Good morning, everyone! Hey, remember last week, when I told you I was getting ready for my tele-visit with the colonoscopy doc? Well, I had it. And I really, really wish I wasn’t so technologically challenged, because if I’d livestreamed it, or at least recorded it somehow other than in my admittedly imperfect memory, you’d have seen pretty much a textbook example of how fatphobic doctors denigrate and bully their patients, to the point where many of them forego necessary medical tests and treatment.
Here’s the basic transcript:
Doctor: How tall are you?
Me: Five feet two.
Doctor: How much do you weigh?
Me: Well, as of this morning, about 230 pounds.
Doctor: Wow, did you know that you’re MORBIDLY OBESE?? Your BMI is way too high! You should get bariatric surgery!
Yeah, let’s just say I was taken aback! As you, the long-time (and long-suffering) readers of my blog know, I’ve definitely gained a chunk of weight since The Diagnosis last November. I’d also been regaining some weight before that, during the pandemic. So yes, I’m very well aware that I’m fat, thank you!
The reason this upsets so much is that, even though I’m a relatively confident person, this out-of-the-blue “OMG you’re so fat!” stuff really threw me, to the point where I was seriously considering just saying, to hell with it, forget the colonoscopy. Now, I’m NOT saying that (although I have put in a request for a different doctor!), but an awful lot of other fat people do– as well as putting off all sorts of medical tests and treatments that they really, really need. Here’s just a couple of examples:
From the University of Leeds (UK), 1 October 2021:
People living with overweight or obesity are experiencing stigma and discrimination from healthcare workers as well as uniformly worse healthcare than the general population, researchers say.
A new Leeds study reveals that people have faced rude and derogatory comments about their weight from doctors and healthcare workers.
From Scientific American, March 6, 2021:
In one survey, 24 percent of physicians admitted they were uncomfortable having friends in larger bodies, and 18 percent said they felt disgusted when treating a patient with a high BMI. You are unlikely to improve the health of someone you find repulsive, and indeed, we see that doctors tend to undertreat, overtreat or even misdiagnose patients in bigger bodies, confusing tumors for fatness. And fat people are more likely to avoid medical care when they know they’ll be treated badly, which means they are often sicker and harder to treat by the time they do see a doctor.
From Buzzfeed, November 26, 2021:
“I was hospitalized with COVID in April 2020. My lungs never fully recovered, and I had to go to the ER this February. They told me that I have long-COVID inflammation and need to see a pulmonologist, which requires a referral from a PCP. She refused to refer me, ignored all of the abnormalities in my test results, and told me I’m just fat and out of shape, and my problems will go away if I go on a starvation diet and start exercising nine times a week. That was in March 2021, a full year after I initially got sick. I haven’t gone back to a doctor since.” – Ashley Johnson
(And as I always have to remind myself when I visit Buzzfeed, don’t read the comments!!)
I could go on and on, but you know what? Just ask a fat person you love if anything like this has ever happened to them. You may be surprised (and saddened) by their responses. And of course, if you’re fat (like me), you’ve got your own stories to tell.
So what’s the answer? How can we resolve this? How can we get doctors to treat us with more respect?
And now let me finish by speaking directly to any doctors who might reading this blog:
Doctor, I acknowledge your concern for my health. And I actually don’t have a problem with having a conversation with you, or any other doctor, about my weight issues — IF I BRING IT UP. If I don’t ask for your advice, it’s not because I don’t know I’m fat. Trust me. I’ve been fat most of my life, and you’re not the first doctor who’s told me.
But you telling me, yet again — and in such an over-the-top way — without me asking your opinion, and without having any other information about me other than my height and weight — is not only NOT going to make me want to have that serious discussion with you, it’s going to make me seriously consider not getting the very important medical tests I need to get from you.
Rebecca Manley, MS said it better on her Twitter page:
So there you go — a real, deep, serious blog post from yours truly. Whodathunk it? I’ll be funny again next week, even (maybe especially!) as our world continues its long, slow slide into craptitude!
See ya next week!