Dear Fat Mom, I'm going to put this bluntly — I need you to go to the doctor. And not because you "need to lose weight." Not because your weight means you're "unhealthy." But because your fear of the doctor might be holding you back from discovering a bigger problem than your weight.
I get it. I'm a fat mom, too. I'm not scared of that word — it's no different than saying "I'm tall" or "I have blue eyes." I'm fat, and it's a fact.
And as a fat woman, I have a justified fear of going to the doctor. Because I've been there too many times when they take one look at me and surmise all of my problems are because of my weight. I've heard too many doctors cite my BMI (an archaic and outdated way to measure health, btw) as the source of all my problems. When I beg them to look at my chart, my medical history, look at my blood work and my vitals, they sneer and tell me they can just see the problem.
So, I stopped going.
I got tired of having every symptom I experienced dismissed by weight. I've been to the doctor for an ear infection and was asked if I considered dropping a few pounds before he even looked in my ear.
I'm not saying that being fat isn't a health concern. Perhaps it is. And I'm not against trying to do what is best for my health -- though, I will note, I have tried to lose weight per doctor's recommendations, struggled with it, and was told I wasn't trying hard enough when really, it wasn't a plan that worked for my body. But that also doesn't mean my weight is the source of all problems. It doesn't give doctors a right to dismiss my concerns or not look me in the eye when I speak or barely read my chart.
So save for visiting the OB-GYN throughout my plus-size pregnancy, I stopped going to doctors.
Over the weekend I had a small health scare, and my first reaction was to treat at home as much as possible.
After all, why bother going if I'm not going to be believed?
A study of nearly 5,000 first-year medical students in the United States once found that 59 percent of them exhibited moderate-to-strong bias against fat people. Fat women are less likely to get life-saving screenings because of the biases they experience, and therefore, are more susceptible to fatalities. There is story after story of fat women's symptoms being ignored when it was truly something like cancer.
But then I looked across the breakfast table at my 1-year-old son. I thought about how fast this year went and how fast the rest were going to go.
And I thought about how I don't want to miss one second of it. I thought about how my son's face lights up when I enter a room, how I get him to giggle and laugh like no one else can. How when he cries he looks for me first. I thought about my husband, and how he doesn't sleep well if I'm not there. How we lean on each other so much to just make it through the day.
I thought about how much these two don't just love me — they need me. And I decided to book an appointment with the doctor first thing Monday morning.
I'm not going to let my frustration with fatphobic, moronic doctors prevent me from being there for my family. If the first doctor ignores me, I'll go to the next one. I'll hop to every doctor's office in the area until I find one that respects me like the human I am.
And dear other fat mama, I hope you do too. I hope you fight your scrappiest.
Because if you aren't going to do it for you, you need to do it for your family. They love you and need you too.
Whether or not you need to lose weight isn't relevant. No matter what you look like, doctors have a responsibility to treat you thoroughly. They have a moral and literal obligation to do so. And you have every right to fight them tooth and nail for that respect.
So do it — because I know you don't want to miss one second either.
This story was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.