What a difference a doctor makes

About 2.5 months ago, I went to the doctor. It’s hard enough finding a new doctor in a new city, especially when, in your old town, you had to switch doctors because your previous doctor was being sued…but I digress. Anyway, I was not looking forward to going through everything again: the questions, the raised eyebrows, the “ok, let’s talk about your weight” comments…ugh. I sat in my stupid, humiliating gown and waited for the embarrassment to begin.

And then, something happened.

I got a doctor who seemed to actually want to help me.

Dr. Osborne did all the normal doctor stuff, then sat me down, looked me kindly in the eye, and said, “Is there anything about your health that you want to talk about?”

So of course, I launched in to my normal explanation of how I’m overweight, I’ve always been overweight, and I’ve failed SO MANY TIMES to lose the weight I know I need to lose, and how I want so, so much to lose it. And instead of telling me something trite about portion size, she kept looking me in the eye, and asked me to talk about my eating habits. As I listed them off, most of them not great, some ok, I kept saying “and I know I should eat more vegetables, and I try.” She stopped me, and said something that I’ve never heard before: “You know what, Jodi? Knowledge of what you should be doing rarely helps in losing weight. Most people who want to lose weight know what they should be doing. That doesn’t mean it isn’t really, really hard to do it anyway.”

I blinked. Then she asked me to talk about the times I was successful in losing a few pounds, and what that was like. So we talked about Weight Watchers, and instead of telling me “oh, great, you should go back to that!” she said, “Hmmm…well, I have a question for you. If you went back to Weight Watchers, would you be able to stay on it for the rest of your life?” I swallowed, and admitted probably not. I asked about seeing a nutritionist, and she gave a little frustrated scowl and told me that I wasn’t overweight enough to get that covered by my insurance. “Insurance won’t help you, even though they should,” she said. “It’s you and me. We’re the ones who have to do this, together.”

Have you ever had a doctor talk to you like that? I sure haven’t.

So we zeroed in on several bad habits – eating out too much, eating simply because something tastes good and not because I’m really hungry, portion size when I DO eat out. Work on those, she said, and see how that goes. Use a calorie tracker, and aim to lose 1/2 a pound every two weeks. And then she did something no one has ever done for me, in all my years of going to doctors. She looked me in the eye again and said “Would you like to come see me again in 2 months, just to check in and see how things are going?” She watched me carefully, and after a stammering moment, I said “Yes, I think that would be great.” She smiled and said “Good, that’s what you should do, but I wanted to see if you’d make that decision on your own.”

And off I went, marveling at the concept of this kind of doctor. She never once made me feel embarrassed, or judged, or that I was a failure. She agreed with me that losing weight is really hard, and said she wanted to help.

Amazing.

Fast forward to today, when, after having to reschedule the check-in twice, I headed back to the clinic and waited anxiously. I was anxious because, over the past two months, I had done most of what we discussed. I made a real, honest effort to cook at home more, and discovered, to my immense surprise, that I like it. I really, really do. Maybe it’s my cute kitchen, or maybe it’s just being in Boston. Who knows? I got brutal about calorie counting for a while, until I now know every place around my office that I can get a vegetable rich lunch for around 500-600 calories. I’ve started to swim again, and have started a 5K running program. I feel better, I feel slimmer, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to get on a scale. I really, really didn’t want to feel that familiar sense of failure.

So, when the assistant weighed me, and the scale was lower by a few pounds, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then, when the Doctor came in, our conversation began NOT with the number but with “How are you? How are you doing? Are any of the things we talked about working?” As I told her how I was enjoying being in my kitchen, cooking, she blinked in her own surprise and started grinning. I confessed ruefully that travel and eating out are still my trouble spots, and she simply said “I know. It’s really hard. But if you are in a situation where you know you’re going overboard, just try not to go too far.”

And then she looked at her chart, and said “And you’ve lost weight.”

“Yeah,” I replied quietly. “Not a lot, but yeah.”

“Well, actually,” she said. “It is a lot. Hang on a second. I have to go get my fat globule.”

Her what?

She raced out and came back in with a large, silicone, yellow, globby thing, and handed it to me. It was heavier than I expected. The best way I can think to describe it is think of a large log that you might put in a fireplace, but plastic, bumpy, and it looks like, well, fat.

“That’s five pounds,” she said. “You’ve lost nearly that. So look at that and tell me you didn’t lose a lot of weight.”

Y’all, I almost started crying right there.

“It is HARD to lose weight,” she repeated. “It really is. I’m glad you didn’t look at the scale, because you probably would have been discouraged if the numbers weren’t moving as fast as you thought. But you are doing great.”

As I enjoyed a rush of giddy relief, we laughed and talked a bit more, she gave me a recipe for kale salad that I’ll try this weekend, and she asked if I wanted to come in again in a few months. This time, I hesitated, and she said “You know what, I think you’re doing great. I don’t think you need it.”

“Ok,” I said. “So I’ll see you for my next physical, and hopefully I’ll be down a few more of those things.”

And I left, nearly skipping as I headed back to work, thinking about what a difference a really good doctor makes. And feeling so grateful that I found one.

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