insulted, verbally abused, even bullied, because of my weight. I have been treated as though I am invisible, worthless, and stupid—a pariah. As a result, I have felt invisible, worthless, and stupid, even though I know I am none of those things. I have experienced and been treated for clinical depression. The descent into depression began in my late teen years, which was the time when I started gaining excess weight.

In 2004, under medical supervision, I lost 70 lbs. over four–month period. I was delighted to finally lose a substantial amount of weight and feel physical lighter. My diabetes medications were significantly reduced, and...


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