The doctor, part one
For months, I’ve been starting posts about the doctor and then stopping midway through. The posts ended up relegated to the draft folder, eventually to be deleted months later when I saw them and thought, “yeah I’m never really going to publish that.”
I think part of the problem was that I felt like I had to say everything in one post, but I realized that that’s not true. So I will focus on one aspect of my experience with going to doctors in this post, and no doubt there will be more bits and pieces to come over time.
For the first time in my life, I feel empowered at the doctor. I feel respected, believed, and supported. And it’s all because a doctor actually said to me: “your weight doesn’t really tell me anything about your health.”
He’s an endocrinologist to whom I was referred after telling my women’s doctor that I wasn’t menstruating and had been diagnosed as “pre-PCOS” by a women’s clinic about 10 years ago. She asked if I’d ever had a full lab run, looking at hormone levels, and I said no. So she gave me the card of an endocrinologist, told me to go off hormonal birth control, and make an appointment for about a month out (so that the hormones from the HBC would be out of my system and give the endocrinologist a more accurate picture of what was going on for me).
In my first meeting with him, he spent an hour with me. He asked me questions about my weight history and that of my parents and siblings. He asked me questions about history of other physical and emotional disorders in my family. He listened to me vent that I was at the end of my rope after having been told by a string of doctors that if I lose weight all my problems will go away, meanwhile no matter how healthy (or unhealthy!) my choices are—no matter what I do—I keep putting on weight, at an amount that had become alarming (about 30lbs in 6 months). To be completely clear here, I was not concerned about being fat, I was concerned about the rate of change in my weight.
After asking me questions and listening to my story, he gave me some recommendations about food and told me that he suspected I was experiencing insulin resistance. He explained what that meant and it sounded exactly like what I experience. He said that he wanted to run a full lab of blood work and then would call with the results. I went back the next day and they took seven vials of blood (sorry for you who are squeamish!). The lab tech apologized and joked about how this particular doctor was often referred to as being “more of a scientist than a doctor.” I’m okay with that—I’m a scientist at heart myself. He ruled out thyroid problems, diabetes, and all kinds of other things I have never even heard of.
In the end, just as he suspected, it was insulin resistance. So he started me on Metformin.
I had some nausea from the Metformin for a little while but it seems to be going away after a couple weeks. I can already sense a major shift in my appetite. I didn’t realize my appetite had become larger than it needed to be, because it happened slowly, but with this change I’m eating in a way that now feels much more normal to me.
I don’t know if I’ll lose weight on Metformin—some people do, but I don’t really care as long as it just stabilizes my weight.
And I feel like a gigantic emotional weight has been lifted from my shoulders just because a doctor finally—finally, after 28 years—actually said to me, “your weight doesn’t tell me anything about your health.” The context in which he said it was that losing weight should not be a goal for me—I need to get my insulin resistance under control to help with other numbers like cholesterol but once it insulin is under control through medication, movement, and eating intentionally, those other numbers will be my health indicators, not the number on the scale.
This of course brings up other issues about the power we give doctors, and it helps me to think and talk about other (almost exclusively negative) experiences I’ve had with other doctors in my past. But those will be posts for another day, because I’ve written enough for now.