Health and the Blame Game

It has been particularly painful for me to hear blame thrown at someone who is sick. It is an old pain. It comes from ignorant comments made about my mother’s death at age 35. She had cancer; it must be her fault. “Why didn’t she stop smoking?” She never smoked. “Why didn’t she do breast self-exams?” She died in 1963… I can go on and on with these, each more ignorant than the next.

I think people do it because they are frightened by the idea that a 35-year-old mother of small children can sicken and die. They want to feel not-vulnerable to a similar fate. However, these self-soothing remarks should go unspoken. Take it from a recipient of them.

Because I am sensitive (perhaps oversensitive) to this kind of remark. I hear echoes of the judgment that hurt me in the judgment leveled at peers who are having health issues. Many of these comments focus around judgement about weight and lifestyle: “She needed knee surgery because she is overweight.” “He needed hip surgery because he never exercises.” “She has high blood pressure because she eats salty food.” “He gets headaches because he is depressed.” Whether any of these things are true or not, it is a destructive thing to say, let alone think. It is destructive when medical professionals think them or say them. And many of them do think them and do say them.

Doctors now have an effective weight loss drug. How is that changing things in the medical office?

NPR published a story by a primary care physician who strives to practice a “weight-neutral medicine”. Not everyone is going to feel body-positive, especially when one’s body is causing discomfort, so the popular “body-positive” label has its limits.

Being overweight and being unhealthy do not automatically go together. There are unhealthy thin people. There are healthy overweight people. When people consider if this new weight loss pill is for them, a doctor needs to consider the reason someone would want to take it. Dr. Gordon writes:

“Some tell me they want to be able to keep up with their kids. (Taking small steps to get more active is the way to do that.) Some tell me they’re worried about developing diabetes. (Cutting out soda is a better approach.) And some are brutally honest: “I want to be hot, Dr. Gordon.” That is hard to argue with. I hadn’t intended to practice cosmetic medicine, but here I am.”

Is ridding yourself of the stigma of being large worth medical intervention? 

The drug is called Ozempic. It will make you lose a lot of weight in a relatively short time. It is recommended for people with type II diabetes who are overweight. It is also being used for overweight people without diabetes. It is not without risks. These are the common side effects:

“The most common Ozempic side effects are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation. Serious Ozempic side effects include allergic reactions, changes in vision and pancreatitis. Ozempic has an FDA boxed warning for the risk of thyroid C-cell tumors.”

The drug changes the way food is processed in your digestive track. Sites I looked at recommended that people using this drug eat bland starches and soup to lessen the side effects. To me, that sounds like it would take a lot of the joy out of eating, as well as change what nutrients get into the body.

This is not a short-cut for people who can reduce calories/fat  to lose weight. This is for people who do not lose weight by rebalancing their nutrition and reducing calorie intake and increasing calorie burn. I hope that anyone reading this can refrain from judging anyone they know for using this drug.

If this is the only way to lose weight  — and losing weight will positively affect your life — this is a breakthrough. I hope it is worth it to people who choose it.


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