Medical Fat Shaming Needs to Go!

If you are carrying a bit of extra weight, you’ve gone to the doctor, only to hear them make a comment about your needing to lose weight. Some doctors just tell you you need to lose x number of pounds to improve your health. Other docs are a bit more passive-aggressive about it.

Early last fall, my right knee was giving me problems, so I went to my orthopedist to see what was going on. He said, “You could stand to lose some weight. I was having knee issues, lost fifteen pounds, and that took care of it.” I replied with, “I lost twenty-five pounds and wrecked my knees in the process.” Suffice it to say, that shut him right up.

My teen suffers from migraines, and her doctor was telling her about one of her medications. He said, “It may suppress your appetite, so that’ll be good for taking a little weight off, eh? [chuckles]” My teen has curves backed by muscle and fierce soccer thighs with curves that were common among 50s pin-up girls.

The final straw came week before last, though. I went for my annual physical because part of the healthy coastal lifestyle is making sure everything is working as it should. I always get a full blood panel done to monitor my cholesterol (which tends to run a little on the high-normal side–darn genetics!). The family nurse practitioner came in and immediately started talking about my weight and addressing my cholesterol. Her advice ranged from cutting out most of my carbs, eating just egg whites, and not tracking what I eat. I pointed out to her that there is a huge difference between carbs from Grape Nuts and carbs from potato chips. Keeping my micronutrients in balance and tracking my food have been two things that have helped me.

Two things are true, though. I keep an eye on my cholesterol every year and am mindful about eating foods and living a lifestyle that will keep it within normal range. I also knew going into this appointment that my cholesterol would be higher due to pre-vacation stress and the food I ate on vacation. I wasn’t wrong. I also thought that, given the walking I’d done while on our vacation and that I was weighing in on a fast, it seemed that my relationship with gravity that the doctor’s office scales were reporting was off by more than a few pounds. The next morning, I hopped on our bathroom scales first thing and concluded that either I’d miraculously lost seven pounds overnight or someone’s scales were off. Maybe it’s ours, maybe it’s the doctor’s. But given that my eight-pound barbell weighed exactly eight pounds on our scale, I have concluded it was the doctor’s.

I would wager that everyone who is carrying a little extra weight is quite well aware of it. This has always been my truth, partly due to genetics, partly because I’m short, and partly because of my enjoyment of food. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. When I was younger and my pediatrician would give my mom the stats–“She’s in the 98th percentile for weight”–my mom would always say, “That means only two percent of girls your age are bigger than you.” It was always “bigger,” never “fatter” or “heavier,” but I knew exactly what she meant. The fat shaming didn’t work then, and it certainly doesn’t work now.

What if, then, instead of doctors blaming everything that ails us on our weight (except for, of course, those diseases that are directly related to weight), they addressed it more proactively and positively? Instead of doctors assuming we are idiots who aren’t aware of our proportions, they could instead ask patients what we know about our weight. That FNP I saw could have asked, “What steps are you taking to lose weight?” Then she’d know that I monitor what I eat and what my activity level looks like. If she’d asked me about my cholesterol, then I could have told her things like my genetic predisposition, how stress can make it go up and what stress I was under, and the very out-of-my-usual foods I’d eaten the week prior. Instead of assuming I was both ignorant and careless about my cholesterol, she could have instead learned that I’m both mindful and careful with it.

I have since made arrangements to switch providers. Our family has also started introducing elements of the Mediterranean diet into our lives. With its heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, summer is the most fabulous time to start this. I’ll be speaking more about that in posts to come.

Have you ever had a doctor fat-shame you? How did that feel?

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Hi! Sara here! I'm the CEO and Master Artisan here at Coastal Carolina Soap Co. I started out as a hobbyist and started Sara's Soaps 'n Such, which I owned for 14 years. Coastal Carolina Soap Co. was borne out of my love for the North Carolina coast and its natural beauty, and we're bringing that beauty to you in our soaps and body products.

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