Doctors Gone Wild

Greetings from Arizona! Sorry that I’ve been lax on my blogging the past couple of days – the final details of my move became all consuming.  I’m also way behind on e-mail and on getting comments approved, I promise I’ll catch up, hang in there!

A couple days ago I got an e-mail telling me that I had “no right to question doctors because they have so much training and it’s disrespectful to their profession.”  Right. To borrow a phrase from filmmaker Darryl Roberts, I believe that I have to be the CEO of my own health which includes asking questions to healthcare professionals.  If you’re wondering why I feel that way, I submit to you these two stories of doctors gone wild which make me want to throw beads at them while yelling “Show us your lack of ethics!” (yes, that is a horrible Mardi Gras joke – I think 12.5 hours of driving may have made me a little loopy!)

Dr. Edward Shang, a course director for the International School for Obesity Research and Management, successfully submitted his study about weight loss surgery and exercise to a scientific journal. The problem?  He made up most, possibly all of the data.  The editor in chief of Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases says:

“This article has been retracted as the senior author, Dr. Edward Shang, claimed that 60 patients had undergone gastric bypass whereas only 21 patients had undergone surgery during this time period. Dr. Shang was unable to provide the raw data for the study, the name of a single patient, or a witness to patient entrance into the trial. Dr. Shang has agreed to withdraw this manuscript from publication.”

Dr. Andrew Chung, is a cardiologist who mixes scripture with medicine and recommends to his followers that they eat a very limited amount of food in order to constantly stay “wonderfully hungry.”  He said “When we’re 10 times hungrier, doesn’t food tastes 10 times better? And when food tastes 10 tastes 10 times better, that’s wonderful, isn’t it?… It’s a mathematical principle,”  So, Doctor Chung, this word mathematical – I do not think it means what you think it means.  Tragically a woman put her 16 year old daughter on this program and the girl died of malnutrition at 40 pounds.

Doctors are not infallible and let’s remember that the person who graduates dead last in their class from the medical school ranked dead last in the country is still just called “Doctor.”  You can do whatever you want but I will continue to question doctors. It’s not all bad, sometimes I get things that really give me hope, like this blog comment I got a couple of days ago:

Bravo! As a physician, I have often encountered overweight patients who live healthy lifestyles and are frustrated by an inability to lose weight. How freeing it would be if I had said simply, be healthy at the weight you are, or even better, be a Size Activist.
I have learned a valuable lesson from you and will bring this new perspective to my struggling patients.
Again, Bravo.

Dr. Kim M.
Cincinnati

You Feedback on a Possible Blog Project…

You may have heard of Sarah Robles and Holley Mangold.  They are super heavy weight Olympic weight lifters who have made the US Olympic Team.  They are both struggling financially.  USA weight lifting provides them with $400 per month and they struggle to get sponsorships, partly because their size makes it difficult for them to obtain sponsorship money – as Sarah says “You can get that sponsorship if you’re a super-built guy or a girl who looks good in a bikini. But not if you’re a girl who’s built like a guy,”

It makes me so angry that they aren’t considered for sponsorships because of their size.  Also, of course fat people get to choose whether or not they are interested in athletics and/or fitness, and I personally think it’s important to support fat athletes because it’s so rare for fat people to have role models who look like us and who challenge stereotypes and help give us the option to be involved in athletics if we want to.  So I am considering running a fundraiser to help support them. There are still some hoops to jump through to find out if I can do it and how it will work, but I wanted to ask for your feedback -is this something you would be interested in supporting either financially or by helping to get the word out?  Our Georgia Billboard Project was so incredibly successful ($21,000 in 8 days!) and a lot of that success was due to the support of you blog readers so I wanted to get your thoughts.  Feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at ragen@danceswithfat.org

Book Update!

The initial book order has been shipped!  When that shipment arrives the pre-ordering will end and we’ll move to regular ordering including both the hard copy and the e-book.  If you want to get an autographed hard copy with free shipping then, according to UPS, you have 3-5 days left to preorder.  If you’ve already pre-ordered then thank you for your order and your patience, I’ll get the book to you asap!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann, is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

44 thoughts on “Doctors Gone Wild

  1. Are you finished moving now? 🙂 It’s always a great feeling to be able to finally collapse and sleep for a week. How’s the heat down there treating you?

    I think a project to support a couple of our Olympians would be a great idea. The dichotomy of being good enough to represent the US in a worldwide setting, yet being utterly impoverished, makes my teeth hurt.

    1. What Susan said! Let’s raise some money – sounds FABULOUS! As I read both these women’s stories, I was actually wondering how to get some money into their hands.

  2. Absolutely have to question doctors! my hubs and I went to the same Gastro doc. I questioned when he started confusing my husband’s results with mine. After that, a second opinion showed he misdiagnosed me. Keep questioning, they are human after all.

  3. That’s something I’ve never been able to grasp with regard to the whole olympics thing… possibly because watching sports of any sort just leaves me cold. With the exception of high level equestrian events anyway, but even then I’m less interested in the technical aspects and more interested in “ooh, horsies!” lol.

    But these men and women are by and large forbidden to use their athletic skills to make money, yet in order to be competitive at the level at which one must compete in order to even get to the olympics one needs to basically devote every waking second to the furtherance of ones sport… leaving no time to procure other skills which might enable one to get a decent job much less time to actually work at a job.

    I guess your choices are to be independently wealthy or to have the kind of build that is more expected and thus more likely to attract wealthy sponsors. Which is really kind of sad… and yes, I know it’s just a fact of life that making ends meet trumps dreams, it’s still sad.

      1. Sorry I should have specified that I was coming from a US standpoint… I think it’s a shame that our country likes to hold itself up as an example of excellence whenever someone from here wins a medal, but we’re apparently not interested in actually fostering the kind of environment that would allow our athletes the opportunity to concentrate on winning those medals while staying within the “must be an amateur” rules. I’m aware other countries do, but all we have is that oh they can live in the dorms at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

        I live here. That place is NOT in a good part of town for one, and second it’s literally right beside the hospital that caters to most of the impoverished residents… so the athletes would put in a long day of training (probably without leaving the grounds since unless they have a car it’s a LONG way to get to any safe areas to run or anything and we don’t have very good public transit at all)… anyway, they put in this long day, go to bed, and have to listen to emergency sirens ALL NIGHT? Not not NOT conducive to rest!

      2. I was trying to comment on the perversity of the Olympic rules, which allow athletes to accept gifts but not to earn money.

      3. Ah the joys of faceless soundless communication! Sorry about that, I was reading it a totally different way unfortunately.

        I do agree it is seriously warped the way the rules are structured. Maybe they made sense when they were written, but in this day and age and given the cost of everything? Not so much.

        What I never understood is how we have NBA players competing in the Olympics… I mean, they strike me as the very definition of “not amateur”.

        Like you said… perverse and confusing. At least to me… I basically watch the equestrian events (if I remember, and usually I don’t) and it’s more to see the horses than to appreciate the technical aspects of the sport.

  4. Welcome to Arizona! I just came across your blog, and at a fortuitous time in my life. I have lost significant amounts of weight twice in the past (100-120 lbs), but have gained about 1/2 of it back. I recently had an orthopedic surgeon try to hard-sell me on having bariatric surgery (I saw her to get information about a hip replacement that I need because of a childhood disease), and after letting it make me feel like utter crap for several days as I once again questioned my self-worth over my long struggle with my weight I decided that I completely disagree with her recommendation. I really felt like she was talking to my weight alone with little consideration of me or my life (or my total lack of weight related health problems such as high blood pressure, glucose, or cholesterol). In the end I decided I was angry at the fact that thinness is held up as the most important indicator of health despite extreme biases in the research. Doctors certainly don’t know everything, and I’m glad that I realize that now because I am afraid that a younger version of myself would gladly have jumped at any chance to be thin, never mind the incredibly serious life-long consequences associated with those surgeries.

    More to the point of this post, I don’t have money to contribute, but I commend your effort to bring attention to these athletes and think it is an important issue to make people aware of.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there, I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  5. FIrst, I want to hug Dr. Kim M. Then I want to hug Ragen.

    There’s a PBS Independent Lens documentary about Olympic weight lifter Cheryl Haworth called Strong! I’m not sure if it’s old or new, but just learned that it will air on my local PBS station. I suspect it will cover similar issues about sponsorship, what to do after retiring from the sport, etc. If anyone’s interested, you can find clips and schedules here: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/strong/film.html.

    1. Agree – big hugs for Dr Kim M.

      And thanks for posting that link – I will watch it today!

  6. Here’s my own dr story. I have a rare autoimmune disease that attacked my eyes, essentially “melting” (tech term) the sclera (white part) and severely damaging my vision. My health insurance provider through Medicare has started sending a “doctor” around every Jan to interview clients about their health to obsensibly make sure they are getting the health care they need and don’t have unmet needs.

    This dr spent some time chatting with me during this exam (blood pressure, heart rate, reflexes, etc – which BTW were all PERFECT). He indicated that he had wanted to become an eye specialist (he is currently a General Practitioner). When I said “Oh, then you’ll want to see my eyes because of the necrotizing scleritis” – he looked at me blankly and said what’s necrotizing scleritis?

    Wow – really? I’m not a medical expert but even before I had necrotizing scleritis I could have made an educated guess at what it was based upon the root words. You’d think it would be simple for a “doctor”. Necro = death, Sclera = white part of the eye???

    After he left I looked up his credentials. Turns out he went to some medical school in the Bahamas that is very poorly rated AND he has never “practiced” medicine per se (like in an office setting). When I mentioned this school to my dad who works as a pharmacy tech in his retirement, he said “yeah, we get a lot of dr’s from that school”.

    Makes me shudder to think about it.

    Yes – I *AM* the manager of my own health care and I will continue to question drs! I hope others will as well. I’ve found that good doctors enjoy patients who are engaged and ask questions.

    1. My son’s a pharmacy tech too. He says that often the pharmacist has to call the doctor and say “do you really want us to fill this for the condition your patient has?” A lot of the time the doctor will change his/her mind and choose something else. Yikes!

  7. That second quack ought to be brought before the medical board and stripped of his license and then jailed for murder. Forty pounds at age 16–seriously, WTF?
    I cannot always afford to purchase adequate food, and I don’t describe the way I feel when I’m rationing out Boost shakes as “wonderfully hungry.” In fact, it makes me want to go beat this idiot to death with one of those giant turkey legs that one can get at Renaissance fairs.

    1. No doubt… I suspect that he’s like those people promoting the air diets that claim they don’t need any food just a few sips of water and they live off the energy in the air — they promote this lifestyle/diet/cult and then later it’s discovered that they DO eat and stuff behind closed doors. I remember reading some sort of historical account about one of these cult leaders when I was a kid in the 80’s but I forget the details. So that would have put him around the 70’s when he was advertising his miracle new age air diet thing?

      I can’t think of any other reason why someone would claim that gnawing hunger is “wonderful”.

      1. The possibility is present that he suffers with an undiagnosed eating disorder himself and does not recognize the symptoms. Excessive hunger can lead to a euphoria almost like a drug. It sounds to me like he might be addicted to that.

      2. Yeah, that was Breatharianism. It didn’t last long–people ened up getting hungry!
        I agree with Helena that this guy could be getting euphoria from not eating. That happens to me sometimes when I don’t eat all day. I get the most interesting thoughts and think “gosh, it would be best if I just kept not eating!” It’s a bit dangerous, because I do have a history of eating disorders.

        1. I didn’t know that about the euphoria going with excessive hunger. When I was anorexic, it would get to the point where I felt hollow on the inside, like there were no organs. And I no longer felt hunger.

  8. I do want to support the Olympians. I was looking at Robles’ fund, but I’m a bit nervous about it because it goes to her manager and it’s well past the goal amount, with not much documentation of what will be done with it. I hate to think the worst of people, but for all I know, that money will go to gym advertisements rather than making sure Robles rent gets paid and whatnot. I’d be fine with that if Robles chose it, but not if money raised in her name is appropriated from her, y’know?

    So long as the fundraiser actually designates how the money will be used (i.e., for travel and/or day to day life expenses or directly to the athlete even), I’d be in.

  9. If your fund raiser includes some sort of auction or other activity that raises money in exchange for goods/services I will be happy to donate some hand-made necklaces. Since I make them myself, they can be any size to accomodate any neck. Ditto bracelets.

  10. I would also be willing to donate auction items and to help spread the word. What about a kickstarter project to sponsor them? Maybe roll it into another billboard project that raises money to support them? I’ll email Ragen, but I’m absolutely interested in helping.

  11. I’m happy to support the large-sized athletes! Weight-lifting and swimming are the only sports I ever enjoyed and I love watching them show their BIG power!

  12. Doctors NEED to be questioned, loudly and often, especially by people who are willing to take the time to do the research necessary to support their positions (if they want to get into anything beyond “it’s my body and I have the right to make decisions about what happens to it,” which really isn’t something that requires research to back it up) and to state their positions in a clear, respectful, and firm manner. This idea that we have built up that doctors are perfect, God-like beings who know everything and make no mistakes is pretty much the root of many, maybe even most, of the other problems in our health care system. And you can always see the shock and annoyance in the faces of the doctors who are used to being treated like gods when some lowly patient, and especially a fat one, dares to question them or chooses not to follow their advice. Obviously not all doctors are like that. But many are…like the one who told me I should just keep cutting calories until I found a number that would make me lose weight, dangers and closing in on two solid decades’ worth of evidence that permanent weight loss isn’t possible for me damned.

  13. Oh, no! Never trust a doctor. They will do what they think is best for you regardless of your wishes. You’ve gotta be informed and you’ve gotta stand up for yourself. For example, I searched out a very natural-birth friendly OB, and I liked her very much, but then she used traction to manage the third stage of labor and I ended up with a piece of retained placenta. I told her, “Don’t yank on that!” and she responded, “I have to.” No; you don’t! (I could go on at length at the way pregnant/birthing women are treated by the doctors who are supposed to be helping them). The ARNP at my clinic prescribed low-estrogen birth control pills when I specifically asked for progestin-only because I was breastfeeding. My husband had a bad eczema outbreak on his legs; he went to the doctor, who told him he had scabies and prescribed him a treatment which irritated his whole skin.

    I’ve met good doctors, doctors who listen and believe my experience. Even so, I prefer to know a doctor than to trust him/her.

    And yes, I believe we should support plus-sized athletes, and that they should be seen. I would participate in something like that.

  14. I would love to donate to help support Robles and Mangold. Especially if we can get some assurance that the money is actually going to them not their coach’s gym, like a poster was saying above.

    Ever since I found out about them and how much trouble they have getting sponsorships, I’ve just been pissed off. I’ve been watching a lot of the trials because I find them interesting and almost every commercial break there’s been a goddamned commercial for Cover Girl. I mean, I’m excited that there’s a female boxer in the Olympics for the first time ever, but the idea that it’s not enough that these women be prized just for their athletic prowess….that they have to be “beautiful” on top of all that….it just makes me RAGE. Especially when I know how much trouble the female weightlifters are having. Damn it, I want THEM to get a Cover Girl commercial too!

  15. As far as doctors are concerned, dittos to all the above. Has anyone watched Mystery Diagnosis? It is all about how doctors dont know, that is why they call them “Practicing”. And I agree with raising money. Would we be able to get the money to them directly. I dont see why not. We just have to find a way.

    1. I remember watching an episode of Mystery Diagnosis once about a young child who had all kinds of symptoms that no one could diagnose. The kid got sicker and sicker until the parents finally found a doctor really far from their home who finally figured it out.

      They should have asked me.

      I knew exactly what the kid had as soon as I heard the symptoms. My son had had the same thing as an infant. Exactly the same symptoms, though much milder. Both this child and my son had \”solitary mastocytomas\”, in other words gut cells that had migrated out of the gut and were screwing up other parts of the body, in particular the skin and the GI tract.

      Oh and BTW, here in the land of \”socialized medicine\” aka Canada (\”run for your lives!!!\”), my son was quickly seen by his pediatrician, who referred us to a specialist, who we also saw quite quickly and the whole thing was sorted out in no time flat.

  16. I think this is why I like my doctor and fear the day he retires. He always listens, never pushes anything I don’t need on me, and has never once made a comment about my weight or (flawed) BMI.

    Now when I had gallstones and pancreatitis (that could have killed me that is how bad the infection was) I was glad to see my doctor and not the doctor I saw in the ER, whom was more interested in taking a call then seeing what was wrong with me. My doctor felt around my gut and ribs, told me it was more then likely my gallbladder and set me up with an ultrasound and lone behold he was right. Had it out that Friday and the ER doc was reported by my doctor for negligence that could have cause death.

  17. Absolutely yes to questioning doctors! I have to say that I’ve had horrible luck with them locally and I feel that at the times that I was more overweight, my weight was the common concern more so than any other symptoms (even when I told them I was in the process of losing weight and had already lost a good deal they still wouldn’t stop obsessing about it!). To add the icing on the cake, I also noticed a difference in how they treated me when my husband was with me and when I went by myself (hint, they listened much more to me when my husband was around).

    Certainly, I’ve had some amazing doctors too. One Ob/Gyn that I had some years back (unfortunately, very far away from me now) I would have liked to clone because she was so amazing. But in the end they are people too. Like you said, if they graduate they’re a doctor regardless of where they graduated in their class. Some doctors choose to keep abreast of the latest studies and are much more proactive, others not.. In the end, I think it’s very important to double check what they say and get a second opinion too (within the same week I got two drastically different diagnoses for the same problem from two different doctors).

  18. I’ve known of doctors who couldn’t spot a broken arm on an x-ray, were too busy indulging in rampant sexism to check for a burst appendix that nearly killed the patient, and came very close to blinding my husband with unnecessary laser surgery.

    Too bloody right I’m going to double check if I’ve got a question that isn’t getting answered or I just want to make sure the treatment fits the complaint!

    Whatever school they went to, wherever they placed in the class, doctors are still human beings. And human beings are fallible. They can’t know everything. Just as we’ve all had a rotten teacher or a lousy plumber, there are a lot of crap doctors out there.

    As for Olympic athletes, I’m there to raise money for big women athletes. Little girls who want to lift heavy things need role models just as much as the ones who want to do tricks on a balance beam or ride horses. Point me in a direction, and I’m there.

  19. I twised my ankle. It swelled up bigger than an elephants foot. I went to the doctor. He put his 10 finger tips on it like we was going to knead dough. He said, do you need an Xray. I got up and hobbled out of there. Couldnt believe it. I had another doctor who I went to to talk to him about PCOS. This was 15 yrs. ago. He said there was no such thing. So on and so on. We have had several doctors who couldnt diagnos things that were wrong with me and members of our family. To top it off, there is a Doctor in our family. There are good and bad doctors. The best doctor was my husbands doctor who was an engineer to start. That is what they need to do, have a mind like an engineer….one who looks into the problem. Searches for the answers.

  20. Hi Ragen,

    Great to hear from you and your blog, didn’t realise you were just about to relocate to Arizona, though I knew you were planning it. What state did you move from to Arizona, did you hire someone to do all the moving or did you do it yourself with help? This may sound nosy of me, but I’m just about to relocate from a county in the South East of the UK, about 200 miles to the East coast of UK, but to a city, called Norwich. I have moved a lot(too much!!)sometimes locally and other times from one county(you have states)to another and have also lived in the Midlands of England and the north of the country. So I am always curious about how other people do this!

    You have just reminded me about the thorny issue of questioning doctors and the medical profession and though I thought about it before, am not sure I actually did question them much in person. i probably felt too intimidated, the fact that you received the e-mail you did about how terrible it was of you to do so, brings this home. But thanks in part to your blog and other factors, I am determined to question also, though I think I will hit a lot of brick walls? I finally wrote to the practice manager of my local surgery regarding being weighed and lectured by the asthma nurse over a month ago. I also made the point that other issues weren’t being addresses properly, one current one being a problem with lump on my ear, which causes me problems with sleeping and this has gone on for nearly a year and I will now have a long wait to be seen at hospital to have it removed. I have just received an e-mail from the manager and she says,

    “I wonder if you would be available any morning this week to come along and discuss the points you have raised in your letter. I would prefer to discuss this with you face to face if possible and explain our reasoning behind these requests, also to see if there is anything I can do to help.”

    Now I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but this looks like they will give the usual line about weight and ill health etc., etc., and the Government instructions they have to follow, in other words, completely justifying what they are doing?

    I’m not sure if I should bother going, especially seeing as I will not be living in this area after 5th July, what do you think?

    Take care all and thanks for being there.

    Marion, UK

  21. I love the idea of sponsoring Holley Mangold Sarah Robles. I don’t know much about Ms. Robles, but I saw a report on Holley and she’s really awesome. Strong, fit, smart, funny…an all-around rockin’ female role model. It makes me really happy to see women embrace & celebrate STRENGTH–pure, robust, physicality. A strong, fit body comes in a lot of shapes and sizes…let’s help these athletes get out there and represent!

  22. I think a lot of people could give stories of misdiagnosis, and for us with more weight than the insurance charts say is okay, it often revolves around that. My psych professor in college said it was up to us to be our own healthcare advocate and taught us about the Physician’s Desk Reference and the Merck Manual.

    When I was about 18 I went to an obgyn for the first time because I was in horrible pain. I told her my sister had been diagnosed with endometriosis and my symptoms fit the bill. She proceeded to tell me that the only thing wrong with me was that I was overweight. I spent another year in increasing pain until my sister got me to go to her doctor. I’ve had two surgeries for it and am pain free.

    That should have taught me but a few years later my doc diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. I was back at college so I went to the on campus doctor to prescribe medication. This one also told me there was nothing wrong with me that losing weight wouldn’t fix. Again, I waited a year to see someone else and was told, “Uh, it doesn’t work that way.” *sigh*

    I would love to help support the Olympians!

    1. In the 60’s and befor that, there was no such thing as period cramps. It was all in a woman’s head. Finally, sometime in the 70’s they became real. Makes me wonder what else is ‘in our heads.’

  23. “telling me that I had “no right to question doctors because they have so much training and it’s disrespectful to their profession.””

    No, doctors letting their personal biases prevent them from practicing evidence-based medicine is what’s disrespectful to the profession.

    “is this something you would be interested in supporting either financially or by helping to get the word out?”

    HELL YES to both. I’d also like to see the fat-positive business community get involved in sponsorship. (I’m looking at you, Junonia.)

  24. Yeah, the fact that my mother believed one should respect and not question doctors is why I have PTSD and no social skills. So, yeah you can imagine how much I disagree with her and agree with youl.

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