Every two years seafarers are required to get a medical check-up to see if we are physically capable of carrying out our duties on board and if we there are any immediate and serious risks to our health.
To this end we have to submit to an eye-exam, color-vision-test, hearing test , urine test, mobility test and they also measure our weight, height and blood pressure.
I had my appointment two days ago and everything checked out fine. Except my BMI, which they apparently now calculate as well. The doctor who went over my test results made a big stink about my weight and fat. I know that my 30+ BMI is mostly the result of fat and not of muscle tissue and I told the doctor this. He told me he could see it and yet he still felt the need to pinch the fat on my arm as hard as he possibly could and not to measure it, but to “proof” I should try to lose weight. His pinching hurt quite a bit even though I had never even disputed that I have quite a bit of fat on me. I don’t see why he felt the need to hurt me like that.
I told him that I just don’t have much faith in BMI as a diagnostic tool and that I find it ridiculous that such demands are made as they might as well revoke the medical certificates of fitness of practically half of all seafarers. Most don’t stay skinny past their thirties. I guess I shouldn’t have argued, because it resulted in him making a “strong recommendation to lose weight” and he told me that the next time I would come in for my physical, in two years, I would need to bring proof of my efforts. That is if I still intend to visit this particular clinic for my medicals, which I have now decided I won’t anymore.
He also talked about fire fighting duties, like I was unfamiliar with them. I told him several times that I have just graduated and that I was part of a fire team frequently when I was on board as a cadet. At this point I am fairly certain I know more about ship life and the industry than he does. I have also completed the fire fighting courses as part of my training requirements at college. I told him that I don’t have a problem with the equipment and that my oxygen consumption is normal. He still kept talking to me as though I am a walking heart attack waiting to happen and that my knees will give out any day now, because “a human body is not designed to carry all that weight”. Perhaps it is not, but my body is doing just fine and has been doing fine for years now. My father is also fat and so is my mother. Neither of them has ever had trouble with their joints because of their weight. Women in my family do have an issue with osteoporosis, but guess when that shows up? Yep, after menopause and being thin hasn’t spared any of them. All in all this guy was incredibly condescending and he eventually said that if I refused to try to lose weight he would not give me a full medical certificate anymore and such decision ends up in a national database, which means that no matter what doctor I would go to after him I would always have to show a reduction in weight to be allowed to still do my job.
I told him that I was on a diet from age 15 till 25 and that it only resulted in my having a feast or famine kind of relationship with food where if I no longer had the willpower to eat too little I would eat almost to the point of bursting. I had weight related self-esteem whereby my mood was determined by a lower of higher number on the scale than the day before. I was absolutely terrified of gaining weight or people thinking I “looked fat”. And because I had such disordered eating patterns my weight went up and down quite a bit during those years. Since I have stopped dieting I have gained quite a bit of weight, but my current weight is stable and I never eat to the point of bursting anymore. I also find it easier to say no to foods I don’t like. Food is now about satisfying hunger and occasional snacking when I feel like it. But I no longer feel guilty for eating at all or needing to eat with others as “an excuse” to eat normal portions.
After I left the doctor’s office his words kept playing around in my head. I made a list of all the things I ate on a daily basis to see how many calories I could cut out and for how long I would be able to keep it up till I would binge again. I considered joining a gym, even though I can’t afford it and I prefer to get my exercise out doors. I don’t see the point of riding a bike that doesn’t go anywhere. I also wondered if I could find my scale and whether it was still accurate. The old thought patterns I had when I was dieting came flooding back like it was second nature to me and with it immediately came the stress. This is not worth it, not even if I will never get another medical certificate.
I have decided that for my next medical I will find a different doctor. This is the second time I have done this. The first doctor in this town also told me to lose weight, but not because he feared for my heart but because I had stretch marks on my thighs. This confused me, because I didn’t think stretch marks were dangerous. He told me they are not dangerous they are “just ugly”. He was also extremely creepy in that he touched me way more than was needed and he was also the only doctor that required me to remove my bra for the exam. After hearing from other female classmates about similar episodes I decided not to go to this guy anymore.
I wonder if I should have complained about the unprofessional and condescending attitudes of both doctors. I don’t know if there is a procedure for it, but I really should look into it. The tyranny of doctors has become far less than it was a couple of decades ago, but doctors are not gods and they should be held accountable for bad behavior.