Heavy Duty

Commentary: Alphabet Soup

I knew there was trouble when she told me to have a seat in her office and shut the door behind me.

We never talk in her office. I think I was in there once, when she wrote out a prescription for me at the end of a physical. But every other time I’ve seen my doctor, it’s been in an exam room.

Sure enough, she had an agenda. There’d been a moment of foreshadowing during my physical when she looked at my family history, noted where I had written that one of my relatives is now ”pre-diabetic,” and said, ”We’ll talk more about this later.”

Now, sitting in her office, she turned to look at me after jotting some things down. Her face was very serious. ”You need to lose weight,” she told me. Inside, I felt a combination of humiliation and relief — I’ve always heard of people getting ”the talk” from their doctor, but had never gotten it myself, and I always wondered if it would make me take the whole weight thing more seriously if I’d just get ”the talk.”

I tried to keep the humiliation at bay while I listened to her, reminding myself that she’s just doing her job and really probably could have done this five years ago. Or 10 years ago.

I turned 35 a few weeks ago, and suddenly everything seems like a bigger deal. Being overweight seems like a much bigger deal — like the weight will be harder to lose and like it has more serious ramifications if I don’t lose it.

My doctor had her Palm Pilot out and was using the calculator function to determine my BMI. I had already silently determined it, sitting in the exam room looking at the chart on the wall, but she was trying to prove a point and I let her do it.

I found myself resenting the assistant who’d taken my height and weight — first of all, I am more like 63.75 inches, not 63, like she wrote on my chart. The 63.75 figure rounds up nicely to 5’4” instead of 5’3”, which gives me a nudge in the right direction on the BMI scale. Secondly, I had things in my pockets when she weighed me! A cell phone, some keys. I was wearing shorts made of a thick, sturdy cotton. Surely I could have skimmed off a pound or so if she’d let me strip naked right there in the hallway where they keep the scale.

And! And, I told myself, I was pretty pre-menstrual and obviously carrying a lot of water weight.

Still, all of that didn’t add up to enough; I still deserved ”the talk.” So there we were, talking about my health habits. We’d already covered the standards, like whether I get enough calcium (no), whether I take a multivitamin (no), whether I do breast self-exams (alas, no), and whether my alcohol consumption was appropriately low (yes! Score one for me). Now she was asking me what I planned to do to get my weight down.

We talked about my exercise habits — or lack thereof — and I mentioned how I have memberships in two gyms and don’t use either of them. She told me to find some exercise I liked and to start doing it.

She asked about diet, and I told her how I’d done Weight Watchers a couple of years ago and had great success with it — I lost about 35 pounds and was cruising along when something got in the way of me getting to meetings. So I maintained for a while, and then something got in the way of me doing that. I became cavalier; I started eating desserts without caring too much about it, and started drinking full-sugar beverages on occasions when there was no decaffeinated sugarfree option and I wasn’t in the mood for plain water.

When I started a new job in January, my schedule got really messed up and my meals became irregular and unpredictable. I was making lunch and dinner choices that I shouldn’t have made. I started eating tuna-salad sandwiches with alarming frequency — troublesome not just because of the mercury content, but because they make the stuff with mayonnaise, which was never part of my diet before.

I gained about 10 or 15 pounds in seven months, and now I was getting ”the talk.”

My doctor looked me in the eye, telling me how diabetes is extremely genetic and having this condition appear in my family means big trouble for me. ”If you don’t lose weight, you will get diabetes,” she told me. ”If you do lose weight, you may not get diabetes, or you may get it at a much later age than if you keep this weight on.”

Although I’d hoped on some level to get ”the talk,” I was starting to wish it wasn’t happening. Or at least that it would end already. But it kept going. She was back on her Palm Pilot, calculating how many pounds I needed to lose to put me in a much healthier position. She came up with the number 27, and I swallowed hard.

I had a flash of resentment for the relative who got this ”pre-diabetic” diagnosis; if that hadn’t happened, things wouldn’t suddenly seem so damned serious. (It didn’t occur to me to wish I had omitted that detail on the chart; I am always painfully honest in such contexts.)

But I left the office mostly just feeling shaken, which is what my doctor was trying to do. ”Yes, I am trying to scare you,” she’d told me. When I stopped for food at a Burger King a couple of days later, I allowed myself the small order of onion rings with my veggie burger (no cheese), but I couldn’t muster up the appetite for a milkshake.

I’m scheduled to go back to the doctor in six weeks to follow up on a medication issue. She expects me to have lost five or 10 pounds by then. I’ll try. But at the very least, I am emptying my pockets before I get on the scale, and if they’ll let me, I’m changing into one of those paper gowns and standing up really, really straight this time.

Kristina Campbell and her excess poundage can be reached at kcampbell@metroweekly.com.

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