Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Dreaded Physical Exam

Warning! Before undertaking any new exercise program always visit your doctor. For those of us who are really fat, this is huge disincentive. We imagine we have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and almost every other disease that is contributed to by obesity. We also know we will have to get weighed by a stern, skinny nurse, and wear a paper gown that does not fit and gapes in the front (or back if you are man). Finally we know that our doctor will be horrified and speak to us condescendingly and put us on an impossible to follow diet of 1200 calories a day, consisting largely of boiled chicken. Mostly we know that it will be implied, if not just not plainly said, that we are lazy gluttons and that our bad habits are killing us.

My experience was just about this bad. I found out that I have diabetes (blood sugar 127) and because of this, need to reduce my blood lipids from a total cholesterol of 211. My doctor said my blood pressure was high, even though every other time I have had it checked recently, it has been an acceptable 120/70. I got in a huge fight with her, because she wanted to prescribe statins, which seemed premature since I am hoping my training will improve all these numbers. She wanted to send me to a nutrition class, but i told her I work with professional nutritionists and am quite familiar with a diabetic diet. She told me to take fish oil tablets and I told her I would even though they make me burp a fishy taste. And then she sent me for a stress test, and a bone density test. Why bone density? I always thought fat people naturally had thick bones ... for us life is a weight-bearing activity.

The idea of the stress test stressed me out. I cancelled it. Then I made a new appointment after having to plead with the receptionist to extend my referral , which had expired three days before. I was particularly concerned that either I would have to ride a stationery bike which really hurts my crotch, or that I would be asked to run on a treadmill until I was gasping for breath. And then while gasping, I would be told I needed a stent or at the very least a test where a bag of iodine is past through my groin into my heart.

But I passed! I walked nicely on the treadmill on the flat, and then up hill and then more briskly up hill, and then truly quickly up hill with electrodes all over by chest and sides, and really nothing happened. My heart rate went up mildly. My blood pressure stayed within the normal range.

I got the OK to begin to an exercise program. The nurse asked me what I intended to do, and I decided not to mention running in a track meet. "I will walk briskly," I told here (retaining what I had read in many brochures), "and once I loose some weight I may jog."

"Oh no," she said, "Walking briskly is good, but don't jog. It's too hard on the joints." I grabbed my passing report card, made my escape, and took the elevator down two floors to my car.


  1. I laughed out loud when reading this. I have a number of physical ailments and I go through the same dreaded exam! Diana