Thanks for the wisdom, Knee Doctor

I am too fat to be a runner and I should swim instead.

That’s what the sports medicine knee doctor told me. The man I had to wait a month to see. The man I am sure I will have to pay a bajillion dollars for the twelve minutes of his time that I got.

“You’re built like a swimmer,” he says, “maybe a triathloner. Runners are about 110 pounds.”

Yeah, I sure see a lot of fat swimmers and triathloners–they’re all over the place! It’s a miracle that I didn’t stab this man, let alone curse him out.

“Well, I started running when I was 260 pounds,” I say, to show that, while I am fat, I could be fatter. “I build up slowly, in a smart way. And I get the pain when I cycle, too.”

“You’ve lost some weight. You’re doing too much, too fast. You have to stop pushing yourself. Cross training is good.”

He’s such a brilliant man. I should open up a sports medicine branch with my associate, Google.

I’m not built like a swimmer. I’m not built like an anything, except a person with around 40 extra pounds on her body, which probably means I am built like an anything-I-want-to-be.

He didn’t seem remotely interested in my story of slowly and smartly building up running. He didn’t care that I do do cross training, or that I stretch a lot (“I’m sure you do!” he said). He wasn’t that interested that the pain didn’t happen at all when I run in my vibram toe shoes (he didn’t even know what toe shoes were AND HE IS IN SPORTS MEDICINE). He didn’t think it was interesting that the same pain happens when I bike, as happens when I run. He was only interest in the fact that I am fat and a runner.

I told him that I wanted to have it looked at so that I knew nothing was seriously wrong and that, in 20 years, I wouldn’t find myself knee-less. I was being overly cautious, at the advice of lots of people. That’s definitely not typical Sarah. I love typical Sarah. Although it is good to know that nothing is seriously wrong with my knees. Okay. It probably is good that I went there.

And I’m not the kind of person to get walked over, I hope. I argued with him (politely). I asked what I could do to strengthen the area. He basically said that there is nothing I can do because I am fat. But he didn’t say “Fat”. He just talked about “the extra impact and pounding of every step”.

He was afraid to say fat. Or overweight. He just commented on my “build”? Fat is not a build. Go fuck yourself, Mr. Doctor.
Inappropriate cursing for blog? It has never seemed more appropriate to me. I hate when people don’t know how to comment on weight, especially medical personnel. But that’s a whole other story.

So the diagnosis is Runner’s Knee and the solution? Don’t run so much. No, because us human folk were not built to run or whatever. Running is just this random thing that we started doing recently. Since he hardly knew what barefoot running was, I couldn’t even explain to him that the impact is completely different in Vibrams. I am a smart person (despite being fat), and he didn’t seem to respect me or what I had to say about my body or history. Fat+Runner=Impossible.

I’m not ignoring his “diagnosis” because I am stubborn or because I think I know everything. I am ignoring it because he was stubborn and didn’t seem to give me any options, information, or energy. He saw me as a fat runner, and thought that was the problem. Yes, there is extra weight and it does change what I’m asking my body to do, but c’mon. My body can still do this stuff.
I intend to listen to my body, not run when it hurts to run, and keep being as active as I want to. Vibrams seem to have saved my running, and I will keep running in them.

He said that, with more time being active, the tendons, etc, would continue to strengthen. I guess that was moderately helpful to know. Yes. That is helpful knowledge that I hadn’t yet learned from Google.

I know my body & my abilities, comforts, discomforts, etc, and I will continue to respect what my body tells me while I push it to get stronger every day. End of Rant.

Where are my Vibrams? It’s time for a run.


23 Comments to “Thanks for the wisdom, Knee Doctor”

  1. I would have literally walked out of the appointment. And when I get the bill, I’d pay the percentage of it that I felt equates to the percentage of help he offered.

  2. What a moron. (The doctor, in case you didn’t get my drift.) I’m glad you are smarter than to put any stock in how he behaved – that is soooooooo unprofessional and uneducated sounding. ugh. I started running when I was still 240 and I never had any joint pain until well after I was in a healthy weight range. HAHAHA. He can suck it.

  3. I am SO frustrated reading this post right now!! Finding a doctor that’s a good fit for you is one of the toughest things ever.

    • i know!
      i had a great pcp, but she came with a horrible office. and now she is moving. So i’m back in the PCP search, too!

      i am lucky to live in such a medical-type area, though.

  4. omg, how frustrating! this guy is an idiot and is living in the dark ages. and triathletes are runners too – what the heck does he think swim bike run means???

    keep up the great work – you inspired me to get a pair of my own vibrams and i’ve been running happily in them despite being a fat runner. run on, sarah!

  5. It amazes me how clueless so many doctors are. So frustrating! I hope you can find answers for your pain, maybe a second opinion? But after that experience, who would want to do that? Geesh…

    • I mean, I think I know what I’m doing with this knee thing! He basically just confirmed that I am a good googler, so I see no reason to get another opinion!

      I’ve been thinking about it, and he did confirm that my knee is basically fine & i am all set to keep doing what I’m doing. Well. Not really. But. If he had said, “wow! your knee is REALLY screwed up” then I would know that I’m actually in trouble.

      So. silver lining of the experience found! but yes — doctors should be required to take a “how to talk to fat people and how to overlook their fatness to actually try and diagnose something instead of blaming everything on their fatness without first talking with them” class.

  6. This makes me so mad!! From a political point of view, think about the connection between “fat” people SUPPOSEDLY having more health issues and how doctors treat even totally active, vibrant, energetic, and adorable slightly larger-than-average people!! Hello! Fat hatred is at epidemic levels. Even the medical profession ignores conflicting and inconclusive research and persecutes people for the bodies that they have. OH, and they prescribe diets that have a 2% success rate or worse!!

    Sarah, I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I trust you to just take in what was useful and ignore and forget the rest. He is obviously a dufus – especially because he didn’t know about vibrams. What!?!? Does he have his head in the sand!?!? What an idiot!!!! If there’s any way you can get away with it, I would support you in not paying for the visit. You could write an incredibly articulate letter explaining that he did nothing to help you and was not educated in the specifics of your case.

    Hugs to you, you cool, strong woman!

    • it was funny — rather than suggest that i lose weight or anything, he suggested that i exercise less!

      yeah, and the real clincher was that he was a sports doctor who didn’t know about the barefoot running craze. Like. People who they couldn’t fix are running injury free because of vibrams, etc! He should know about them!

  7. Sorry he was such a douche, I am glad you are not listening to him! I recently had a personal trainer tell me I need to lower my body fat to run faster and I was pissed. I’ve been running for a long time and have seen runners of all shapes and sizes not only compete but do well. Maybe you can write a bad review of him on Kudzu or Yelp at least so people are aware of his lack of knowledge and professionalism.

  8. He is yelp material and I’d find his email and send this entire entry to him… how dare he….. sorry your pcp is leaving as well.

  9. Girl, you are amazing and so much stronger than me. If some MD had spoken to me like that, I probably would’ve cried all the way home and then buried my sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. What a jerk. Completely appropriate use of the F-bomb here.

    I love your “I am built like an anything-I-want-to-be” mentality, and I am totally borrowing it when I feel like I can’t keep pushing myself, or am just not good enough. Thank you, as always, for the humor and inspiration. 🙂

  10. Hello Sarah – haven’t popped in for a while but had to comment on this one!!!! Nasty man! What unnecessarily harsh & callous comments. Runners knee is (in my amateur/arm chair expert experience!) largely down to doing too much too soon, poor arches and poor running form.

    Running drills – like your US star Lauren recommends ( can do wonders as can strengthening your Tibialis Posterio (recommended by a NZ expert who follows the Arthur Lydiard model of training – see

    Your sports medicine doctor sounds no better than a standard GP who are always a waste of time….jack of all trades masters of nothing! I’d be ignoring him and checking out what physios have to say as well. You are tiny compared to those biggest loser people yet they run and continue to run – it sounds like you have done everything right so unless you have torn ligaments then it may just be a simple case of changing up your training, improving your form & posture. Do you have bio mechanic people over there? They sort your posture out quick smart! Cross training like cycling, swimming & aqua jogging are awesome but you shouldnt have to give up running.

    And if you have knee issues well cycling is meant to be your best friend – I have an old serious knee injury which cycling did wonders for. If you have sore knees cycling then perhaps your seat needs to go up or your handle bars need to be adjusted.

    Sorry for the ramble – but don’t despair, I am sure there will be a good answer out there for you somewhere! 🙂

  11. The SAME exact thing happened to me last week with the SAME doctor!!! I have been having knee problems since June when I hurt it playing field hockey….took time off…went to PT for a month and after that was making it worse I went and got an MRI. The MRI results came back and said I had a torn miniscus so my doctor at MGH referred me to Dr Zarins…I waited a month to be seen by him and was very hopeful as he had great reviews, well known and I figured if he works for Patriots, Bruins, etc he must know his stuff! My appointment was last week. I was seen by his assistant first who was actually really nice and did a full exam, asked a lot of questions and said that he thought something was definitely wrong but said he needed to check with the “boss” The “Boss” came in…didnt even say hello and was in the room for 5 minutes and told me that I am not meant to run, my knee is totally fine and that I have “runners knee” but that Physical Therapy is a waste of time and money and his treatment is to rest. I explained I had rested for 4 months, had been doing NOTHING and said ok great so I’m supposed to get fat and sit around…He said ‘Did I say that?’ He said I should cycle but that I need to nor run or go up and down stairs….and then I said what about driving my car?? He laughed and was like ” I wish there was a magic pill but there isnt” and handed me a couple papers on runners knee and IT syndrome and walked out. $40 later with co-pay and parking I was sitting there in tears in an empty fancy room with no explanation….now I dont know what to do. PT doesn’t help, resting doesn’t help and the “best” knee doctor in Boston told me I’m fine but it still hurts all the time to run. If anyone has any advice or hope…or another doctor they could recommend I would appreciate it!

    • That is outrageous.

      didn’t that nice assistant man make you feel so great about being there?!?!?!

      Vibrams. Check them out. They’re the only way I can run — you use your legs in a completely different way. It’ll take a while to get used to them (you have to build up different muscles), but barefoot really is how our bodies were built to run, so there are way less injuries that way. Check out the book “Born To Run,” or just google around re: barefoot/vibram running and you’ll learn a lot.

      i’m sorry that this happened to you. i kind of wish there was something we could do!

    • Dr zarins assaulted me in his office. I have bad injuries and got knocked out. He did the similar attitude with me and I was not fat or big. Just refused to give me any answers and was rude. He then assaulted me physically. I have been suffering

  12. Thanks for the note! I’m very familiar with barefoot running and that book as I work for New Balance and our Minimus shoes are all the rave! I have been hesitant to switch shoes and form while I had this injury but now thinking it may help my situation since according to him I’m “totally fine” …..

    • cool!!

      it’s so frustrating

      interestingly enough, when i run in the NB minimus shoes, i still have the knee pain. When i run in the vibrams, well. Magic.

  13. this “dr” did the same thing with myself. he basically belittles you and and makes you feel like crap. then lies and gets rid of you. that is how they keep making $$

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