First : I’m aware most people online really don’t give a crap about my personal medical challenges etc, but I wanted to share a medical experience I had for the purpose of encouraging others to start approaching medicine, and their personal medical care, in the way that has been introduced to me because it is amazing.
I absolutely adore my new doctor.
So about two months ago I met a girl at a restaurant/bar who is quite young, and is a doctor. she just started her first, and independent, practice and her focus is naturopathic medicine. We became casual friends and I ended up confessing to her that I had a semi-negative opinion of a lot of doctors I had seen in the past whom I have felt have failed to help me and sue who have even been really, frankly, cruel and judgmental. She told me to come in to her office for a physical and she would try to help me work through some of that.
An approach of naturopathic medicine does not mean their solution to health problems is “meditate and you will heal.” That does not mean that they will not prescribe you medications for various ailments if necessary. What it means, at least to my doctor, is that when dealing with a medical problem, she looks at it from a wider angle than “what pill will fix your symptoms?” The solution isn’t just “pop this pill,” she digs deeper into the medical aspect and approaches the issues from an almost therapeutic/psychological standpoint because her goal isn’t to eliminate your symptoms of a problem but to get to the root of the problem and figure out how it best should be healed from its root cause.
I have struggled with weight for nearly my whole life. Eating has been a huge part of that struggle. I have never been diagnosed with an “eating disorder.” I have never been to any kind of treatment center. The reason I put those words in quotes is because I have a LOT of hesitation using those words at all for reasons unrelated to this entry, and I do not use them to describe myself and never have.
I fully admit to having a negative relationship with food and with eating. Said negative relationship goes back to early childhood.
Doctors have mostly given me the same song and dance throughout the years. “You should try to lose some weight” turned into “Oh hayyy you have a hypothyroid that explains why you retain weight so easily here’s some synthroid” to “oh its not working because its probably the wrong kind or the wrong dosage.” Ten years ago, I got fed up with being fat and I basically starved myself for ten months eating literally nothing but a slim jim in the morning and some form of meat at night but NO carbs whatsoever. Miraculously I lost weight for the first time successfully in my life. It was working so I just kept on doing that for months and months. I didn’t realize how damaging it was though and ended up in the hospital with a severe kidney infection and was told to stop partially starving myself/to stop doing the carbless diet immediately. So I did. To my dismay, weight quickly piled back on and I’ve never been able to successfully lose it since.
Anyway, my new doctor drew blood of course and ran a full blood panel based on what I had told her about my medical history and struggles. She ended up discovering something no doctor had bothered to check previously. First she checked the levels of whatever thyroid hormones should be in a persons blood and found them low which would be indicative of hypothyroid, but then she went further and checked my ACTUAL thyroid. That’s where things got weird. As it turns out, my actual thyroid looks like it functions just fine. So the question is, why the hell does my bloodstream say something different?
She suspects that its an auto immune issue and that my immune system actually mistakes the hormones etc that my thyroid produces as enemies, and attacks them. That would explain why normal thyroid medications did NOT help to regulate my thyroid because its not my thyroid thats the problem, its my immune system. Fancy that….
So then she started asking me about my eating since during our first appointment I had been honest and told her about my past and the carbless diet I had done years ago, etc. And here’s what really impressed me, rather than just forming an opinion based on nothing but my nameless medical chart etc, she spent a good half hour just asking me about food, not even so much what I eat but how often I eat and how that makes me feel, both psychologically and physically. It almost felt like more of a therapy session than a doctor’s appointment, but it was more helpful to me than anything a doctor has ever said to me before. First off, I only eat twice a day. I know and have been told that eating more often actually helps you lose weight, but as logical as it may be, my mind has a hard time wrapping around that concept when for years you’re told DIET DIET DiET EAT LESS EAT FAT FREE ETC ETC ETC which is apparently just ten thousand tons of WRONG. But its what I grew up with. I admitted that before my year of carbless eating, I used to eat more often, and more food in general per day. She said that she suspected that because i don’t eat OFTEN, my body might still think its in starvation mode and so its holding on to everything I feed it because it doesn’t know when its going to get fed next. But the idea that you’re supposed to eat three meals a day and three snacks, frankly, sounds terrifying to me. I can’t even fathom it. So she told me eat my two meals a day and eat one more time even if its just a tiny snack and don’t get overwhelmed, don’t try to add in a whole meal too soon etc, just take it very slow and the goal is to eat more often.
I love fruit. Especially lately I have been a good fruit eater. But lord .. I HATE VEDGETABLES! I wish I didn’t. I know they’re low fat and very vitamin-packed, but i hATE them! I hate their taste. I hate their texture. And every time I have ever told a doctor this, they just act like I’m a bratty baby and tell me “well you need to eat them anyway. You should be eating this much per day.” My new doctor? She looked me in the face and said, “Okay, we can work with that. I’m not gonna tell you to eat something you hate because that wouldn’t do anything to improve your relationship with food.” That was the first time that a doctor heard and accepted my biggest eating-vice and didn’t try to blow it off or force me to change it.
The thing is that despite being overweight, I am not unhealthy. My blood pressure is excellent. My heart and my lungs are in very good condition. My doctor did weigh me during my first appointment, but I refused to look and I specifically asked her not to tell me what it was. She wasn’t even going to weigh me today because she doesn’t feel that my weight is important, but I asked her to ONLY to see if I had lost any weight since eight weeks ago. Turns out, I did! Just a few pounds, she said, but you know what? Thats a start.
However- she made a point to tell me NOT to focus on losing weight. Her goal with me is to simply improve my relationship with food, both physically and psychologically. She also reminded me that due to genetics and my medical issues that contribute to me being overweight, I had to work three times as hard as a person without my weight-related challenges to lose weight. She didn’t tell me not to try if I wanted that to be a goal, but it was more like, I don’t need to make it a FOCUS and I had to understand the medical reasons that are a part of why I retain weight, etc. Its not healthy to focus solely on weight and I know that, and I was just thankful she reiterated that.
The point that I’m getting at with this banter is that for the first time in my life, a doctor did not look at me negatively because of my weight, and did not tell me that I am unhealthy just because of my weight. I have struggled for years with sell-image when it comes to my weight and it has taken me a very long time to stop feeling ashamed of it. It has taken me years to get to a point where I can say “I’m fat” and not want to hide in a corner because you know what? Its just a fact about me like any other fact? Yeah, okay, I’m fat. Guess what, world? I also have hazel eyes. I have brown hair (right now.) I’m 5″4. I have obnoxiously big boobs. These are all descriptions of my physical body and guess what? They have NO relevance whatsoever to my self-worth or value as a human being. It took me SO long to believe that about myself and for the first time now, a medical doctor did not put me down for my weight, either. I am so tired of the “obesity awareness” videos that rip the hell out of overweight people and obesity and only contribute to making people feel even worse about themselves and even more inadequate if they struggle with their weight.
To get more general, it doesn’t even have to be about weight. I think approaching medicine from the aspect of the individual rather than “statistics show blah blah” is the way to do it. I think that recognizing that a symptom has a root is ESPECIALLY important and when formulating any kind of treatment plan for a symptom, its vastly important to not just eliminate the symptom but to look at healing the patient at the root of their problem.
I hated doctors for years and avoided going on checkups etc because I felt they were judgmental, frankly unhelpful with my medical challenges and I often would leave appointments feeling like shit about myself. I suggest anyone that has issues, be it weight or ANYTHING ELSE, find a doctor who has the type of approach and mentality that my doctor does because her suggestions, advice and focus are going to help heal my problems rather than just mask or maintain them.
Yep, that about wraps up my YAY NATUROPATH~ blog. Honestly, I hope anyone that actually did read all of this (if anyone!) took something positive away from it. Health care is a lot deeper than eliminating a symptom. Psychological DOES tie into the physical and if a doctor doesn’t understand that, well, they’re not gonna get very far in helping you in a positive way.