Thanks But No Thanks: A Brief Tale of Being Propositioned for WLS

By | May 16, 2008

I had a Moment today, at the doctor’s office.

I saw the nurse practitioner that I’ve been seeing since having the flu back in February. I love my actual doctor, but the nurse practitioner is easier to get an appointment with, and has been nothing but polite and wonderful in general. Add to that my existing affinity for nurse practitioners, and I’ve been pleased with working with her overall.

Today, she came back after fetching my prescription, and gently said, “I also wanted to ask, have you ever considered gastric banding? [pause] To help with your weight?”

This was a first for me. I’ve had some horrible fatphobic doctors, who berated and harangued me for being a fatass, but I’d never been propositioned with WLS before. Part of this is likely because on my first visit to my current doctor, I laid it out: I am interested in being as healthy as it is possible for me to be, but I am not interested in weight loss. I also decline to be weighed from now into perpetuity. He was okay with this so long as I promised to note any sudden unexplained changes in my size, and so long as I was open to discussing it if my weight was clearly causing me a health problem (or otherwise potentially related to a health problem). Considering he is, ultimately, a doctor, a group of people that, given my prior experiences, I tend to distrust on a level with my distrust of criminals and psychopaths – I thought it went rather well, and I’ve come to really appreciate his willingness to work with me on this. It probably does not hurt that he is a bit paunchy himself.

The NP, on the other hand, is tall and slender. And we’d never had that fat conversation. To her credit, this topic was not completely out of left field; at the beginning of the appointment she asked me where I’d gotten my dress, and I told her online, that I do most of my shopping online, since my only local options are places like Lane Bryant or Avenue, which can be fine for basics but unreliable for cute sundresses. Also, I honestly believe that her suggestion was an effort to supply the best and most thorough care; it was not accusatory, or even authoritative. It came across as just a question, like she might ask about a prescription, or a symptom.

After she asked it, for a split second I froze. Then I laughed. I looked down and laughed. And I took a deep breath, and I explained that I am a fat acceptance activist, and have been involved in this movement for over a decade. And I briefly explained my childhood-through-adolescence history of disordered eating and weight cycling. And that I appreciate her concern, and I understand where it comes from, but I am truly comfortable with my size and my body as it is. Finally, I stated that I am completely and utterly and unquestionably opposed to any kind of weight loss surgery.*

And the NP said that was fine, she just wanted to ask because some folks are curious and are unwilling to bring it up themselves.

And this was the unexpected part.

She thanked me. She thanked me for responding in a thoughtful and sensitive manner, and not tripping out. I acknowledged that her suggestion was obviously well-intentioned, and I took that into account. She said she absolutely believed that yes, prejudice against fat people (well, she said “overweight people”) exists (hey there, basic validation!). Of course, it wasn’t all perfect sunshine and roses. We had a bit of a conversation on the subject. The old bugaboo of “but there may be things you can’t do” came up. Which is kinda true, if we’re talking about skydiving, or riding tiny horses. But there will always be things I can’t do. No matter what size I am. And this is my size.

More than anything else, this was a Moment for me not just because of the NP’s reaction, but because I’d suddenly landed in a space that could have inspired emotional terror and I was, instead, simply true to myself. I did not panic. I did not cry. I literally took a deep breath, assembled my thoughts, and announced my position on the matter calmly, and personably, and respectfully, and most of all firmly.

And magnificently, it was not awkward or weird or upsetting. It was exhilarating. I felt great. The NP wasn’t put out and I wasn’t wracked with guilt over admonishing a well-intentioned person. I can be reasonably assured that the subject will never come up again. My fat body remains intact and defended and much beloved by me, as it should be.

It’s a small thing, but it made for a sweet day.

* This is not a slam against people who have WLS – I know many who have and I love them no less for the decisions they make regarding their own autonomous bodies. However, I am opposed to the procedure conceptually, and opposed to ever having it myself.

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