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Fat Shaming Has To Stop

I had a doctor tell me at 24 years old I was obese. After only spending a few minutes talking to me (condescendingly) and pointing out the stretch marks on my stomach during the exam, he prescribed me medication for high blood pressure and told me I needed to eat like I was already diabetic because that's where I was heading. 

I was mortified. I was already terrified of going to the doctor, but I had to go for a physical for my insurance. I left the office crying and feeling like a complete loser. Instead of filling the prescription though, I checked my blood pressure at home for 2 weeks and it was fine. I chalked the high reading at the doctor's office up to white coat syndrome, but was definitely freaking out about my weight. 

I was about 220 lbs at the time. I "dieted" for a month using the Atkins Plan (which cuts out a majority of carbs) and only lost a few pounds and gave up - going right back to my shitty habits. I never went back to see that doctor again, I continued to gain weight, I didn't want to go to see any doctor and I never "dieted" again. 

Fast forward nearly 10 years and in July 2019, I weighed 270 and was crying in another doctor's office. But this time it was different. A very sweet nurse asked me lots of questions and handed me a tissue as I cried and sympathized with EVERYTHING I had going on other than struggling with my weight. 

When the doctor came in, she asked me more questions. She was able to connect my weight with my depression and anxiety and PMDD. While I just wanted to lose weight, she prescribed me antidepressants, knowing improving my mental health would improve my ability to lose weight. My blood pressure was still high during the visit - she told me to take it at home and report back to her in a few weeks. Once again, my at-home readings were fine and didn't require medication. 

Now it's December 2020 and I've lost nearly 80 lbs, my blood pressure numbers are much lower, my acid reflux is under control, the headaches and physical PMS symptoms have improved and I've continued to see my doctor regularly. So yeah, that's the difference between a good doctor experience and a bad one. 

I had all these memories surface after reading a great piece by Michael Hobbes in Huffington Post — "Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong."

It's unbelievable how the diet industry has all of us so conditioned to shame, restriction, deprivation and repeating yo-yo diets that never bring about long-term results. We have to stop seeing obesity as a moral failing and weakness. Even fat people see themselves and other fat people as weak and untrustworthy. How crazy is that? We've internalized all this garbage to the point we set ourselves up for failure. 

There's also much debate about the "body positivity" movement because many people think it's ridiculous that fat people should be proud of themselves. They say we should absolutely shame fat people to motivate them to lose the weight. Well, how's that working for us? It's not — the obesity pandemic continues in the U.S.

"About 40 years ago, Americans started getting much larger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 80 percent of adults and about one-third of children now meet the clinical definition of overweight or obese. More Americans live with “extreme obesity“ than with breast cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and HIV put together." — From Hobbes' article

If we want to help people be healthier, we need to stop focusing on the number on the scale and work to help people understand the underlying issues that cause people to overeat and have a sedentary lifestyle. In the U.S., we've learned so many bad habits around food, especially in the South — cleaning our plate, considering it rude to turn down food offered to you, crazy portion sizes, fried everything, processed foods, sugary drinks. 

Many of us eat to fill a void. We eat to avoid our negative feelings. We eat because we think it will sooth our stress. We eat because we don't love ourselves. We eat because we don't think we're worthy. We eat when we're not hungry. We eat until we are miserable. 

Until we deal with our mental bullshit, we'll never be able to break the cycle of emotional eating, and I assure you that fat shaming doesn't help anyone. We can't force people to change out of fear and shame. People only change when they are ready. 

We as a society can help them reach that point by encouraging them, recognizing their value no matter what size they are and accepting them exactly how they are. That's body positivity. None of us are just a number on a scale. None of us deserve to feel uncomfortable in our own skin.

If you've experienced a doctor like I did 10 years ago — find another one! If you have the nerve, tell that other doctor how unhelpful his/her methods are to people and that you won't be back. 

If you're ready to get healthier, think long and hard about your mental/physical roadblocks and work on clearing those so you can better reach your goals. 

Be realistic — don't do another diet — find a healthier lifestyle that you can maintain overtime. 

Allow yourself to make mistakes without quitting on yourself. Take it one day at a time and just make the next best decision you can! 

Lastly, know you are not alone and know that losing weight won't magically make you happy. How many thin people do you know who are unhappy? Exactly. Learning to love yourself as you are is the work you have do all the way down the scale. 

Follow Jessi's journey at www.jessistone.com.

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