Fat Shaming Doctors: What To Do About Them and How to Avoid Them

And it is incredibly aggravating that people think this is just a matter of finding the right doctor when most doctors are incredibly fat phobic.
— Roxane Gay, Twitter Feed

If being told to lose weight actually helped people lose weight, there would be no fatness and no weight loss industry. If being told, "you will die if you do not lose weight" by a medical doctor (as was told to a clients only 40 pounds above "ideal") helped people get thin, everyone would be thin. Few people would elect to be fat in a culture that so flagrantly hates fatness.

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And yet, this fat shaming and blaming conditions on weight is exactly what many medical professionals do. Once, I had a client suffering from an ear ache whose doctor told her to go lose some weight and then come back and he would treat her. An ear ache!

I’ve heard so many stories like this. It’s enough to make me want to break down and cry—or go on a murderous rampage. So far, I’ve been able to stick to the crying.

A quick search on the internet will show you my clients are not alone:

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Fat-Shaming by Doctors Happens Way More Often Than You Think: “Doctors are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to making people feel ashamed of the number on the scale.”

Plus-Size Model Elly Mayday Says Doctors Dismissed Her Cancer Symptoms, Blamed Her Weight: “But doctors sent the plus-size model away with pain killers and told her there was nothing to worry about. Doctors also suggested her weight was to blame and told her to exercise more.”

My Doctor Fat-Shamed Me — And I’m Not the Only One: “Doctors often “fail to provide adequate and timely diagnosis and treatment due to all kinds of assumptions, [which] affects patients along the full weight spectrum.”

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‘It’s Because You’re Fat’ — And Other Lies My Doctors Told Me: My doctor …“glanced at me and told me my knee pain was due to early-onset arthritis as a result of my being overweight. My blood tests were negative for rheumatoid arthritis — but that didn’t matter, she told me. The only way to stop my pain from getting worse was by losing weight.”

There is a medical practice that specializes in fertility in town that regularly puts their pregnant patients on no carb diets. I’ve had quite a few end up in my office, lost as to how to deal with what resulted—disordered eating, body loathing, extreme stress and guilt. One of these women was just 10 pounds above “ideal!” (Of course, this is perfect for the medical practice—if these patients do not get pregnant, the blame can easily go to, “Well did you eat carbohydrates?” It’s your fault, not ours.)

The result of this weight bias? Untold numbers of people, of all sizes, are not getting adequate medical care. Some may even avoid it until it is too late. And some may be irrevocable harmed. .

Taking Charge Of Your Medical Care

There are medical professionals who understand that most medical conditions can be treated successfully without weight loss. There are even those who understand that weight research is highly biased, and that fatness is not the evil health problem it is purported to be.

Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong: “And the medical community’s primary response to this shift has been to blame fat people for being fat.”

A Physician Forced to Rethink Everything He Thought About Weight and Diabetes: Video. He had to have a personal medical problem before he could shift his thinking.

Why Are American Health Care Costs So High?: Video. Reasons why the US spends so much more on health care than any other country in the world, and along the way reveals some surprising information, and, guess what? It’s not obesity!

Yes, there is a lot of information out there, if doctors and other medical professionals cared to find it, that suggests they don’t need to focus on weight, they don’t need to fat shame, and they should get on with the business of doctoring. Isn’t one of the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath to “First, Do No Harm”? Well, body shaming is harmful.

And recommending weight loss? How would you feel if your doctor recommended a drug that has a 98% failure rate, and then blamed you when it did not work? Well, doctors are doing just that when they recommend you attempt weight loss, which has a published 2% success rate!

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Finding Medical Professionals Who Will Not Fat Shame You

You need to feel confident in knowing you do NOT want to be body shamed. Make sure to read the above linked articles, and then consider making sure your medical team consists of practitioners who will not body shame you. The articles below can help direct you. For those in Gainesville Florida, there is a PDF below of practitioners who are reported to NOT body shame.

Please consider NOT weighing at the doctors office (unless you are going under anesthesia or are being prescribed medicine for which the dosage is weight dependent (and very few drugs are). The articles below allude to this.

I ALWAYS refuse to be weighed, just on general principle, and to see what will happen. When they point to the scale, I simply tell them my weight (since I find no need to weigh, I give a reasonable guestimate). Some are okay with that, some get mad. I try to be extra nice about it, but I rarely explain myself. They need to accept my decision.

I’ve also had some fun with it. I’ve been known to get on a scale carrying my book, purse and water bottle. I’ve gotten some strange looks. Others haven’t even noticed!

My clients sometimes give my card to the doctor, explaining that their nutrition and health is being closely monitored. They indicate that I will call them with the number if needed. No doctor has ever asked me to do that! (I guess they don’t need the weight that bad!)

How to Find a Fat-Positive Doctor Who Won't Just Tell You to Lose Weight: “My weight was somehow always at fault for any illness or ailment, according to the myriad doctors I saw in my adolescence, no matter how unrelated they seemed. Sprained ankle? My fat body was the reason.”

What To Do If Your Doctor Fat Shames You: “Preventing a negative interaction is always better than surviving one.”

Here is a handout called Guidelines for Healthcare Providers. Take some time to review it, so that you can understand what your rights are. Consider forwarding it to health care providers that you are interviewing. If they don’t agree with it, find someone better.

Doctors in Gainesville FL Who Have Been Reported to Not Fat Shame.

I keep a list of practitioners whom I have been told do not fat shame and/or who do not harp on weight. Please feel free to download Doctors Who’ve Been Reported as Not Fat Phobic in Gainesville FL Area.

If you have anyone to add to the list, feel free to drop me an email at karin@eatingwisdom.com, or comment below. Please include the doctors name, and what happened, with quotes if you recall.

I also keep a private list of doctors who DO fat shame, with quotes as to what they said. I use this to help guide my clients away from them. If you have any names to add, please send me names and your story—email, or comment below.

You Deserve the Best Healthcare

Sometimes it is helpful to interact with others who are dealing with similar issues, to get support, ideas and build confidence. Check out this Facebook page.

Good luck in putting together your weight-neutral, supportive healthcare team. If we can be of any assistance, please reach out.

About Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LDN, SEP

Karin is a author, speaker and nutrition therapist who has specialized in disordered eating and body image issue. We can help you escape food and body angst and learn to manage your eating and weight naturally. Check out our eCourses, inluding Winning the Hunger Game: How to Quit Fighting Your Body and Become an Empowered Eater. Visit www.EatingWisdom.com for free handouts, and more tips on mindful, intuitive eating and healing disordered eating. In office and telehealth sessions offered.

© 2018 Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, LDN.