Julie Venn, mom of a 13-year-old girl, recently went off on Facebook about a nurse she says body-shamed her daughter. She described the incident in a long post submitted to the page Moms of Tweens and Teens, which sparked a debate among commenters.
In the post, Julie describes a recent routine checkup for her 13-year-old. The visit included various questions about health, including eating habits, exercise, sleep habits, and how she was feeling emotionally. According to Julie, the teen answered every question honestly. That was when the nurse practitioner asked the controversial question.
“The NP then looks down at her computer, then back up at Riley’s face and says to my 13-year-old daughter — ‘Tell me RILEY, HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN ALL OF THIS WEIGHT YOU’VE GAINED?'”
It’s unclear whether the nurse actually raised her voice or if the all caps are for emphasis. Either way, Julie was not happy. It was mama bear time.
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“My daughter is speechless and her eyes begin to glass over,” Julie wrote. “I am speechless and the NP goes on to explain to her that given what her previous weight was last year — the numbers just don’t correlate with her current height. Has she been eating junk food or has her activity level changed.”
“I had a literal, physical reaction,” she continued. “I put my hand up and said ‘STOP! You need to stop talking to my daughter about her weight. She is 13, she is strong. She is healthy and she is PERFECT. You need to move on!'”
According to Julie, the nurse looked “surprised,” but did drop the issue and moved on with the examination. Once the checkup was finished, the nurse had a question for Julie, unsurprisingly.
“I follow her into an adjoining room out of earshot of my daughter and she asks me why I had that reaction to her,” said Julie. “I explained in no uncertain terms that she was out of line in the way she dealt with my daughter.”
Julie then expressed her concern over how popular media affects girls’ body image.
“They already have to compare themselves to the ridiculous social media bulls**t standards. They are flooded with images of perfection via tv, youtube, FB, Instagram and Snapchat. Their whole freaking lives have a filter on them!”
Don't Call Teen Girls Fat. Just Don't.
To be clear, Julie doesn’t think that there is never a time to discuss a child’s weight. She just thinks that a little sensitivity might be called for. Maybe don’t say it to a teen girl’s face and make her cry?
“If my child has a problem or is OVERWEIGHT than a doctor needs to talk to ME — not my daughter,” Julie said. “This NP actually went on to defend herself by saying she tells the kids because they have control over their food and exercise. My response — LAST I CHECKED MAAM I DO THE GROCERY SHOPPING and the meal preparation and the extracurricular scheduling for my children.”
Julie concluded her post with a suggestion about what the nurse could have said to her daughter, along with a photo of the 13-year-old labeled “no filter necessary.”
She certainly looks like she’s a healthy weight to me.
Many commenters were appalled by the nurse’s behavior and supportive of Julie’s reaction. Others, however, thought that she was too reactive and too harsh. Thus was sparked another fun Facebook comments section debate extravaganza.
“Ridiculous. Toxic. Unprofessional,” said Heather King Cook. “This NP should not be working with children. Good for you for letting her have it and not returning to that practice.”
“While your daughter doesn’t look fat at all, that was a legitimate question,” wrote Rana Atinder Sidhu. “Every medical practitioner will query when they see a weight change, be it weight gained or lost. So no. You overreacted immensely.”
Others came down somewhere in the middle.
“I would have handled this differently by asking the NP, ‘what’s the healthy weight for her age, height, etc’, was she calculating her BMI and is that within a normal range? If so, I then would have ask why a medical professional was asking such a silly question,” said Ronda Cox.
Without knowing the procedures at the doctor’s office Julie took her daughter to, it’s difficult to say if this nurse was “just doing her job” or going off script. If that was part of the script, then the office itself might want to consider changing its policies in a world where someone dies every 62 minutes from an eating disorder.
There might be room for debate about this particular incident, but the effect the nurse’s words had on Julie’s daughter is clear:
“Mom, this is why kids have anorexia or feel like they want to hurt themselves.”