A little light in my day: and why it’s depressing as hell

Hi – long time no write 🙂  I have no excuses, I’ve just been busy with kids and study (but now I’ve graduated, yay!) and all. But I had to share this morning with you.

I’ve been having some strong pain in my left foot for over a month now. It stopped me from going to Zumba, walking the kids to school, etc., and I got sick and tired of waiting for it to go away on it’s own. So I called up the local podiatrist and made an appointment.

I’ve had mixed experiences with medical professionals in the past, from a midwife who was encouraging me to diet during a twin pregnancy to GP’s who have never once mentioned my weight and when I asked (in relation to a specific illness) told me my size was pretty much irrelevant. So I tend to have an open – and hopeful – mind when I see someone new. But I’m also aware that things seem to be getting worse in terms of fat vilification (which I personally think is down to the fact that FA is becoming more noticeable and people are beginning to think about the issues involved… which makes them feel a little uncomfortable). Plus we’ve recently had a Fat Studies conference in the city I live in (yay Dr Cat Pause!) and some of the comments relating to that have been very, very negative.

So imagine my relief when the podiatrist (“Hi, I’m Tim!”) was my very favourite kind of health professional; careful, considered, and full of explanations about what he was doing and what he felt was wrong and why. And the icing on the cake was that my weight was never mentioned  🙂  I was ‘just’ a person, ‘just’ another patient… and that’s just the way I like it.

But it also depressed me because I felt grateful that he’d treated me that way – y’know, like I was just like everyone else. Because I had expected that there was a good chance he wouldn’t. And I carry that wariness into every medical appointment I go to.

It shouldn’t be like that.

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Counting my (medical) blessings

I’ve had issues in the past with non fat-friendly medical professionals, as have we all. And I’ve had to see a lot of medical professionals recently. So I have been really impressed with the number of accepting Docs, etc, I’ve come across. In no particular order:

My OB: Normally in NZ pregnant women have a midwife but because I’m having twins I’m considered high risk and have to have an obstetrician. I don’t have a choice as to who, either, as I can’t afford to go private. But I don’t care, because I *like* my OB! Not only is she not phased by my fat but she’s also opposed to doing c-sections unless they’re absolutely medically essential. She’s happy to do all she can to help me have a normal birth. That’s worth gold right there 🙂

The Interns/students: I’ve been seen by a few medical students lately (they’re all on placement, apparently) and not one has questioned my statement (when asked) that I’ve been swimming for an hour every morning for the last 3 months. And the physio student who gave me the exercises and the smiley belt didn’t query, question, or disbelieve me when I said my issues had originated with the pregnancy. She believed me, which I’m not used to from medical people.

The Cardiologist: My OB detected a slight flow murmer, so I was sent to be checked over (just to be 100% sure it was pregnancy related and not a sign of a pre-existing condition that’d been missed). I’ve had a bad experience once in the past (after tests found there was nothing wrong with me – it turned out to be hype over nothing – that cardiologist gave me a long and stern lecture about my weight and how I was killing myself) and was scared of what this specialist would say. So, what did she say? Just that they found no issues and everything looked fine. That was it. No lecture, and my weight wasn’t even mentioned, even though it had been taken and my BMI worked out. The only comment she made was that my blood pressure was excellent 🙂

My GP: I had been complaining for a while of feeling horribly tired, drained, and awful. My last GP (and the midwife I had before  they found I had twins on board) had ignored it as a side affect of being ‘large’. My new GP, however, instead of dismissing me  sent me for blood tests and found extremely low iron and B12 levels. Now being treated I feel sooooo much better.

So, there are good medical professionals out there, and I’m glad to have seen so many of them over the past couple of weeks! I hope you are having some luck too 🙂

The real problem

So here I am; pregnant with twins and seeing a midwife who advised me not to put any weight on during my pregnancy (although to be fair that was before she found out there were twins; her advice after that was “take a multivitamin”. I’m still having morning sickness so a day I can eat well is a bonus… dieting isn’t even on my radar).

I’ve been thinking it over (brooding? who, me?) and I think the worst part of it isn’t what she’s advised me to do, but that I now can’t trust anything else she says. Sure, some of it is common sense – eat a good amount of protein, for example – but other parts… well, I lack the medical knowledge to know if I should be worried or not. And that’s the part of the real price of fat prejudice in medical professionals. Not only are we often given bad advice but we lose our trust in the profession altogether, and that’s not good.

Take my blood sugar levels, for example. My non-fasting glucose level was well within the normal range (and interestingly enough, lower than it had been a month before when I’d had bloods done for an unrelated issue). But she was worried about something called the HbA1c, which apparently measures one’s blood sugar level over time. It is within normal, and way below the level that diabetics are recommended to maintain, but she was still concerned and said that pregnancy should have lowered it further and because it hadn’t I was obviously going to develop gestational diabetes. Now, I don’t think I believe her. Looking on Google I see my level is within normal and I can’t find any indication that pregnancy should lower it. But that’s just the rub; I can’t find anything to either prove or disprove her theory. Normally, I would be worried… but her obvious prejudice about weight leads me to suspect her and everything she says.

And that’s the problem with medical professionals who see fat as a health problem. We can’t trust you. And it’s a strong woman who won’t worry when she’s pregnant…

For what it’s worth I’ve decided to not stress over this issue. She’s given me a form to have a fasting glucose test done when my morning sickness is over, and I will wait till then until I begin to worry.

Doctor = God

Remember the post a day or two ago about the supposedly ‘fat’ baby?

Well the discussion thread exploded after someone (not me I swear!) posted criticism of the mother’s actions and her Doctor’s point of view. And here’s the thing which didn’t really surprise me, but did sadden me; almost all the posters came out in support of the mother. A Doctor had said the baby was too fat, they said. Only a bad mother would discount that! The feeling was that a Doctor’s – any Doctor’s –  opinion was *obviously* correct and those of us who questioned it were stupid.

I wanted to post. I wanted to direct them to Junkfood Science and First, Do No Harm – both sites which show conclusively that Doctors are as susceptible to prejudice as the rest of us, and they let it affect their work. But would it do any good? When you’re up against that level of entrenched false belief – that fat is bad, and a fat baby is unhealthy – is it possible to affect any change?

I don’t understand why people put Doctors on pedestals. Medical professionals are people who are indoctrinated with the idea that fat = bad. Some have taken account of the studies that show otherwise, and let their common sense and the reality which they see day to day overturn those beliefs. Others, lazier perhaps, or less questioning, have clung to them. But the public… have they *never* come across a Doctor who’s gotten it wrong? Thalidomide? The cancer scandal at National Women’s Hospital*? Do I need to continue?

Ignorance is one thing… willful stupidity is another.

(* = Called ‘The Unfortunate Experiment’ New Zealand women were not told they possibly had cervical cancer, so that a Doctor could test his (incorrect) theory about how best to treat it. The scandal was eventually broken by two journalists in the 1980’s. More information is available here.)

Weight, health, and bad backs.

When I was younger my Mother used to joke that every complaint a woman brought to her Doctor was blamed on either pregnancy, menstruation or menopause. I’ve always thought that something similar occurs when one tries to access medical assistance while fat, and skimming through FA websites shows I’m not alone in that belief. There are pages and pages of people being dismissed by their Doctor, insulted by him/her, or even given incorrect (and possibly dangerous) medical advice. And all because of a little extra tissue.

I have missed much of that, for which I’m grateful, but even I still have the odd tale to tell, such as the Doctor who told me boils were caused by not washing properly (!) and the ‘concerned’ Doc who took me off the BC pill during the blood clot scare approximately 10 years ago. In fact that last one annoys me the most because of the sheer stupidity involved. Even if being obese *does* make one more susceptible to blood clots the fact remains that the highest risk is reached – wait for it – during pregnancy. In other words he was happy to chance the worst risk while ‘protecting’ me from a lesser one. I can only assume that he did not believe my claims that I was in a steady, sexual relationship… or perhaps he had fallen for the common fallacy that ‘extra’ weight adversely affects one’s fertility. (I am living proof that it isn’t so).

But even though my experiences with Doctors haven’t been all that bad I still hesitate about going, especially when my complaint is something that I think they’ll blame on my weight. So when a week into my new exercise regime (implemented to combat issues with depression and sleeplessness) my back began to hurt badly I started to debate whether it would be worth seeing the GP or even going to someone else, like a physio or osteopath. I wasn’t interested in getting pain pills and I was fairly sure that any advice I was given would begin with “lose weight” – fairly useless advice, as it ignores the here-and-now.

I asked my Mother-in-Law for advice (she’s a nurse and good with helping-yourself kind of tactics) and she had a brilliant idea – that I should try The McKenzie Technique exercises to see if they helped. There was a chance they wouldn’t, of course; it all depended on what was actually causing the pain. She showed me two exercises and I did them. The next day I had no back pain.

No pain! Two simple, easy movements and I am on my way again. Compared to the hassle I could have had at the Doctor’s… is it no wonder so many of us larger people don’t seek medical help until our conditions are serious? Something to think about the next time you read an article about how The Obese are ‘wasting’ all our medical resources…