I heard about this article from Prevention.com entitled, These Women Were Fat-Shamed By Their Doctors—And It Almost Cost Them Their Lives, because The Militant Baker shared it on Facebook. Go ahead, give it a read. I’ll wait.
Today I want to tell you that medical fat-shaming is a very real thing that happens to a lot of people every day. I know it for a fact, I’m one of those people. I’ve been “prescribed” weight loss for everything from asthma to hip pain to cramps to depression. In fact, it has been prescribed to me at every appointment I’ve had with every Primary Care Provider (PCP) I’ve had in the last twenty or so years (yes, they started young). Its the prescription I get JUST FOR SHOWING UP!
For a long time I bought in. I’ve done the diets and the exercise. I’ve had my own personal trainer and worked out 7 days a week. I’ve counted every calorie, and what type of calorie, and journaled it obsessively. I’ve lost 40 or more pounds, TWICE. I’ve lost 20 pound chunks A LOT of times. None of this has had much bearing on my actual lab results, yet even at 40 lbs lighter I get prescribed MORE weight loss. Sometimes I feel like my doctors won’t be satisfied until I disappear completely.
On the other side of that, it’s worth noting that I haven’t needed an inhaler since I quit smoking. My hip pain was lessened with treatment for RA. My cramps went away when I changed birth control. And my depression has improved since my therapist recommended Linda Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size, and I started to process all of the shame in my life. The shame does more damage than fat ever has.
I think the hardest part for me to digest (pun intended) is that a lot of the bias isn’t really based on fact so much as doctors hearing the same bullshit everyone else does and buying in. Okay, the hardest part for me to digest is that doctors are, in fact, fallible, and that I hadn’t realized this until I was 32. But being conscious of this bias allowed me to notice exactly how often I receive the “weight loss prescription,” which is to say: every appointment with my PCP and in backhanded notes in specialists’ summaries. I’ve also come to realize how dismissive it is. Making obesity the first diagnosis is lazy. It’s being bad at their job. So I don’t put up with it anymore.
I have health insurance. I have some knowledge under my belt. And I have just enough courage to advocate for myself. People (specifically WOMEN) have laid the groundwork for me so I may enter a health clinic with confidence and demand I be treated fairly. And I can happily report that I haven’t been met with much resistance*. However, I am lucky. Not everyone has these advantages, and it is with this in mind that I think it’s important to talk about. For everyone. Of any weight. Of any race. Of every gender. Learning the FACTS, having the conversations, and erasing the stigma is important. Do it for the fucking children.
*This is also irritating. Like – what, you were only going to treat me if I asked specifically to be treated like a thinner patient? Great.