Today’s Read: For the Physicians

TW: Fatphobia

I’m considering carrying copies of this article to every medical appointment I have. I never want to hear about BMI again. If you’re in the medical field, tell your coworkers about this, please. It’s not a secret. It’s not new information. I’ve read about this repeatedly.

BMI is bullshit. Weight is one’s relationship with gravity. BMI is length plus width. They’re literally just numbers. They don’t tell anyone anything about health.

To be clear, I’m not saying one’s body size has zero impact on health. On the contrary, I know how my body size impacts my health. I’m saying we cannot limit our understanding of health to BMI, weight, height, or any combination of those numbers.

For instance, my doctor’s main nurse called me to tell me I’m pre-diabetic. (My chiropractor later said, “Technically, we’re all pre-diabetic.”) Instead of asking me about my diet, she said, “Stop drinking sugary drinks entirely.” She did not ask me how many sugary drinks I have in a day, how many ounces, how often, etc. I could tell the assumption was that I drink soda often. I typically don’t. I drink yogurt, chai, sparkling water, and filtered water. That’s usually it. I might have a week where I drink a soda once a day, and then I’ll go months without drinking soda at all. I rarely exceed one chai in a day. I simply don’t drink a lot of sugar, but that was the recommended medical advice.

The relationship here is this: Obese + pre-diabetic = bad eating habits.

But consider this as well: I learned recently I have severe sleep apnea. Maybe I consume carbs a lot because my body is in need of quick energy because I sleep like shit. So, why wasn’t my medical care team asking me about my holistic health instead of giving me impersonal directives? Why weren’t the questions: What’s your sleep like? How much energy do you feel like you have in a day? Are you often tired?

The relationship is actually this: Sleep apnea –> Poor sleep –> Low energy –> heavy carb consumption –> Higher than average blood sugar

Now, I’m willing to acknowledge my body size might contribute to sleep apnea. But we don’t know. Thin people also have sleep apnea, so weight is not an obvious, universal factor. What might the underlying concerns be, and why aren’t my doctors asking those questions?

We pay far too much money in office visits, health insurance, and pharmaceuticals to be given one-dimensional answers based on two-dimensional measures for three-dimensional bodies. We cannot all agree that bodies are different, then use the same measuring stick for everyone. The medical industry makes too much bank to sit on old, flawed, useless knowledge. It’s time for them to change. Ban the BMI.

Today’s Resource: Doctors, Man

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of learning how I might have ADHD. No one has ever suggested I might have it until this year. A friend suggested it. Another friend mentioned it in an unrelated conversation. Then, when I mentioned it to my therapist, she made the familiar, “You knowwww . . .” comment that told me she’d been thinking about it.

This article, however, details one of a few reasons why it probably went unsuggested to me.

In addition to being a woman (ADHD is underdiagnosed for us as well), I’m a person of color. I’m also fat. Put all three of those together, and I’m only now starting to learn of my true medical concerns, and only because I’m asking about them and pushing my medical providers more than I ever have. Spoiler alert: Some doctors don’t like that.

Have you experienced this in your life? What went undiagnosed or unaddressed for you by the medical industry? What was falsely diagnosed for you? What do you have suspicions about? Do you feel treated differently by the medical industry because of some label you have? Talk to me in the comments!

How Your Body Suffers Injustices

While our society can make recommendations for what is supposedly best for our bodies, we still have bodily autonomy. We still get to decide what “best” truly means. This, however, is where the injustices come in.

Where Body Injustice Shows Up

CW: Violence, assault, sexual abuse, bodily harm, death

Think back to those large social structures like government, law enforcement, and health care.

Politicians make laws telling us what we can and cannot do with our bodies, and courts frequently strike those down. Sometimes, political decisions lead to human rights violations like forced sterilizations. And sometimes, the medical industry itself does not provide informed consent and uses human bodies as experiments.

And we’d like to think this isn’t happening close to home (I’m speaking to my fellow Iowans here), but it does.

Moreover, medicine is not advanced enough to cope with one fact: All bodies are different. The history of medical care is founded upon the White male body as the default. Not only is that inaccurate, it costs people their health, time, money, and lives. That is injustice.

That’s not even all of it. I haven’t even talked about these industries: food, beauty, fashion, technology, fitness, finance, environment, and more. Most social structures have something to say about our bodies without taking into account the truth that they aren’t prepared to deal with how different our bodies are.

My Point . . .

What I want is to advocate for respecting the differences between informed recommendations, generalized suggestions, and force. Thanks to social power, it’s understandable to want to influence behavior for the sake of a healthier populace. We want folks to stop smoking, to stop drinking to excess, and to avoid anything that creates harm. However, we may not always understand what is best for a person especially when our knowledge on what creates harm is still evolving. After all, medicinal marijuana is almost mainstream while some politicians are fearmongering against it (and mind you, I’m not even that interested in weed in any sense, but come on).

Body justice allows room for bodies to be different, to be respected, and to be honored. It allows us to look at our bodies with compassion rather than social expectations thrust upon us. Instead of certain body types being the default of what’s considered healthy, large social structures can adapt to the realities that some bodies need what others don’t. Body justice changes how we see food, exercise, reproductive rights, disabilities, trans rights, sexuality, and mental health. And maybe we could be less stuck on models that simply do not work like dieting, gender binaries, and outdated laws.

In short, tons of industries are making billions on what they tell us our bodies need without knowing anything about who we are, our genetic make up, or our desires. Instead of tailoring to us, they try to manipulate our desires to fit what they’re selling. I’m saying, “That’s enough.”