Health Magazine

Dr.Clueless. Updated.

By Fitvsfiction @fit_vs_fiction

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.

I don’t blame Dr.Clueless for my disorder, but I know he played a role in it. On that day, he was not speaking to me as a doctor, he was speaking to me as a man with his own personal feelings and opinions about the female physique. I didn’t need to change the way I looked to be healthier, I needed to change the way I looked to be more attractive to him. I lost the 10lbs I was ordered to, followed by another 30 as a “Fuck you” to him. But I was the one who got screwed when my disorder took over my life and tore it to pieces. It took me 20 years to reclaim my body and my life and while I can’t relive the past, I decided to pay it a quick visit through the mail.

Yesterday, I sent him a copy of my book, “The Body Image Survival Guide for Parents: Helping Toddlers, Tweens and Teens Thrive”. It’s been about 26 years since I’ve spoken to him and while I remember our conversation like it was yesterday, he probably doesn’t remember it all. I attached a short note with my book explaining what I had been through with my eating disorder and that he had played a significant role at the beginning of it. I also told him that while I felt no need to rehash the past, it was my hope that over the past 20 plus years he had become more knowledgeable and sensitive to the issues of body image and eating disorders and that he would accept my book as a gift for him to share with anybody who may benefit from it.

The power of closure. Feels good.

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