Written by Caroline Anderson.
Art by Rebecca Morgan.
“I eat a lot of grain bowls.” Like a demented affirmation, my brain kept repeating it over and over and over: “I eat a lot of grain bowls.” While watching TV, talking to my husband; sometimes it was my first waking thought — “I eat a lot of grain bowls.” I felt like a kid preparing to recite the world’s worst poem in front of my class. But what I was actually doing was going to see a doctor for the first time in a decade.
I’ve had the luxury of being able to spend most of my twenties uninsured. I say that because it was easy to scoff at the $300 a month payment when the worst I’d ever dealt with was a broken finger and a few cysts. In case of emergency (yeast infection) I could go to a sliding scale clinic (Planned Parenthood) but mostly just hope my blood wasn’t secretly rotting away as I went about my business. College vaccinations last into your 30s, right?
I do have one pretty gnarly pre-existing condition though, and that is fatness. A plethora of fatness, to misquote the cursed BMI system. And if the wise medical professionals known as “YouTube commenters” are correct, then every day I wake up closer to diabetes, heart disease, and broken knees. My body, she is a failure and a strain on the global economy and depending on the social media site probably also responsible for global warming (I use packaging-free cosmetics so don’t pin that on me).
Finally getting insurance should have been a relief, but instead I dreaded the day I’d have to sit in front of a smart lady in a sharp white coat and be reprimanded (a situation that otherwise sounds like a dream). I didn’t want to hear how my diet is bad. Yes I eat a lot of carbs but so does *checks notes* everyone. I didn’t want to be yelled at for my personal medical negligence. I didn’t want to pay a $15 copay to hear that I’m fat and my life would be better if I wasn’t. I’m kind of already aware.
[I]f the wise medical professionals known as “YouTube commenters” are correct, then every day I wake up closer to diabetes, heart disease, and broken knees.
Eight months after getting insurance I looked to see if my husband’s primary care physician was in network. She was. Goody. I booked an appointment for a physical and about 30 seconds later it started. “I eat a lot of grain bowls. I eat a lot of grain bowls.”
I was preparing my armour for going into what was very likely a war zone. “I eat a lot of grain bowls.” “I’m a vegetarian.” “I work out 5 days a week.” “I don’t drink soda.” “I have a personal trainer.” “My favorite snack? OH, IT’S ALMONDS!” Fellow fats out there know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve had well-meaning people suggest swapping out frozen yogurt for ice cream or eating your sandwiches open-faced as though anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks, “My life is too easy, lemme put a target on my back.” You’ve been told to exercise, then tried to find exercise clothes to no avail, then been stared at for exercising (once again, our glassy, glassy knees).
“I eat a lot of grain bowls.”
It was kind of nice to have this big, glowing, awful fear to take with me to the doctors to draw my mind away from my sneakier fears (like needles, and learning that actually the doctor ISN’T in network and I DO have to pay out of pocket and they DON’T accept Chase Sapphire). I love exercising, but with every workout during the week leading up to the appointment, I felt like Henry Higgins turning my shitty body into a beautiful socialite in time for the big ball. I was going to deadlift out that rotten blood before a doctor could see it!
My appointment was on Tuesday at 8 a.m. I mourned my deceased grandfather as I wrote down all the things that killed him with a sticky click pen. I waffled on how to answer the “alcoholism questionnaire” as an alcoholic with half a decade of recovery (“No I don’t drink at all but yes my liver might be mush”). I wished I’d taken a better passport photo five years ago as I handed it over to the office worker. And then it was time.
I sat. I looked over at the plush Dracula I had brought to keep me company as I got my blood drawn. I waited. The door opened.
“So actually, your insurance doesn’t cover physicals.”
I lost it. A decade of mounting fear poured out like the vegan cashew dressing on a Sweetgreen kale and quinoa bowl.
“Oh no, why are you crying?”
“Sorry, I’m just really anxious.”
“Would you like to be prescribed an anti-anxiety medicine?”
“No — I mean maybe down the line, I just mean about this.”
“Let me take your vitals and we’ll figure this out.”
She takes my blood pressure and makes a face. 150 over 100, then leaves the room.
I was right. My blood is broken. My fatness is killing me. I am probably diabetic too, and I should get a wheelchair to get me before my knees shatter. Fuck, I hope they take Chase Sapphire.
I spend every day defending my right to occupy the body I do, and even if I’ve learned to tune out internet trolls and snotty coworkers, it’s scary to face the person who studied What Makes Bodies Bad in college.
An eternity later (or maybe a few moments, impossible to tell) the physician came in. She explained that they’re going to bill it as an “office visit” and it will be fine. She looks inside my facial holes, listens to me breathe, then sits down to talk.
“So, tell me about your diet.”
“I EAT A LOT OF GRAIN BOWLS!”
I tell her I’m a vegetarian and mention that I’m a lifter. “You are? Like at the gym? That is so cool.”
And that was that. She sent me off to get my blood drawn, but not before re-checking my blood pressure. 125 over 80. Look at that.
Blood was drawn and I was on my way. A few hours later I got a call. The voicemail said to please call them back immediately. “Fuck, blood’s broken.” I make the call. “Hi, yes, we were just wondering if you are on your period right now?”
The next day there’s another call. “The results are in from your blood work.”
“AND WHAT, IT’S BROKEN HUH?”
“We would encourage you to take a Vitamin D supplement.”
I go back in a week to discuss my blood test and get a pap smear. I can’t tell which I’m more excited about. I’d like to say the grain bowl mantra has been erased, but I think as a fat woman I will always be on guard like this. I spend every day defending my right to occupy the body I do, and even if I’ve learned to tune out internet trolls and snotty coworkers, it’s scary to face the person who studied What Makes Bodies Bad in college. Maybe my blood will be broken, or maybe I’ll have the blood of a 30 year old woman who works out and eats a lot of grain bowls.
Fuck, now I want a grain bowl.
About the Author
Caroline Anderson is a writer in Los Angeles whose credits include Comedy Bang! Bang!, Liza on Demand, and Comedy Central’s Corporate. In her spare time she enjoys puppet shows, olympic lifting, and … wow, only two hobbies, turns out.