So this is a tricky topic for me, a plus-size boutique owner, to write about as it pertains to weight loss. Don’t laugh but I am usually on the very opposite side of this issue. I am not a fan of losing weight to be beautiful. You already are. I don’t agree with women that being skinny will fix all of their problems. At the end of the day you still are left with you. I am more about feeling comfortable in your own skin and being your healthiest version of you.
But today I am compelled to write about the vast conspiracy against plus size people in the medical profession.
So often I hear women say, “If I could just lose this belly I would be fine” and despite the thousands of dollars spent and months of deprivation and starvation women cannot seem to lose anything. Often I say, “Women who walk through my door are not the size they are because they can’t put the fork down but because of menopause, genetics and medications”.
In my opinion doctors play a large role in this process…simply by their weight discrimination and the systematic dismal of symptoms of plus size people by saying, “Lose weight and you won’t have this problem.” Seriously? I am now at a point in my life that when I meet a new doctor I say from the initial visit, “If all you want to do is talk about or blame my weight, then you are not the doctor for me. I have been this weight (almost literally) for 30 years & my symptoms are new so let’s not blame it on the weight, ok?” Some are surprised by my stance (usually male doctors), but most new doctors I’ve met have been rather receptive to my take on my health situation. I also say, “I am a player in my own health care and if you don’t see me as an equal in MY health then we’re not going to have a great relationship.” Yeah, I’m that girl. I understand I am not a doctor and that I’m just a retailer but I am the expert in ME. I will not be “Fat Tracked” by a doctor because they are too lazy or unwilling to do their job. Those days are OVER.
Think this isn’t a REAL issue? Let me a give you a little example.
A dear friend of mine who is an eating disorder survivor and someone who has had a large weight gain during her recovery has been having LOTS of health issues as of late, some of which include sweating profusely, heavy breathing for minor excursion, sleep apnea, and skipping periods. She approached her GP and her doctor told her “You have PCOS. Lose weight, and it will get better”. That’s it. The GP didn’t order any lab work nor checked for the usual factors.
Well, my friend desperately wants to conceive but with her system being so out of whack it isn’t happening. She went to a specialist on whom she “pulled a Jan” and set the rules about the weight conversation. The Doctor’s reply was, “Your weight is the least of my concerns.” After a lengthy chat about her health issues the specialist was shocked that the GP did not order any blood work nor did she check for the classic signs of PCOS like ‘the beard’. Well, within two hours of her blood work her specialist called to tell her her thyroid numbers were sky high and that she needed to start thyroid meds ASAP. She also told her that the hypothyroidism was putting more strain on her system and heart than her weight. My friend came to me with tears in her eyes & said “I thought it was my fault.” Of course you did. That’s what the weight biased mentality of Western Medicine wants you to believe.
And. This. Happens. Every. Damn. Day.
As some of you can relate to, I am suffering from a lot of arthritis from an auto-immune disease and from wearing high heels on carpeted cement for the 30+ years I’ve been in retail. This year seems to be the worst. At the gentle nudging of a new GP I reached out to an Obesity Medicine specialist. Her job is to help coach people through healthy lifestyle changes, prescribe weight loss drugs when necessary and to look at your current list of meds to see if any of them could be causing or maintaining a higher weight.
I gave her my opening line and then added, “I want you to know I am not here because I have low self-esteem nor do I have any desire to be skinny. I am here because my weight is making it hard for me to stand long periods of time at work and it is effecting my business.” She asked me, “How much would you like to lose?” I said, “25lbs. I feel really good at that weight.” She did the slow blink. She replied, “That’s it? That’s easy.”
During this initial appointment she said, “Wow, you have a really good handle on the nutrition piece. You could get a little more exercise in and if you don’t have time for cardio try some weights. Now that I know you’re doing all the right things there let’s look at your meds”. In about 10 seconds she said, “Here is your problem”. Y’all, this is a medicine I have been taking for 25 years to help with my sleep. Not kidding. Even at a low dosage it will make you gain and/or maintain your weight and will not allow it to come off. It was my turn to do the slow blink. “Wait, what? You mean to tell me that all those doctors who have told me to lose weight in the last 25 years and not one of them saw this medication as an issue?” *Deep cleansing breath while trying to find a Zen place* Forget it, I’ll Namaste another time.
Thus begins my tirade, “You wanna know why????? I’ll tell you why…BECAUSE no one listens to fat people! Like ever! No one takes us seriously when we’re sitting in a backless gown that is too small for us while our chubby ass cheeks are sticking to that tissue paper you all make us sit on! NO. ONE. LISTENS. TO. FAT. PEOPLE.”
The Doctor giggled and said ever so kindly, “I’m not sure why they didn’t say anything but I am here to make it right. By the way, you really need to be a writer or a speaker for the Obesity Society of America. You are really articulate about being plus size.” It was my turn to giggle, “Doc, you have no idea.” So the Doctor & I decided to switch out the Devil’s Pill to something else and to see if there is any movement in my weight. As I left her office I left like I might have just gotten a new lease on life and I took a moment to count the blessing that I have found this practice and they are willing to find the answers and not just hand me a brochure about proper nutrition and exercise, pat me on the ass and send me out there to fail again.
I am not entirely sure why I am writing on this topic today. It is a problem that has been rampant throughout the medical profession for decades but today I am moved to write. Today I am moved to tell you not to accept one doctor’s opinion or approach. Today I am telling you that you are the expert in YOU. Today I am telling you feeling better isn’t a privilege of the skinny. In fact, most recent studies show that healthy has very little to do with our weight at all. Today I encourage you to be an advocate for yourself and I encourage you continue to seek out doctors who will not put you on the “fat track”. Today I am telling you that you deserve to feel good too.
Janet Tanury has worked in the fashion industry for over thirty years. Her experience in the early years in NYC as a sales person in women’s fashion showrooms and later as a visual merchandiser demonstrated to her that there was a gap in the fashion industry where plus size women were concerned. In 2003 her experience and aspirations for size equality in the fashion industry led her to create New England’s only plus size exclusive boutique, Botticelli Generous Clothing for the Curvaceous Woman. Botticelli is an award-winning plus sized specialty store located in the heart of New England offering affordable fashions both casual and formal. Botticelli’s service and fashions have earned many awards, local and national, and has become a destination location for plus size women across the country and internationally. Janet is the President of Botticelli and a leader of body image positivity in her community. You can connect with Janet on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Image courtesy of Online Marketing.