Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Food and Shame

I hate people.

About a year ago, my son's doctor called him fat to his face and told me I shouldn't let him drink so much soda. He doesn't drink soda and when I said as much, she rolled her eyes at me. She also recommended that we go to the nearby children's hospital for 'Wellness.' It's a program for fat kids and anorexics.

We got a new doctor that day because nobody should make my son feel bad because of the way he looks. Nobody, least of all a pediatrician.

But, out of open-mindedness, we took Nick to Children's Hospital to talk to a doctor and a nutritionist about his weight. We started last June. Mostly, since then, Nick has gone to the appointments and felt bad about how he looks. Sometimes he feels bad about eating, but mostly, he feels bad about how he looks.

I tried to keep an open mind. I did.

Finally, at our last appointment with the doctor, I asked what their track record of success is. The doctor was honest and told us that they don't keep track. I asked him why not and he shrugged. Then, I asked him what his impression was. He said that it seemed as if most patients hold steady in general and then revert to where they had been before they started the program. And I was about to ask what his end-game strategy was. There is no end-game strategy in that answer. We've been going there, without success, for eight months. All I see in Nick is more resistance to eating healthy food and a sense of shame about not getting the program to work for himself.

Today, we were fifteen minutes early for an appointment with his nutritionist and she was running thirty-five minutes late. What, was there a nutritionist emergency that held her up? We had time scheduled with Nick's trainer forty-five minutes after our appointment was over and when we finally got in to see this nutritionist, I told her that we had to leave in twenty minutes, that we couldn't afford to stay later than that. I had asked if we could reschedule, but she didn't want to do that. I should have insisted. I chaffed at the idea that we were here, being reminded that we were failing at our appointed jobs and in the meantime, Nick was going to be seriously late to the one thing that has been helping him the most, time with his trainer. So, I asked the question again. What is your track record of success? The nutritionist said that she had no statistics, but she felt, if her patients are trying, really trying, that they reach their goals.

So, it seems that we're not really trying. All those discussions about nutrition, all those conversations about this food versus that food, is not really trying. It may not have been producing the desired results, but dammit, we have been trying! I was feeling pretty crabby, but for some reason, I'm seriously not sure why, I ended up being the one to apologize for leaving to go see the trainer so we didn't miss our appointment with him entirely. Why wasn't she apologizing to me? We weren't the ones who were late!

I wanted to tell her that my son is trying really hard to get good exercise and eat healthy food. I wanted to tell her that we're tired of making him feel bad. I wanted to tell her that we want to do all of the things that she recommended, things that we generally knew about anyway and tried at home anyway, without having a ration of guilt once every three or four weeks at our appointments. I wanted to tell her we had to leave because Nick's trainer was waiting and this trainer is patient and kind and has gotten Nick excited about sweating it out and doing reverse lunges and squats. I have to tell you that it seems like a sort of miracle to me that anyone can get anyone else excited about doing lunges and squats. Nick loves going to the gym to train. He loves it! What is that?

I just wonder if we've done more damage than good with these nutrition appointments. I hate the idea that Nick feels ashamed whenever they get him onto a scale. I hate that he had to answer the question about what he ate today, that he felt bad about that extra sandwich. The worst part is that he had to go to every appointment knowing that he hadn't succeeded. He knew before he walked in. Poor kid.

For a program like this to work, the person running it needs to have struggled in the same way Nick has. Other kids should be there to talk about how they're doing so that the kids can cheer each other on. No appointment with three or four or five weeks in between will be effective when it comes to changing a teenager's habits.

I can tell them this - their program doesn't work. There may be a reason why they don't keep track of how it's working for their patients. It's not.

Thank you for listening, jules

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