In Which Princess Alethea Gets Fat-Shamed

Shame on you, Dr. Dude.Yup. You read that right.

In all my 37 years on this planet, I have never before had a fat-shamer doctor. Oh, I’d heard stories about them, horrible stories…but like all the other stories like these, I never thought it would happen to *me*.

This guy is my GP –I’m not someone who gets sick all the time (just accident prone), so I usually make do with a decent Urgent Care. I found Dr. Dude last year after I came home from 100-driving-hours on book tour a broken woman. He told me to take a bunch of vitamins and do hot yoga — I decided to go for therapeutic massage instead (and thanked the gods for every minute). I saw him again this fall when I bit the bullet and decided to ask for anti-anxiety meds (that’s a whole nother story).

The first thing this guy did was walk in and say, “Congratulations!” like he’d just heard I was pregnant. I actually thought he might be in the wrong room, or was confusing me with someone else.

“Congratulations for what?” I asked.

“You’ve lost ten pounds! That’s exciting!”

No, actually, it wasn’t exciting. Losing ten pounds since the last time he’d seen me–A YEAR AGO–was really no big deal. Besides, I wasn’t there to talk about my weight. I was there to stop the voices in my head from screaming 24/7 and making me manic and depressed all at the same time.

But he’s my doctor, right? Your doctor is supoosed to be able to talk to you about your weight. If he got off on it, well, good for him. I shrugged, and we went on with the appointment… during which he asked me what I ate on a typical day. Everything I told him, he shot down as horrible. I actually cried and snapped at him.

I’m not proud of myself, but it felt like he was attacking me. Then again, I was in a state of mind back then where I felt like everyone was attacking me. (Proof positive that I needed those meds, right?)

It still left a bad taste in my mouth. Had I been listening to myself (or able to hear above the screaming) at the time, I would have walked out of that office and never come back, just based on the slimy way I felt afterwards.

Fast forward to today, a few months later. The anxiety meds (once I cut the dose in half) are working like a charm. Today was just a follow-up visit, in which I answered questions on a survey, answered them again for the assistant, and then waited 45 minutes to answer them again for Dr. Dude.

Am I depressed? No. Am I suicidal? No. Am I still having trouble sleeping? Not nearly as much as I was. Am I any of this list of things…? Yeah, “Tired.” Pretty sure I said “Fatigued” and “Tired” a lot. But then, I have just come off book tour. It’s to be expected. But maybe it’s the meds…I don’t know.

Dr. Dude came in and said hello, and I had to explain my t-shirt to him (because “Hooked on fonix dun good four me” is funny when you’re a New York Times Bestselling author). Then I answered all the questions: fine, fine, yes, no, fine fine, tired, yes, fine.

Then he scrunches up his nose and says, “Hmm…well, this is awkward but I have to bring it up…”

Awkward? What, we’re going to talk vaginal secretions? Bowel movements? My sex life? How slowly my revision’s going on book three?

“…you’ve gained some weight since you were here last.”

Yeah, like 4 pounds. Four pounds that could probably be explained away by hydration, stress, time of day, and the heavier clothes I’m wearing since it’s…you know…colder outside now. BUT HE’S MY DOCTOR, and we’re supposed to talk about this stuff, right?

So I shrug. “It’s fine. I’ve just been on book tour the last six weeks.” And then I made some comment about difficulty eating on the run, or on the road, or something.

This time, his entire body squinched up and he said, tentatively, “…Salads?” As if I had never heard of such an invention.

I’ll say this for Zoloft — it kept me from punching Dr. Dude and walking straight out of that office right then and there, SO I GUESS IT WORKS AFTER ALL. I think another part of me was just so shocked that this asshole had pretty much just told the fat girl to eat a salad that I was frozen in place.

“That’s not the problem,” I said after a moment. “My problem is that I don’t eat. I get busy and I don’t think about it.”

“Oh. Then have you considered keeping power bars with you?”

This guy was about 14 steps behind. “That’s what I do. It’s still difficult. I’m still working on it. It’s a work in progress.”

See, I know all this because I am actively on a weight loss program separate from this doctor (and thank goodness). They have said as much to me, and it makes sense. I don’t have seriously terrible eating habits as far as food choices go, but I have a tendency to NOT EAT AT ALL when I’m busy and performing. Instead of dropping a few pounds like a normal person, my body goes INSTANTLY into “starvation mode.” I swell up, despite being adequately hydrated, and the migraines have a field day… It’s one of the most annoying things possibly ever.

This same thing happened to my bestie Sherrilyn Kenyon, who lost a bunch of weight a few years ago. “My nutritionist told me I had to eat to lose weight!” she said, like it was the coolest thing ever. I am here to tell you that it is not the coolest thing ever. Training yourself to eat 345 small meals a day when you’re used to eating until you’re full and then moving on with your life is TOUGH. When you’re touring, it’s NIGH IMPOSSIBLE. Sherri is to be commended. But then, she had a nutritionist. And now, so do I.

But I don’t *need* to lose weight. I want to, for my overall health and my sore feet, but every other doctor I’ve had, including my Gyno, thinks I’m just fine. I have a heart like a horse, my blood pressure’s great, I don’t smoke or drink alcohol, I don’t get sick very often, and I work out regularly. I actually *did* try to bring up my weight with my Gyno last year. He waved his hand at me and literally said, “Eh, you’re fine. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

But–again–my appointment today was NOT to talk to Dr. Dude about my weight. My weight had nothing to do with this appointment, unless he thought the medication was causing the uptick in weight, which was very possible. Not that it was something he suggested, by any means. Because Zoloft is far less likely to be responsible for that four pounds than the DEEP FRIED CHEESE AND MAYONNAISE BALLS I consume on a daily basis BECAUSE I AM A FAT WOMAN. [Edit: I apparently have no idea how to even *spell* mayonnaise and had to let the computer correct me here. LOL]

After thinking about this whole scenario–as authors are wont to do–I came up with several conclusions (besides the fact that Dr. Dude is an unprofessional jerk):

1.) By saying “Oh, this is awkward,” HE made the situation awkward. A professional doctor would have simply noted the weight gain and asked after its possible causes. After hearing a plausible one, he would have said, “Well, we’ll keep an eye on it just to make sure it’s not the meds.”

2.) I’ve been around enough introverted socially awkward geeks in my life to know one when I see one. This was not innocent social awkwardness. This was…prejudice? Assholishness, if you will.

3.) No doctor should be allowed to make sweeping generalizations about a patient’s life. I can *maybe* see this accidentally slipping out if we’d been actively having conversations about my nutrition, but we hadn’t. And it’s not like he was ever taking notes, because I essentially told him two months ago that I mostly ate salads for dinner while at home because I don’t like eating carbs after 4pm. (Someday I’ll put a recipe up for my “power salads.” Amanda Havard and I bonded over this, because she does the same thing, only with kale instead of spinach.)

4.) “Salads.” I want to go back and bitchslap that man with a menu. Because the answer to every overweight person is “Salad”? Have you SEEN A RESTAURANT MENU LATELY? When you’re touring, you’re lucky if you can find a chicken caesar salad…and there’s only so many of those you can have before you want to puke. Most salads in chain restaurants are made with iceberg lettuce, a handful of tomatoes, two cucumbers, and eggs and onions I don’t want. Even Greek would be acceptable, but most American joints only serve cheese that comes out of cows. There aren’t a lot of options that come with spinach greens and beets and goat cheese or salmon. I know, because I’ve looked.

The thing is, I actually considered just sucking it up and going back for the next follow-up. It’s not like I’m going to see this guy what…three or four times a year? But “…Salad?” keeps flashing in my mind, right along with that squinched-up face of his.

When I got home, I had an email to check the patient portal. This is actually a cool service this clinic does — they securely email you all your pertinent information in case you want to print it out and keep it for your records. It goes over what you came in for, what you talked about, and what the doctor prescribed.

Among my symptoms today, the doc listed “Obesity.” At no point in time did I ever list this as a problem. Because it’s NOT.

Among the things we talked about, he listed “Obesity” again and “Nutritional counseling.”

Dude…if “…Salads?” is your idea of nutritional counseling, then YOU’RE FIRED. In fact, you’re fired right now. You will never see another dime from my insurance company. If I thought I could do it anonymously, I’d report you as a fat-shamer on every online review site.

And if I wasn’t on successful anti-anxiety meds, I’d totally find your car and cover it in Caeser dressing.




34 Responses to “In Which Princess Alethea Gets Fat-Shamed”

  1. J. Kathleen Cheney Says:

    UGH! I hate this. My doctor is great about this kind of thing. He knows my weight fluctuates, and as long as other vitals are good, he lets it alone.

    I hope you can find a better match!

  2. Mary Layton Says:

    Totally NOT COOL. You are not obese (and y’know…I should know obese…). Sounds like he went to the same course on tact as my (former) knee doctor did. He did x-rays last time I went, took a look and said “Wow….you REALLY need new knees”. And before I could even take a breath, he launched into this run-on sentence of a spiel: “Yeah, but, you’re too heavy-I know, I know, it doesn’t seem to make sense, because you really need new knees so that you can be more active and lose weight, but you can’t have them unless you lose weight-have you thought about gastric by-pass?” I mean his whole demeanour made me think “Yeah…just which one of us are you trying to convince that NOT giving me new knees is a good idea?” Asshole.

    The fact that his idea of nutritional advice is “salads…” means he doesn’t really have any idea of proper nutrition. (Actually, if they weren’t dipped in bread crumbs, the deep-fried cheese and mayonnaise balls wouldn’t automatically make you gain more weight…but, that’s a whole low-carb soapbox I won’t get on here) I don’t get why some doctors refuse to educate themselves any further than their formal schooling…ideas on nutrition have changed since his (and the knee doctor’s) school days as science has advanced. The fat-shaming is more about personal prejudice than any concern for the patient’s health, and I think you are wise to ditch this berk and find another GP. It’s fine for doctors to talk weight and nutrition, but not to the exclusion of the primary issues you are visiting for, and certainly not in the manner he used.

  3. Princess Alethea Says:


  4. Mary Robinette Kowal (@MaryRobinette) Says:


  5. Princess Alethea Says:


  6. Tasha Says:

    What a creep….my old doctor was like that which is why I switched to his partner, a woman who actually listens. Also as to Zoloft, that pill is a miracle. I have extreme anxiety and that magical lil blue pill makes it so I don’t go through a full work day wishing I could brutally shove my co-workers into the oven like Sweeney Todd did to Mrs. Lovett.

    Feel better, sweet Princess.

    *glitter hugs from Northern Michigan*

  7. Princess Alethea Says:

    Zoloft did make the screaming go away. Now it just needs to finish this revision for me.
    *bathes happily in northern glitter*

  8. Alma Alexander Says:

    Er… what? Zoloft or no Zoloft, you were a LOT more polite than I would have been under the circumstances. In fact, having found out the “obesity” commentary on my record in teh afteramth I would probably have lost it completely and reported him to whatever board he labours under as an unprofessional douche who doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    And no, I myself don’t EAT iceberg lettuce when I can help it. Because it tastest of absolutely nothing at all. And I am not a goat, who can be fobbed off with anything because it looks like food. Anyone in themedical profession coming at me with the “…Salad?” thing would have been smackd with a LARGE head of iceberg lettuce. About all it’s good for.

  9. Princess Alethea Says:

    To me, iceberg lettuce tastes like all the stuff that gets sprayed on it to keep it fresh. And then all that stuff makes me sick. Irritable bowel: also not fun to have while touring.

    I am thinking about calling my insurance people, at the very least, and letting them know he is misreporting information. How much you want to bet that he charged for that “nutritional counseling”? GRRRR.

  10. Cheryl Says:

    First thing I would do is find a new GP that you mesh with. I had a MD tell me one time “I only have 15 minutes to spend with you so you need to prioritize what you want to discuss with me.” I changed MDs and never went back to her.

  11. Princess Alethea Says:

    Good for you!
    Annoying that we have to waste all this time trying them out, though, right? I hate wasting time. But dropping this loser is worth the effort.

  12. Amelia Says:

    This is horrendous. My GP is almost as bad and this coming from another chubby woman. Seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any right to judge her body but it’s got to be clear that the answer isn’t “salads” or just move more. I’ve completed two marathons and never left the “obese” category. Sorry to hear you had to go through this and glad you have sensible perspective on the whole thing. His behavior said everything about him and his biases/ignorance and absolutely nothing about you.

  13. Princess Alethea Says:

    I *wish* I had the training time & discipline to run a marathon…but I do love my 5Ks.
    You are awesome!
    You know what else? WE ROCK.

  14. sarah weiss Says:

    Omg hon I am so sorry this guy put you through this!! You are anything but obese!! You are honestly one of the most bright and vibrant people I have ever met and how dare him make you feel anything less than the awesomeness that you are! Hugs and love!

  15. Princess Alethea Says:

    No worries — mostly he made me feel like I was being punked. I had one of those, “Wait, this happens in real life? FOR REAL?” moments. 🙂

  16. sarah weiss Says:

    Also I will kick said dr. in the shins for you because you know that’s how I roll 🙂

  17. Mandi M. Lynch, author Says:

    Dafuq? You know, I totally volunteer to pour the stuff on his car myself. Because, you know, a serving of salad dressing is one tablespoon and 14 grams of fat, so when people put a quarter cup of salad dressing and add chicken tenders and bacon and six pounds of cheese its sooooo healthy. In fact, if I made a salad the way I wanted to for taste and not nutrition, I may as well have steak and mashed potatoes.

    I’ve seen you many times. Are you ridiculously skinny, of course not, you’re a human not a barbie. But you’re vibrant and healthy and entergetic and because of all of those reasons, “obese, in need of salad” is probably not something that should go on your chart.

  18. sdn Says:

    This is effed up beyond belief. DOUCHEBAG.

  19. Heather McCormick Says:

    This is why I don’t go to doctors. The half that knows what they’re talking about don’t take my insurance.

  20. Princess Alethea Says:

    Yes, the more I think about it, the more I think I will be calling my insurance company tomorrow to make sure this dude doesn’t charge for services he did NOT provide.

  21. C.L. Wilson Says:

    What a jerk! And you’re not obese by any stretch.

  22. Princess Alethea Says:

    Technically, I’m obese according to BMI charts. I don’t give a crap about those charts. I’m healthier than most folks I know and have a great body image, which is 90% of what matters.
    The other 10% is just me wanting to drop a few pounds so I can run faster. 🙂

  23. allyandrita Says:

    I’m 15 and the doctor calls me obese because I am 5’3.5″ and 125 pounds. She told me to lose around 15-20 pounds. She doesn’t even look at my bone structure, she just tells me to lose weight. I am perfectly healthy, I hardly ever get sick. If I actually dropped 20 pounds I would be anorexic looking.

  24. Princess Alethea Says:

    Yeah, your doc is off her rocker for sure. You just keep being the awesome and magic YOU that you are. xox

  25. Marie Sherman Says:

    What a dick!

  26. Eugene Says:

    I kind of need to find a doctor and go for a checkup because I haven’t had one in *mumble* years. I generally only go when I have a major health problem that can’t be solved on the internet. And this post reminds me why.

    I’m glad you’re kicking this guy to the curb. And perhaps one other good thing can come out of this: I propose that “Salad” always be followed by a question mark. I think it’s always been a silent question mark anyway. Salad?

  27. Brandi Jenkins Says:

    I had a doctor do fat-shaming to me several years back. I was in for my usual gyno visit and my doctor (I got the flavor of the day as my GP wasn’t in) and firstly, and completely unprofessionally, she remarked on my grooming habits. I am a very clean person and i do a little…ahem…landscaping, but I hadn’t in a few days because I was doing insane mandatory overtime at work. So that threw me off. Then as we are talking and I mention that I have been having pain in my right hip a lot more, something a doctor previously had attributed to early stages of arthritis. She looks me over and says “Well you know…if you lost some weight that would probably clear that right up.” Did I mention this woman had a good fifty pounds on me and was like four inches shorter than me? I just looked at her and blinked. At the time, I was maybe 180 and I’m five foot six. I was so angry. And the hip pain? I finally had a doctor listen to me on it, and not only is it arthritis, but that leg is longer than the other which has mis-wired all my lower muscles to mess up my gait and lead to me having arthritis in both of my knees. I was sent to physical therapy which helped get the right muscles to do the right job and fix the pain. I actually asked if my weight was a factor (I am heavier now than I was then, pain kind of puts a damper exercise) and I was told with wide eyes “No? Why on earth would you think that?” Now that my pain is under control, I can go back to exercising properly and I’m sure I’ll shed some weight, but because I WANT to not that I NEED to! And I would certainly get some croutons and help you with that jerk’s car!

  28. Jacs Says:

    First: (((((Lee))))) I’m sorry you even had to waste good energy on that asshole. The fact that his ‘solution’ for you to lose weight is to eat salads speaks volumes about his lack of knowledge about nutrition. And I can’t believe he was harping about 4 pounds! Well let me tell you Princess, if you’ve gained 4 pounds in the past year or so, you carry it damn well.

    And btw, did you even discuss how your meds were working during that visit?

    While I’m lucky that I’ve never been fat-shamed by my GP or any doctor, I’ve had too many ‘well-meaning’ relatives–including my mother–who have done so on too many occasions to count. To this day it hurts.

    Funny thing is in the past three months I’ve lost 30 pounds, not because of being ‘fat-shamed’ but because of love of a good man. My guy loves me and shown in his actions and in words that he thinks I’m a goddess. He’s never made me feel ‘less than’ and one of the many reasons I love him.

    Because of this, one of the main reasons I want to lose weight is the fact that I want to do everything I can to live not just a happy life but a long, healthy and happy life with him.

    HOWEVER, judging by recent photos of you that I’ve seen, you need to lose weight like a hole in the head.

    2nd: I’m glad the anti-anxiety meds have helped bring your moods to a more even keel.

    3rd: I hope your next GP will have a better bedside manner than that other asshole.

    Love you!

  29. Jenna Says:

    Wow. I mean, really? WOW… I don’t think you deserved this treatment AT ALL. And the “Obesity” remarks on your record? INSULTING. Makes you wish you could report the experience to his board or something.

    Last Friday (Nov 8) I went to the doc for the first time in a couple years. This post actually strikes a chord with me b/c my doctor also mentioned my “excess” weight during the physical… But he was very, very nice about it. “Gentlemanly” (his word, not mine.)— He mentioned that, when “looking at the numbers”, I am considered *a bit* overweight (I am just under 5’3.75″ and around 150lb). He asked me what my lifestyle was like (food/activity level) and acknowledged how hard it is to find time for regular exercise with my sedentary job and a 6 year old. He said that these were “just numbers” and pretty much left it at that. I left the physical mostly appreciating the acknowledgement and not really feeling ashamed, so I guess he did his job right (though it was a bit embarrassing talking about my weight with an attractive 30-something year old male doctor…) This week, I went to the lab for a cholesterol check and other blood work and should get the results back soon. Now I am starting the get concerned that if those items come back unfavorably, perhaps then I will get “the talk”…

    Oh, but we DID talk about “awkward” things, such as my bowel movements and anxiety and infertility and unsightly moles and… yeah… Getting older is FUN!

  30. Meredith B. Says:

    I *hate* those stupid freaking BMI charts. When I was sixteen years old I was 5’4″ and wore a size ten, and I had the tiniest wasp waist you ever saw. I also wore a size 34 D bra. I took ballet classes three times a week and had back pain at least every-other day, because although my core was very strong, a small waist is not designed to support a large bust. I was also considered to be “obese” on those stupid freaking BMI charts.

    Today I am 31, I’m a size 14, my bust measurement is, if possible, bigger, and I never have back pain. I’m definitely still considered obese. I’m not perfectly happy with my body, and I’d rather be a size 12– but guess what? I never have back pain. Turns out a thicker waist is better designed to support everything God gave me up top (whether he consulted me when he made that decision or not.) Biomechanics at work, baby.

    And you are healthy and beautiful and we love you. So take that, stupid doctor!

  31. Irvin K Says:

    Alethea, you looked fine to me, and you’re awesome! And way nicer than I would’ve been. Something along the lines of “why don’t you shove a salad up your ass” would definitely have slipped out. Hugs!

  32. antares Says:

    Illegitimi non carborundum. Forget him. I say you are sexy.

    Do you think you can get his unsolicited comments expunged from your record?

    One last note. I used to suffer from migraines. By accident, I stumbled across taurine as a preventative. I now take 500mg of taurine once a week as a prophylactic. No migraines for more than a decade. It seems that migraine causes are specific to the individual, but taurine works for me.

  33. Princess Alethea Says:

    How wonderful for you!
    I’ve tried Taurine. Hell, I’ve had these for 20 years — I’ve tried everything short of an MRI. I manage. There are some folks out there who have to be hospitalized. I’ve never been*that* bad.

  34. Mom Kontis Says:

    Call me. I want his name!

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