Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Playing “Aunt Loretta”

At some point this winter I am having a medical procedure done, and recently I had an appointment with my doctor about exactly what I needed done. Suddenly I caught myself playing “Aunt Loretta”.
My father’s sister, my Aunt Loretta, was a lovely person. She always greeted us with a wide warm smile, and never complained about the noise we children must have made. Her house, though tiny, was clean and neat, and her bathroom could have been an ad for the bathroom scent companies. She was an excellent cook as well. And yes… she was also grossly overweight.
Her weight never bothered ME… but I am sure that it bothered her. Why do I think so? Because she died of an illness that (according to my mother’s report at the time) could probably have been cured if she had only seen a doctor when the first symptoms arose. But my Aunt Loretta apparently played a “game” that many of us overweight people play. Tired of being viewed as ONLY “fat”, tired of being told that we need to lose weight, we avoid doctors. We visit them rarely, and dream of finding one who will treat us an intelligent person, despite our current inability to move past the addiction to food. (Many people are valued despite their character flaws, but overeating is oh so visible for all to see.) And when we finally DO go to the doctor, we often downplay any side complaints, suspecting that if we dare mention them, we will only be reminded by the dear doctor that it is our own fault.
So as I walked away from the doctor last week, I realized that I had downplayed an important concern, and was playing “Aunt Loretta”. I am still in the “defensive mode” when at the doctor; it being a well-ingrained habit after years and years of “overweight thinking”. What a mistake! Everyone, despite race, religion, sex, or weight, deserves to be treated cordially. Yes, one’s primary physician may need to courteously try to help his patient find the tools needed to live a healthy life. Asking if their patient is interested in referral to a weight-loss specialist or a dietician may well be in place. But it needs to be done in a sensitive way, in order that the overweight person, who needs that health care even more than the normal-weight individual, not run away.
But now that I am well on the way to a healthy weight, now that I AM making the proper choices, I CERTAINLY needn’t let this bad old habit of downplaying EVERYTHING at the doctor’s office continue.
So I made an appointment to see my doctor again, and I set the story straight.

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