Open Letter To Dr. Oz
Hi Dr. Oz-
Yesterday morning, in the column you write for my newspaper, “Link between a jelly belly and brain drain”, you warned me, as someone with belly fat, that I could be headed for dementia (based on research of course) if I don’t get rid of my unsightly middle. I wonder if you know that when I finish reading your column, I don’t feel “motivated” or even “warned”. I just feel screwed.
My belly is a part of me. I’ve housed babies here.
It is much more than dangerous fat cells.
You see, I have always had a belly, like much of the population. It’s hard for me to believe that I could eradicate it with your measly suggestions. My belly is a part of me. I’ve housed babies here. It is much more than dangerous fat cells. Flat bellies are something that belong to some body types (yours), and definitely to the imaginations of airbrushing technicians.
Dr. Oz, I would like to suggest that you start every article you write with a reminder about the resilience of my body. Perhaps you could admit that the statistics you report do not include my complex story, nor do they include the complex stories of the people who may or may not be like me in in the research (which in this case, were actually mice). I’d like to hear you say, “hey, maybe you are already walking, (like you recommend in the article), or eating avocados (but not too much) and you still have a belly, and hmmm, maybe you are not a danger to yourself after all. Maybe dementia isn’t your path. Or maybe it is and it isn’t something you can control.” Maybe, if your writing reminded me of my essential worth, and that life includes struggling, I would leave your column feeling renewed and validated. Belly and all. At a minimum, it would likely save me from an increase in that horrible cortisol stress hormone, right?
It might be because you think your role as a doctor, (no wait, surgeon? confusing!) is to provide the facts and offer me suggestions on how to change. Your “just the facts, ma’am” writing style is meant to leave the change up to me. You seem to continue to believe that being fearful of what is possible in my future might motivate me. All this motivates me to do is trust you a little less. And if you’d familiarize yourself with behavior change research, you’d actually know that this “Change or Die” strategy you use doesn’t actually work. It moves people away from change. The joy of living is far more motivating than the fear of dying.
You see, Dr Oz, I’m absolutely confused about what you see your role to be in all of this. For instance, what do you take responsibility for in your interactions with patients? Would you be willing to acknowledge that body shame impacts health? Do you worry that you are contributing to the epidemic of body disconnection? Do you remember that you are a surgeon that has evolved into a large-scale advice peddler? As a health-care professional myself, you really worry me. I see health promotion happening in my office without the use of “warnings” laced with fear and blame.
So, my belly and I are going to keep on living this one precious, uncontrollable existence I call my life. It’s a human story, replete with imperfection and some body fat. I don’t think I should be scared. I think I should count myself among the many who know that there is so much more to the story.
Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC is a therapist and co-founder of Be Nourished. She encourages conscious and authentic living, with the courage to love yourself anyway.