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To My Former Doctor, Who Told Me to Lose Weight Despite Signs of My Eating Disorder

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

I don’t suppose you remember me.

You were always very busy.

After all, you served an entire sub-community in my city. I never heard of any
other doctor who spoke the language we spoke. You waiting room was basically gossip
central for all of us coming to visit.

“Have you heard? So-and-so is getting married this year!”

“Mr. Blank passed on last month. Cancer.”

“There’ll be a party at the hall this weekend! Are you coming?”

I was just another kid being sent your way. Though maybe you did remember me. After all, you didn’t have many fat patients.

Every memory I have of that waiting room is like a knife. So painful. So destructive. Even though your receptionist was so sweet and I always admired the cut of your dresses and avant-guard glasses.

Because every time it would go back to my weight.

I remember the first time I had broken down in your office. I was 16. I had admitted to you that I had been obsessively counting calories since I was 11. I was down to an amount that wouldn’t be sustainable for anyone. I now know that such a low caloric intake is akin to psychological torture. I was so tired, so obsessed with food, and so distraught because, despite my efforts including regular exercise, I couldn’t lose the weight. Every sign should have pointed you to send me to a psychologist for eating disorders.

You told me it was just my metabolism and gave me a pamphlet on weight loss surgery, telling me that if I didn’t get my act together, I’d be disgusting.

That conversation lasted me for years. I started skipping appointments because I thought I wasn’t thin enough to go talk to you, though more and more medical issues started to crop up. I was trying more and more outlandish diets and was losing control psychologically.

Nothing worked.

My body resisted everything I tried and I could just hear your voice echoing in my head.

“You’ll be disgusting.”

“You won’t live past 25.”

“You just need to try harder.”

Every time I went back, I remember being nauseous with worry, knowing the moment will come when my weight and how disgusting I am would crop up. And it did. Every time.

The last time I saw you, I had finally mustered up the strength to tell you the truth – that I was content with my size and weight as this shape was what my body wanted. That I was eating a healthy diet and exercising normally and this was the size my body was. I then told you that you might need to put in your records that I had been assaulted. I’ll never forget what you said after.

“As long as you don’t use it as a reason to get fatter.”

I wish I could say you were joking but I don’t think you were. I wish I could say I was strong enough to say that was inappropriate and so, so wrong on so many levels, but especially a medical one. But I didn’t.

Now, there is something I need to say. I want to thank you – because of your cruelty, I
realized what I wanted from a doctor. I realized medical discrimination was a real concern. I realized I wanted to do everything in my power to show doctors that their bigotry causes harm. And now I know, wherever I go, whichever doctor I chose, whatever I do, will follow the oath that hung in your office: “First, do no harm.”

Getty photo by Pornpak Khunatorn

Originally published: March 2, 2019
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