Are Doctors in Turkey Promoting Anorexia?

A few days ago, I met a friend to catch up and have some coffee together. She came a little late, with a surprised and sad face. I wondered what happened. She told me that earlier that day she went to see her local gynecologist in Istanbul, and the news were not really good. “What is it?” I asked, fearing the worst. “Well, my doctor told me that I am almost obese and I need to go on strict a diet” she said. Looking at her figure, I saw nothing wrong. She is 167 cm tall and 58 kilograms. I replied, “This is nonsense. What kind of a doctor would say that?” She was all upset and was checking diets on her smartphone already.

This event reminded me of the time I went to visit a dietitian (whose name I don’t remember now) in a government hospital in Izmir, when I was still in the university, right after my Exchange time. The dietitian looked at me and told me that I was overweight, “You have the body of a 40 year old woman who has undergone like two births!” she screamed at me. I was 162 cm tall with a weight of 60 kilograms back then. She said that I should be less than 50 kilograms, and prescribed me with fat-burning pills and a 1200 calorie diet to follow.

I was quite shocked at the time too and I didn’t really follow her prescriptions, especially the fat burners. It sadly brought back my anorexic tendencies, I remember. Now, 3 years later, another doctor did the same thing to my friend. What was happening to the doctors in Turkey? Were the professionals also getting affected by the society’s obsession with thinness?

It is no secret that in the Turkish society and media, as well as almost any society or media nowadays, we can see the promotion of thin female body. Even Turkey’s Minister of Health, Mr. Recep Akdağ, made a statement saying “Shall we call those (obese) people ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’? I think calling them ‘fat’ is the right way because we can’t accept it easily”. On top of this, internet makes the fat-shaming even easier as people can keep anonymity. On social media channels as Twitter, there are many comments that include fat-shaming. Especially if it is summer and a not-so-skinny woman wants to wear shorts, bikinis or miniskirts, they cannot really avoid the comments made for them.

There are many examples of this, and women as well as men get into this habit. For example a young woman tweeted “I love my older brother who said that he will wear shorts with his hairy legs just to spite the fat girls who wear leggings on their fat legs all winter”. Another woman tweeted “1. Don’t wear those pair of shorts with those legs!… You make give me murderous feelings in the morning”.

Comments on the social media go just like that, “The fat girl who is walking in front of me, listen to me: you are fat, your legs have too much meat, you remind me of marshmallow, don’t wear shorts”  or “Dear Fat; you wore leggings in the winter we didn’t say anything, you ruined my visual pleasures, for the love of God don’t wear shorts in the summer. Look, I gave the name of God”. So, imagine you are one of those women who has been constantly fat-shamed and who is constantly shown the models on TV or magazines as the perfect figures. Your own country’s Minister of Health calls you fat. Eventually, you visit a dietician to offer you professional help, and they, too, offer the same word to you – Fat. How would you feel?

In an experiment conducted in the the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), it was found that calling someone “fat” increases the chances of that person gaining weight even further. It is reported that those people start to see eating as a means of comfort, and they eventually start eating more. “People often rationalize that it’s OK to discriminate based on weight because it will motivate the victim to lose pounds,” Angelina Sutin, a psychologist at the Florida State College of Medicine in Tallahassee, explained. “But our findings suggest the opposite.” Furthermore, another experiment conducted in the UK found the same results and advised the doctors that, instead of calling their even obese patients “fat”, they should talk about the health issues obesity brings such as type 2 diabetes. However, some doctors including the ones mentioned above and celebrity ones such as (the ex-doctor) Pierre Dukan still keep calling their patients fat. Isn’t there a big problem there? After my own experience with the dietitian calling me fat, I started getting depressed and ate more and binge-cleansed myself – I was diagnosed with bulimia, eventually. I had to be treated with different anti-depressants afterwards, and thankfully it is over for a few years now.

Unfortunately, young women in Turkey and around the world are still widely affected by the media’s promotion of skinniness as the perfect body to have. This topped with the society’s comments makes everything worse for them, and they eventually resort to some kind of diet-binge vicious circle or at worst they tend to get anorexic or bulimic. All things aside, promotion of skinniness by the professionals such as doctors or ministers of health (!) cannot be and should not be acceptable by any of us. I couldn’t do it at the time, but please, if you have any experience like this, do not stay silent and start hating your body. You are beautiful as you are, yes, with those three kilograms “extra”.