1951 Menopause Book: The Changing Years by Madeline Gray & "Fat Shaming"

I just finished reading the 1950s book, The Changing Years: What to do about the Menopause by Madeline Gray and highly recommend it! Despite its age it's filled with a lot of relevant, valuable and scientifically sound information. There was also no mention of giving women radiation treatment! Some of it of course would be controversial today. I love the author's compassionate, no nonsense approach. She explains everything in detail, and I mean everything, but is never patronizing. I learned a lot about the biochemical process of menopause, something I personally have yet to go through. There are many vintage copies available online so if you can, give it a read!

I want to share her comments about seeing a doctor to help her lose weight:

My doctor was a Park Avenue man who specializes in slenderizing actresses and other fashionable women, and I won't mention his name because he charged me the whopping sum of $60 for a month's consultation, and all he did for my $60 was to give me a simple plan, then see me once a week and scream at me if I'd eaten anything I shouldn't. And I mean scream! If I'd had as much as two extra pieces of bread he acted as if I'd committed a murder, or at the very least broken a Hollywood contract, and literally stormed. But this was mostly an act of his. Anyway, it was worth it, because he really did change my whole way of eating. Better than that, he put into my hands a tool I can use for the rest of my life. He called this tool a "plan" rather than a "diet list," because diet lists are dreadful things. 

This made me think of the recent article on Gawker, Your Doctor Probably Is Not Fat Shaming You:

Common sense tells us that there are most certainly some doctors with poor bedside manner. There are most certainly doctors who have made rude remarks and acted callously towards their obese patients. There is most certainly a need for doctors to be trained to act and speak with sensitivity, both to avoid turning off their own patients, and for the sake of manners. And it is most certainly a fact that it is not easy being an obese person. Empathy for those who face serious challenges in life is a hallmark of common human decency. 

That said: the fact that some doctors may at times be rude to obese patients is something very different from the supposition that virtually any suggestion by a doctor that an obese person should diet, exercise, and lose weight amounts to "fat shaming."

In the case with Ms. Gray, she specifically sought out a physician to the stars and found his approach effective. She certainly didn't take it to heart emotionally but probably improved her cardiovascular health by changing her eating habits and weight. While this kind of approach (and much of the 50s approach to weight loss) is shocking to many today, we do live in a time where most any mention of weight by a physician, even if respectful, can be dismissed as "fat shaming."

I had a discussion with my own doctor, a very soft-spoken, respectful and competent lady, about this very issue. I had told her about my 50s diet book and how in the 1950s it was acceptable for a doctor to tell his or her patient to eat less, move more, and eat more healthily. She shared that she and her colleagues found it very difficult to communicate with some of their obese patients because they would become very hostile and defensive.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Comments

  1. Averyl, I think most doctors are trained to diagnose the problem and fix it. Most of this is very straight forward. So when they talk about a patient's weight they go about it in the same manner. But of course weight has an emotional component. Doctors weren't trained in that. Bedside manner is comforting a patient during an illness, not being a psychologist- unless the doctor is one.

    Luckily my doctor and I have a good relationship where we really talk about what's keeping my weight on. She also helps me with food guidelines. Most doctors don't have time for this. Like I've said before my doctor is unique in that she spends a minimum of 30 minutes with her patients. Often I've been there for over an hour!

    This book sounds interesting!

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    1. Agreed!

      Over an hour, and all of it with her and not in the waiting room?! Wow! You are lucky!

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  2. Ack! My comment got eaten. Ironically. ;) I was saying that doctors need to cowboy up and be truthful with their patients. This no fat-shaming that goes on these days isn't doing anyone any favors. People get a false sense of security regarding their health. I haven't discussed diet with my doctor as I already know what I need to do. I gained weight in my 40's (I'm 56) and lost 25 lbs. by counting calories. I need to lose 20 more to get back to a decent weight for me. Not ultra skinny by any means but what is comfortable for me.

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  3. "My comment got eaten. Ironically." ha!

    I love your Texas-style "cowboy up" approach, Aileen!



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  4. Hi, Averyl. It's been awhile since I've been around. I see you stopped posting on your 50s diet blog. As you know, I'm sensitive about my weight and seeing a doctor about it. I know they can be of help, but I would prefer to be asked, rather than outright told I need to lose weight, etc. I know that, and I know what I need to do to lose the weight. If I want help from my doctor, I will ask. I think a good approach for doctors in today's environment, if they feel they need to say something, would be to ask the patient if they would like to discuss their weight and/or weight loss help. That way a patient can decide whether or not to discuss the issue with their doctor, rather than having their doctor force their "help" on them. I know others may disagree with me, but I thought I'd put my opinion out there from the perspective of someone who is sensitive about their weight, but isn't aggressive/hostile about it. I care about myself, but help needs to come about because I'm ready for it/wanting it. I don't respond well to others forcing themselves/their perspective/their help on me, even if they mean well. This is why I do think it's better for a doctor to ask how involved the patient wants them to be in regards to their weight. This way a patient can simply say no, thank you, or say yes, I would like to discuss it and get your help. There are many outlets these days for getting help with weight loss, not just at the doctor's office, so nowadays doctors can't assume that the patient needs their help. I don't personally see it as an issue of fat shaming, but a personal boundary issue.

    RL

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    1. RL! It's nice to hear from you! I'm glad you came over here-- thanks. And thanks for sharing your perspective. I suppose that there are liability issues for MDs; that they need to at least state any perceived health concerns with their patients which includes over or underweight. But as far as involvement beyond that, I agree that doctor and patient need to be on board together about how to address it and the level of involvement.

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  5. Poor doctors! You are correct, they do have to at least voice their concern, but I'm sure they deal with hostility even bringing the subject up at all. Well, at least the doctors can defend themselves and tell a hostile patient that they would love not to ask about people's weight, but they are legally obligated to. Maybe that would at least take the patient out of hostility zone realizing that the doctor doesn't have a choice. If they are still bothered by it, then they can start writing letters, or seeing if they can legally release their doctor from any legal responsibility to discuss their weight. That way, they would be fully responsible for that aspect of their heath. I'm sure many doctors would love to be exempt from that issue if they are constantly meeting with such hostility! On this point, I do sympathize with the doctors.

    RL

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  6. I watched your Cheers for Chubby video. That's a great little video. I'm afraid that what constitutes sensible eating has changed so much that that phrase in the video could easily be misunderstood by today's society. It's only in reading your book/blog, that I've come to understand that what was considered sensible weight loss back then, is not the same thing now. Sadly, I think that may have been a big problem with the struggles I've had with losing weight and keeping it off. I really think that today's diets that encourage quick weight loss results is dangerous. I know I've told you before, Averyl, that at my lowest I was eating the recommended 1200 calories for women, and it was disastrous for me. I'm convinced that, for myself, even two pounds a week loss is too fast. I'm aiming to lose .5-1 lb. a week (I'm down a couple of pounds since I was last here...it's not a lot, but it's going down). I know it will take me a lot longer to lose my weight, but this way I won't be starving my body and will avoid causing the dreaded rebound weight gain. I really think the information you are putting out there on truly sensible (that's the difference people need to understand), non-sensational weight reduction is sorely needed in our fad diet culture. Sadly, I think people have become so enamored with quick weight loss, that their lack of patience won't allow them to see the pitfall that it truly is. I'm just glad I found your book/blog while I'm still relatively young. I'm looking forward to the second half of my life not being filled with fruitless dieting.

    RL

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    1. Thank you, RL, for encouraging me letting me know my efforts have made a difference for you. I don't make it a secret that I sometimes get discouraged when I read my book reviews. Not everyone gets it, and some people go on the attack.

      As for 1,200 calories a day I was never able to do it, either. A fruitful "diet" sounds delicious! : )

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  7. You're welcome. I think the negative comments probably (I haven't read them) reflect what I'm saying. I think when people read your book/blog, within the context of their modern thinking of dieting, they will have a difficult time getting it. It took me time, reading through ALL of your book and ALL of your blog, to begin to see what the difference was because initially it didn't sound very different. The difference may seem (be) subtle, but its impact is huge. That's why I think it's lost on people. Well, yay for us who get it!

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who couldn't stick to 1200 calorie a day. See, now somebody else would tell me that I just lacked will power! Bull----! Excuse my frustration. See, right there. The subtle, but substantial difference between today's idea of losing weight and what you are teaching. At that point in time, I believed it MUST have been that I wasn't trying hard enough because it's a "healthy" and "safe" way to lose weight, but the reality was, my body was starving. That's not sensible.

    After initially reading your book, my sister and I were talking about how people ate in the fifties, and their weight, and how people eat today, and the weight of people today. My sister, who is older than me by a good bit, said she remembers our Grandma always "watching" her weight. She asked her once how it was that she didn't gain weight - she was petite her whole life. Apparently, she ate just as you talk about in your book. She didn't follow any crazy fad diets or restrict her calories to a crazy low level. She ate sensibly and healthy, and monitored how much she ate according to her weight. If her weight went up a bit, she would cut back her eating just slightly, especially desserts, to get it back down. It was easy for her to over indulge in sweets/desserts without realizing it because she loved them. So, she had them, but would cut back on them if her weight started to go up. I guess that's how she knew if she was eating too many sweets. Haha. The point is, she had them and enjoyed them, and didn't feel deprived, but just monitored them by monitoring her weight. My Grandma had it right. It's a win/win doing it that way. Of course, the majority of the sweets/desserts she ate were homemade. I think that's a good way to incorporate foods into your diet that you really love and don't want to do without.

    RL

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    1. RL, this is so wonderful to read. Would you consider sharing some of this via a book review on Amazon?

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  8. Sure. If I don't get to it tonight, I'll aim to get it done tomorrow.

    RL

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