Ahhhhh France. The land of pastries and turtlenecks. The country of fine food, wine, wit, and literature. The place where fat phobia not only exists, but is a way of life. I went to the doctor last week and walked out with a whole new appreciation on how I’m navigating the world in this new larger body of mine. You know what? Being fat in a country that actively can’t stand the sight of you is HARD.
The doctor I saw last week I have only seen once before. I am living in Paris, and have only needed to see a doctor to get my healthcare card and renew prescriptions. Being a product of the rigorous and methodical French medical system, the doctor was incredibly thorough and wanted to do all my vitals even though I just needed a few forms. After doing lots of other medical things, she asked me to step on the scale. I inwardly rolled my eyes, but stepped on anyway .
Dr: “Oh, I see you’ve lost eight kilos since I last weighed you!”
Me: “Yeah, but I don’t really care about my weight, I just eat and move intuitively and live my life as healthily as I can.”
Dr: “Mmmmmhmmm, but you are still quite significantly overweight and you need to lose a lot more, are you sure you’re controlling your diabetes properly?”
Me: “My diabetes is fine, and I’m not going to diet or anything. I had an eating disorder for years, I’m not going to launch myself back into that.”
Dr: “Ok but I am very concerned about your weight, have you thought about gastric band surgery?”
Firstly, my weight does not prevent me from doing anything – isn’t that surgery meant for people whose weight is creating health issues and preventing them from living?! Secondly, I thought I had misunderstood her. SURELY she wouldn’t suggest a dangerous and drastic surgery to someone whose medical record and history she doesn’t know and who she’s only met once before. French is my second language, so sometimes I get into weird situations where I’ll miss a crucial word and end up talking nonsense, and this must have happened again. I clarified – did she mean did I have bowel issues, or gastroparesis?
Dr: “Non, le pontage gastrique” and then proceeded to show me a picture on her phone (pulled up from Google) of a gastric bypass surgery.
My whole body seized up and became hot, like a fire had been lit in my belly and was making its way angrily through my limbs. I stared through tears in my eyes at the number below me, and took a deep breath. Don’t cry in front of her I told myself, and stepped off the scale and back into my shoes. It’ll only make her think you agree with her.
This woman doesn’t know me. This woman doesn’t see the balanced diet I eat, the exercise I do, and the work that I’ve done over the past few years to get where I am now – happy, adjusted, and able to walk through life ignoring diet culture and all the bullshit that goes with it. All this woman sees is my belly hanging over my jeans, my arms pressing against my sides, my double chin and my generous behind. This woman has never once suggested gastric bypass surgery to members of my host family, even though they have the diet of an eight year old let loose in the confectionary aisle and the exercise habits of a sloth. Why? Because they’re all slim, and in her fat phobic world view, that must mean they’re ‘healthy’ right?
There are plenty of reasons I could give you as to why I’m fat, but it doesn’t fucking matter because it’s nobody’s business except my own. My body has been abused for YEARS – it has endured starvation, purging, binging, diabetic ketoacidosis, and enough crazy hormone levels to give endocrinologists nightmares. It is slowly finding it’s way back to where it needs to be, and trusting that it will always be nurtured and cared for. The audacity of the doctor to suggest that I permanently divide my stomach in half because I don’t fit into her narrow view of what ‘health’ looks like is unbelievable. She’s chosen to ignore my perfect vitals and blood work and instead focus on what she can see. You can scream “HEALTH!” at me all you want, but if you don’t have an in depth knowledge of my entire medical history and conditions (so basically, me and my GP back in Melbourne), your desire from me to lose weight is just coming directly from good old fashioned diet culture and fat phobic conditioning.