Fat shaming in the doctors office

This job isn't always easy
Being a doctor doesn’t give you permission to fat shame!

There are lots of great doctors out there- at BodyMatters we are pleased to work with many. However occasionally our clients have described to us horrendous experiences they have had with the medical profession. For example, someone with binge eating who is told “you don’t have an eating disorder, you’re just fat”; or a person suffering from bulimia being given a green light for some sort of gastric bypass surgery (as if you can fix a psychological problem with a physical intervention).

Perhaps more subtle than this is weight based prejudice, where someone is treated differently by a doctor because they are considered to be sitting at a higher weight.  If you have been prescribed weight loss for a broken toe or a rash, you will know what I mean. The fact is that recent research maintains that weight based prejudice is alive and well in Australia. Further, many doctors hold a strong anti fat bias that can impact on their clinical judgement.

Today, BodyMatters Psychologist Sarah McMahon spoke to Daily Life about this:

‘Regardless of what a patient is presenting with, and where their weight might be sitting, diagnosing them as “fat” and prescribing a solution of weight loss simply isn’t acceptable. Indeed it’s discriminatory and runs the risk of being medically negligent,’ she says.

What to do about this? Its important to remember you are a consumer and you have the right to be in charge of your own health care. You have a right to evidence based health care regardless of what weight you sit at. You have a right to ask questions, challenge ideas, make requests and seek a second opinion.

Some time ago, body diversity website Dances with Fat put together some great resources to assist people experiencing this dilemma. If you are experiencing weight based prejudice in the doctors office, some ideas of things you could say to the doctor include:

  • Don’t weight me unless it is medically necessary, for example for a proper dosage of medication; and don’t tell me the weight unless I ask;
  • Due to a low rate of success and serious irreversible side effects, including death, weight loss surgery is not an option for me;
  • Show me a study where a majority of subjects succeeded at the amount of weight loss you are suggesting (and kept it off);
  • Do thin people get this health problem? What do you recommend to them?;
  • Please provide me with evidence based interventions and give me the opportunity to provide informed consent;
  • Shame is bad for my health-  first do no harm, which means don’t make me feel bad about my weight.

Have you been shamed about your weight in the doctors surgery? What ideas do you have on how you can reclaim the doctors office?

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