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Connie Paruch
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My Fat-Shaming Pediatrician

I have seen at least 10 doctors and specialists during my 47 years. Of those, only 2 did not jump to conclusions about my weight and treat me like a second-class citizen. But of all the fat-shaming experiences I have ever had, none was so detrimental as my childhood hospitalization. My pediatrician (we’ll call him Dr. Smith) was obsessed with my size. My ear infections, heart murmur, and asthma were all just side notes to my weight. He was a portly man himself who smoked a pipe during my visits. Between puffs, he exclaimed how many pounds I had gained since my last visit, accusing my mom of making me fat. Charges of sugary snacks, soda, and potato chips spewed from his tobacco stained lips. No matter how many times Mom explained that I didn’t eat junk food (because we couldn’t afford it), he didn’t believe her.   By the time I was 10 years old, Mom had placed me on numerous diets. Each one resulted in a small weight loss followed by more weight gain. And eventually, Dr. Smith decided my mom’s efforts weren’t cutting it. And so I was hospitalized for 5 weeks on a 700 calorie diet. Food was served to me three times a day, and I usually didn’t eat the breakfast because I was a very picky eater. After four days, I had not lost any weight, so a very large nutritionist came to talk to me and my parents. My mom gave her details about my daily food consumption, and soon the woman was smirking and accusing me of buying junk food and...

Government Mandated Weight Loss | Trimming the Fat in the UK

The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, (@David_Cameron) recently announced a new proposal that would impact people who are receiving government benefits for what he calls “treatable conditions”. One of the targeted conditions is obesity. In his plan anyone receiving government benefits for obesity would have to agree to follow a “government selected treatment plan” or jeopardize losing part or all of their benefits. He has appointed Professor Dame Carol Black to investigate this issue and offer suggestions on how to get people with these “treatable conditions” back to work. It will be her job to determine whether benefits will be cut or eliminated if claimants refuse the recommended treatment plan. Implications of Government Mandated Weight Loss Several concerning questions come to mind when thinking about what a “recommended treatment plan” would look like? Would it be diet, exercise, medication, and/or surgery? Would it be a universal or individualized plan? How would the effectiveness of the weight loss plan be judged? As a fat woman over the age of 45 I have had my share of medical professionals suggest weight loss methods to me. In each case I considered their suggestion, reviewed the pros and cons, and decided whether the risks of the treatment (often quite substantial) were acceptable to me. In some cases the risks were not even known at the time a treatment option was suggested, as was the case with the diet drug Redux which later caused severe heart issues in many patients. I wonder how I would feel if the government mandated that I take a drug in order to receive sickness benefits…drugs that...

My Mother Taught Me Fat Shame

I’ve struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember. I went through life for years without questioning why I felt like I shouldn’t take up so much space. Now that I’m older, I’ve wondered why I started to think something was wrong with me. When did I realize that fat was a bad word? As I delved into these questions I soon found a link that surprised me…my mother. My mother was a wonderful mom who only wanted the best for me. I do not blame her because I know she was just following the recommendation of my pediatrician who scolded her about my weight each time she took me for a visit. Each time, this led to a new diet plan which resulted in a small weight loss.   In frequent letters and phone calls with my grandmothers, Mom bragged about my older brothers’ achievements, which were many. Then she excitedly shared my latest weight loss results. Looking back now I realize just what message this sent to my young developing psyche…that it was all about my weight! My weight loss would always be my greatest achievement. <— Click to Tweet Of course, within a couple months I always gained the weight back (and more thanks to the negative metabolic effect of dieting). I hated myself for being fat. I hated myself for gaining the weight back. And I hated myself for, in my mind, disappointing my parents. As a child, I didn’t even realize what was happening – and neither did my mom. Instead, we spun through this cycle throughout my adolescence. And as my...

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