Tuesday, March 3, 2009


One of the most significant things I've learned over the past nine months that I've been working with Sebastien, is to confront my fears and realize that I am indeed truly capable of doing pretty much anything I set my mind to. Among the fears i've managed to confront are going to the gym; looking at myself in the mirror; and trusting in the uncertainty of the process of getting healthy. This has not been easy to do. For a control-freak like me, letting go of my fear and embracing the possibility that lies within the uncertainty of new experiences has been a pretty daunting challnge to overcome. It's also been incredibly humbling.

Last week, I had to face one of my biggest fears again -- the fear and anxiety that overcomes me every time I set foot into the doctor's office. I realize that with every visit to a doctor, even when it's a proactive step towards better health, I may very well be told what I've always been afraid to hear: that I'm severely overweight; that my health is in really bad shape; and that I'm quickly spiralling down a path towards killing myself. Now, these were things that I didn't already know -- and every time I've been to the doctor for blood tests, check-ups, etc. I've had to face this fear head on. And I've had physicians tell me these things in many different ways. But I've never really listened. However, I've never been to the doctor when I've been more tuned into my health and wellbeing as I am right now, so I knew that whatever I was told on this visit, I would hear loud and clear. Even last week, after having done so much in the past 9 months to conquer all of my health issues, I was extremely anxious and fearful of what the doctor might tell me. I was afraid that I would go for my check up and be told that in spite of everything I've done, that I still haven't made a dent in my health problems. Now, I wasn't expecting to get a perfectly clean bill of health, but I was hoping and praying for some positive news. At the same time, I was afraid that any bad news might set me back and send me back to a place of doubt, fear, and self-pity that got me into the worst shape of my life about 18 months ago. Essentially, I was afraid that the doctor would confirm the negative self talk that has filled my head for so many years -- that I don't deserve to be healthy, and that I'm a failure.

In spite of that, I had to face the fear.
It was time for my check-up.
And I hate to say, that it didn't go well.

I went to see a new doctor at my clinic for my medical. The doctor I've seen previously at the clinic on a regular basis was by virtue of him being on duty during the walk-in clinic hours. However, this time was going to be better. I was a little excited by the fact that this new doctor had agreed to take me on as a regular patient, and that I would finally get a health professional who could be regular part of my 'success team' -- the group of people, including Sebastien, my friends and family, and others, who surround me with the reassurance and support that is so essential to my success.

Well, this new doctor, we'll call him 'Dr. S', spent all of nine minutes with me during my check up. He took the fastest family medical history I've ever heard, and after typing a few things into the computer, asked me if there was anything else about my health history that I needed to know. I shared with him that I had been working out with a trainer, that I've been eating really well, and that I had lost a significant amount of weight. I figured that this would be the moment when Dr. S would tell me that I've done great work thus far and that I'm moving in the right direction -- and that it was about continuing to take big steps towards success.

That's what I thought he would do. He didn't.

Instead, Dr. S. told me that I should consider going to Weight Watchers. After all, "it's a great program that promotes portion control, and makes it easy by counting points." I told him that I have tried Weight Watchers several times in my life and that my nutrition was solid. He obviously wasn't listening, because he then continued to lecture me about health by saying that an essential part of weight loss is good nutrition. Apparently it's about a balance of healthy eating and physical activity! Who knew!!! By that point, I realized that sitting before me was yet another insensitive 'health professional' who, the minute I walked into the exam room, had decided that I was a weak, uninformed fat person who obviously lacked the self control necessary to overcome his issues. And that pissed me off. BIG TIME.

I respectfully remarked that I hadn't managed to lose close to 100 pounds just from exercise -- that I was well aware of my nutritional needs and was doing very well on that front. Again, he wasn't convinced. He then told me about a program (the name of which he didn't know, ironically) that matched patients with a doctor and a nutritionist, and it was covered by provincial health insurance. So I might want to consider that. Getting agitated, and even more pissed off that he wasn't listening to me, I again said that nutrition wasn't a problem, and both that Sebastien and a naturopath (Dr. Kim Whitaker) had both given me gold stars for my food planning. He finally let go of that topic, realizing that time was ticking and he had to get through this exam. After all, a high turnover of patients means that he'd make more money that day!

So we moved on, and it was time to measure my vital signs. I was exepcting him to take my resting heart rate, my weight, height, and blood pressure -- after all, he had just met me! He took my blood pressure on my right arm, and then switched the cuff to my left. I was trying to relax (in spite of the fact that I was already angry), and explained to him that I was feeling very anxious about being at the doctor's office in the first place -- as such, the reading might be a bit higher than normal. He told me that 'white coat syndrome' is still hypertension, and needs to be treated regardless. He then told me that my BP reading was 180/120. WHAT????
I explained to him that my previous readings were drastically lower (still in the pre-hypertension range) but not that severely high. He didn't listen -- remember, to him, I was a sad, uninformed, powerless fat person. Instead, he gave me a prescription for blood pressure medication and told me that he didn't want me to feel like he was rushing me into anything, but he also didn't want me to have a stroke (you can feel the empathy and bedside manner dripping off the page, right???). I explained to him that I didn't want to take meds that would interefere with weight loss (as blood pressure meds are known to do) -- but he told me that there wasn't much of an option. Then, without taking any other vital sign, he led me out of the office, handed me the prescription and told me to make an appointment for a few weeks later -- a visit during which we would check my BP and IF (not WHEN) I lost more weight, we would revisit the need for medication.


I left the clinic, in a bit of a daze, and walked next door to the pharmacy to get the prescription filled. I took a moment to send Sebastien a text message to let him know how the visit went -- all the while feeling completely defeated and that I had not only let myself down, but that I had also let Sebastien down. With a BP reading of 180/120, I apparently had Stage 2 hypertension, which had the potential to drastically change the intensity with which I work out. The result even had the possibility of my having to no longer work out with Sebastien, because the risk was tremendous.


It didn't make sense to me. It didn't make sense to Sebastien. If you knew the intensity with which I work out (sometimes 2+ hours in a session, burning close to 1800 calories in one workout), it would be nearly impossible to have a BP reading of 180/120 and not keel over at the gym. It made absolutely no sense at all -- but I still felt completely battered, and that I had failed. I had a moment of saying 'why even bother. I've done all this work, and I'm worse off than when I started.' In that moment, I felt angry. I felt powerless. I felt afraid. I wanted poutine. LOL!

After a lot of ranting back and forth on my BlackBerry with Sebastien, and with his wise counsel, I decided to not take the meds and get another opinion. I had my BP checked by other health professionals at other clinics over the course of the two days that followed, and low and behold, it was NOT 180/120. My actual reading was 135/82. Now for a guy of my size, who works out with the intensity that I do, with a resting heart rate of 57 -- 135/82 isn't anything to sniff at. After second and third opinions, including that of my naturopath, I have happily concluded that my BP isn't anything to worry about. Yes, I'm going to continue to monitor it, along with all of my other health signs. But I'm not going to let one prick's negligent diagnosis stand in my way.

I'm in great shape, and am doing everything 'right' to continue to ensure my greatest possible success along this wieght loss journey. The only problem I really had, was that I gave one doctor (who had a horrible bedside manner) the power to make me feel worse than I have in a really long time. I deserve better than that. I deserve the respect of my health care team -- who I expect to honour where I've been and celebrate what I've accomplished. Spending time with a doctor who, after meeting me for only 9 minutes, and with no other medical informaiton, gives me a prescription for drugs that I don't want to take, isn't worth my time. I deserve way better than that. And coming to that conclusion isn't something that I would have been able to do a year ago. But I can now, thanks to the confidence and self-assurance that I draw from my focus on physical and emotional wellbeing.

All that said, I flushed the pills down the toilet, and cancelled my next appointment with Dr. S. I'm now working with my naturopath to monitor the progress in my health, and I'm pleased to say that I've added him to my 'success team' -- finally a health professional who understands who I am, and who is prepared to walk along the path with me -- not push me down the road and throw a bunch of pills at me.

All that said, I faced my fear. I overcame it. I flipped the bird to the source of my fear, and have decided to turn the negativity from last week into new-found momentum that will continue to propel me towards success. I've got so much momentum that in fact tonight, I ran for 40 minutes on the treadmill. Nine months ago, I couldn't even WALK for 40 minutes on the treadmill. I can't beleive that tonight, I conquered the treadmill and cranked out a 40 minute run. I've never felt lighter on my feet. I've never felt as liberated. I've never felt as fearless.

So, that's the update. I've got nothing more to report other than having had a crappy week and turned it into something positive and powerful. I turned my fear into strength and said 'screw you' to my doubters. I continue to find faith in the strength that I draw from my sessions and exchanges with Sebastien -- and still know that I need him, and others around me to be strong, so that I can be strong for myself. I also continue to learn that I am so very fortunate and blessed to be surrounded by so many people who are invested in my success and supportive of my journey. "Dr. S" isn't one of those people, but who needs him anyway.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

PS. Did you know that the standard Blood Pressure cuff (the one most doctors use, and the one on those machines in pharmacies), is suitable for a person whose arm measures 12 inches around or less? So, if you're arms are 13 inches or more, you might be getting wrong readings, and should make sure you ask to have a large cuff. Also, the arm size is printed on the inside of most cuffs, so insist on double-checking at the doctor's office, or read the fine print on the machine at the drug store. It could make a difference of more than a few points on either measure!