Our Health in Our Hands

Bad DoctorReader Amanda let me know about a new study  that I find not at all shocking – the study shows that  doctors are not as warm, empathetic, or generally nice to us as they are to their thin patients.  I imagine that it’s difficult for them to fit in niceties when they are so very busy ignoring what we say to them and prescribing weight loss for everything that’s wrong with us.

My partner went to the doctor today, without performing any tests the doctor blamed the issue on her weight.  When Julianne asked her about the studies that show that almost nobody succeeds at weight loss and many people actually gain weight the doctor agreed with her, but said that Julianne didn’t “have to be a statistic.”  Sadly I wasn’t there to ask the doctor if she recommends skydiving without a parachute since some people survive the fall.

Mistreatment by doctors is, to me, one of the most dangerous side effects of the obesity panic and the stigma, shame, and stereotyping that comes with us.  Doctors don’t listen to us, aren’t nice to us, and insist that we should try to do something that nobody has proven is possible for a reason that nobody has proven is valid with almost zero chance for success. People who stick up for themselves with their doctor can find themselves blacklisted and/ or unable to get the treatment that they need (Julianne waited over a year to get an appointment with this specialist so it’s very dangerous for her to alienate her), but those who don’t advocate for themselves end up getting prescribed weight loss for a broken arm. Some fat people just give up on going to the doctor altogether which means that they don’t get proper preventative care or early intervention for illnesses – though it’s to be noted that even if they went to the doctor they might not get those things because of the bias that exists with doctors around fat patients.

To me the key is to, as my friend Darryl is fond of saying, being the CEO of my own healthcare.   Doctors have a place at the table but I can choose to me at the helm.  It’s not always easy, it’s not fair that I have to do it, and I still don’t always get the healthcare I deserve, but the only way I know to change things is to risk, question, and push the boundaries.

ASDAH and the Size Diversity Task Force are partnering on a project right now called “Resolved” asking people to make videos discussing their treatment by doctors and what they are resolved to do to change things.  My video is below, you can take make your own as well, all the details are here!

You can also still order (or print out) your Doctor’s Office Survival Kit.

Here’s my video:

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

51 thoughts on “Our Health in Our Hands

  1. I stayed up half the night reading the comments on that article. What got me – apart from the sheer nastiness of some of the comments – is how many people had completely missed the point. A high proportion of the 400+ commenters said that doctors were right to raise the need to lose weight with their patients and that was what doctors were there for.

    The actual point of the article is that doctors treat fat patients badly overall, not that doctors discuss weight. It’s as though the mere mention of obesity sends the collective mind into a frenzy of “bad! bad! bad!” to an extent that it stops people’s reading comprehension from working.

    1. I read two comments and stopped there. Lots of ugly superiority and assumption about the habits of fat people. I have not enough sanity points to wade into the fray right now.

  2. I just did a term paper and presentation on this very subject. There is all kinds of research already done on how medical professionals view people who are overweight and obese as lazy, stupid, hostile, and unlikely to follow through on medical directions. One study fond that 66% of nursing students found the obese patient to be “gross” and caused them more work. Another study found that med students were guilty of making jokes about fat people while on the job in a hospital setting. Still another study stated that discrimination against the obese was the “last politically correct form of discrimination, and that for the first time in history the perception of discrimination due to obesity is now on par with racism.
    I found it interesting, out of all the presentations given just this past Monday, Mine got the most questions, and the professor had to end my presentation because we were running out of time and others still had theirs to give. ( I was the second one to give the presentation and because mine ended up going so long we will be doing the rest of the presentations next week). Some of the students had their own horror stories to tell and others had good stories of people they knew who had dealt with this kind of discrimination.
    It is more prevalent than most people truly realize.

  3. Wow! I sometimes have to go see a new doctor & the majority of the time the nurse will take my blood pressure FIVE OR SIX TIMES!! After I finally convince them that my blood pressure runs a bit low, they finally stop! With the exception of the blood pressure thing, my doctors (the number fluctuates between 10-14) all treat me well & I get symptom based care! I’ve never realized how lucky I am! I was seeing a sleep doctor who insisted I had sleep apnea. I finally realized I was getting bias treatment & left!! If you are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area & are willing to drive to Brock for some great evidenced based, primaray health care doc, health care let me know! (Brock is just west of Wearherford).

  4. Your video was just so perfect in every way. I couldn’t have said it better. I have lupus and have become fat the last ten years. Which means I was very thin the early part of my life. I can very much see and feel the difference how I am treated. Doctors along with nurses just write you off the moment you walk through their door. Most of my illness is still very confusing to doctors so when their treatment doesn’t work they always come around to telling me “I am a big girl and there is not much more they can do with me.” My last doctor’s office called me back and said “I wish we could perform miracles but we can’t help you any more”. Honestly there are times I feel like a doctor would choose for me to go home and die than really dig their heels in and help me.

  5. Thanks for another great post Ragen&awful what your partner went through at the Doctors. Just as disturbing was that you mention that 400+people said Doctors were correct to bring up the losing weight issue with patients and that was what Doctors were for. Sorry, i thought Doctors were there to treat their patients, but with respect, non bias and on an individual case by case basis?

    This brings me to something I wanted to run by you & others on here about 2 things I’ve been involved in recently. The first is I am part of a recent private, closed group on Facebook, for people with the condition/disability/illness Fibromyalgia, they tend to be overall women who have this and post on there. The idea is you can share anything related to it, ask questions, post ideas etc., recently someone has posted about “needing to lose weight” and did others have any ideas/help? I was annoyed by this and wanted to respond with HAES and that I didn’t want to read about diets/losing weight etc. on a site like this. It got worse though as unsurprisingly many women posted about feeeling the same and went on to post comments about diets they had tried, had worked for a certain time period, now didn’t&what else could they try, obviously not seeing anything wrong in the “working for a limited time, losing x pounds of weight saga? What was more worrying was that someone else said that it’s been said by, not sure who, that many women with Fibromylagia were obese and this was “problematic”!

    Then soon after that someone else posted something along the line of, “How to lose weight naturally” and looking at today’s posts, someone else has asked if anyone has tried “Slimming World”, this was followed by boasts of how much weight some had lost on it and how great it. Someone else though said that they had tried that in one area, lost weight, but it had goen back on&they were thinking of trying it again! Yet the person who runs the page said that anyone posting medical quotes.sayings etc., needed to have proof to back it up, so I’m confused? Should I just butt out & not get involved?

    My second thing I wanted to ask about is concerning that I’m in Arthrtis Care UK and they used to send out a quaterly newsletter, as well as things/info online. I found the magazine generally informative and helpful, but they had a rethink/lost funding etc., and revamped it and sent out the first copies earlier this week. It now looks more like those annoying samey women’s magazines you can buy everywhere. The front cover has some thin, model type woman doing something like yoga(impossible for many with arthritis, is for me?)and headline is: “Spring into life! the best workout tips to give you that va-va-voom”. But it gets worse inside and that’s what really got me, on page 5, under “Health News” tagline is a small piece in a box titled, “Factfile”, that says and I quote, “We all know that being overweight is bad for our joints, but a review has found that losing weight can prevent and significantly alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis. What’s more, obesity can trigger changes in the body that cause osteoartritis, so now’s the time to shed those extra pounds!” The last exclamation mark is theirs.

    I went on to Facebook yesterday and the organisation had posted a link about this new magazine and a few women had said they loved the new magazine, so i’m out of step again! But I don’t care as I usually am and posted a brief comment about disagreeing with that above paragraph under health and said that my opinion was just as valid? What do you think? I certainly will think again about renewing my subscription if this is the road they’re going down, I can find out most info about arthritis online somewhere.

    Take care all,

    Marion, UK

    1. If that private group on FB is your creation, you can tell them what is and is not the focus of the group and stop the diet for weight loss chatter. If not… I think I’d leave the group and start my own.

    2. Hi Marion,

      Sorry that you are dealing with all of this! With the FB group you could maybe ask the moderator if it could we fat/weightloss talk free, especially since that talk could be triggering to members of the group who had/have/could develop eating disorders?

      With the magazine I would considering sending them a letter;/e-mail asking them to focus on health rather than weight loss and if you don’t get a satisfactory response cancel and tell them why. If you are feeling particularly frisky you could post you protest around the internet and see if you can get others to do the same!

      Hope that helps,



  6. I had to open a new folder on my “permanent” files. Your wisdom keeps my computer (and me) happy. Thanks.

  7. If folks like you and your partner can have to face this – confident, empowered, logical, educated – I shudder for those who are slightly less of that.

  8. Recently Mr. Twistie woke up in the middle of the night having difficulty breathing. Every breath sounded like a death rattle. I tried to talk him into going to the ER, but in typical Mr. Twistie fashion, he assured me it was nothing; “I just can’t breathe.” THAT’S THE DEFINITION OF AN EMERGENCY, DEAR!!!!

    Sorry. It just gets to me sometimes.


    He refused to seek immediate care, but did – at my firm insistence – make an appointment to see his doctor and discuss the incident.

    Lo and behold, when he got to the doctor, he was told it was all that heartburn brought on by being obese. Yeah, the doctor didn’t listen to his lungs, ignored Mr. Twistie when he said he knew the difference between heartburn (which he’s had a handful of times over the past fifty years and change) and difficult, rattling breathing, and prescribed the same dosage of Prilosec he could have bought over the counter for one fifth of the price… had he needed it at all. No matter what Mr. Twistie said, the doctor continued to insist it was heartburn because that’s what fat people have, you know.

    You can bet your bottom dollar if a thin man had walked into the same doctor’s office saying he woke up in the night a week before unable to breathe and with seriously rattling lungs, there would have been more questions asked, tests run, and no automatic prescription for an over the counter heartburn medication. That doctor took one look at my husband’s waistline and made up his mind that it was all about having trouble digesting all those huge meals he isn’t eating.

    Then again, we do know that Ragen herself once suffered from obesity-induced strep throat.

    (rolls eyes so hard they pop out of their sockets, goes to chase them across the kitchen floor)

      1. Not as long as he’s on this health plan. It’s not medicine, it’s a prescription factory. Dammit.

    1. Twistie,

      Have I told you recently how much I adore your comments? Because I do. I’m really sorry that Mr. Twistie had to deal with all of this, if there is anything that I can do just let me know!

      Hope you caught your eyeballs,



    2. Thank you for this post.

      I just remembered a fat-bias situation in a medical setting, among the very many I experienced in the course of my life.

      I was undertaking preparations for my first journey to India and I made an appointment at my town’s immunization center to see a specialist in tropical medicine, as I wanted advice about immunization, malaria prevention and the like.

      The first thing that the doctor said to me after I had explained to her why I had made an appointment with her is “Well, you are… very overweight. That’s a controindication.” She didn’t say what it was a controindication for. For immunization? For going to India? For travelling in general? Only years later would the asinine-ness of her statement dawn on me… at the time, I had lost my beloved grandfather, to whom I was very close, and now this woman was making it sound like my weight would make it unlikely for me to go on a journey I had been planned for more than a year… so I put my hands on my face and burst into tears, sobbing that I *would* do something about my weight when I returned home, but I needed to go on that journey and would she please make it possible for me to do so… IDK, probably at some level I was scared that she’d refuse me immunization, or malaria prevention medicine, and my plans would go to hell.

      I wish I could travel in time, yell at that doctor to get a clue, and march my past self out of that office to where she’d get competent advice.

      As I said, I have encountered a lot of anti-fat bias from doctors, but this one stands out because it was so bizzarre.

      When, two years later, I was about to go on a journey to India again, I travelled to a nearby city and availed myself of their immunization center. As luck would have it, I actually got an appointment with an unbiased, competent doctor, who didn’t raise the issue of my weight at all.

    3. Twistie,

      I may be a few days late, dollars short, but I just read this blog and your post. I want to add my well wishes to Mr. Twistie and hope that whatever ails him either never comes back or if it does receives proper treatment. Friggin pill mill doctors. 😦

      1. Thanks to all of you who sent support. You guys are great.

        And yes, thank you, Regan, I did find my eyeballs again. They were fine after a touch of dusting.

  9. My mom was overweight for the majority of her life and then as an elderly woman with chronic leukemia she lost a bunch of weight. It was amazing the difference in the way doctors treated her, first of all, but then also how they treated her like a hero for losing weight when it was a result of her illness.

  10. I have been avoiding the doctor for a while , I told him about me falling in the tub twice a few months ago. He told me everything looked good ,and to tell him if I had anymore problems . Well welcome to now , I am having issues with my lower back turning and and stretching is hurting me .He has suggested weight loss before , so I have been avoiding the whole situation. I am afraid I am just going to be told to lose weight , my mother has already assisted in that fear. First reaction was ” Maybe it has to do with your scoliosis . ” Which is a reasonable assessment of the situation,but when I told her I bet he is going to suggest weight loss. The next words out of her mouth angered me . “Do you want to try weight loss first?” like of course , lets try the magic medical “solution” . Weight loss cures scoliosis yay , thanks mom . Not that my salsa classes and constant dance moves through out the day are enough to show I am physically active , I eat reasonably ( I am not going to say my diet is the healthiest , I have a sweet tooth) . Lets focus on weight loss cause that fixes everything .

  11. I am very, very thankful that I have a doctor who treats me appropriately. She has confirmed that I have metabolic syndrome (which is really just a fancy way of saying that I have a heap of correlated conditions, but they don’t know what – if anything – to do about it) and PCOS, which in turn confirms what I’ve believed for several years but about which I could never pin down my former doctor.

    When I said that I’d been off my meds for a little while due to cash flow, she hopped right on the computer with a “let’s see if we can’t fix that” attitude. She never mentioned my weight, and neither did the nurse. One tetanus shot, one prescription for aqua therapy for low/no-impact exercise, and a buncha refills and orders for labs later, I was out the door and feeling good about my doc, myself, and my health.

    This doc happens to be a very thin woman. I felt no judgment from her but appreciated her efficient, “can do” attitude.

    1. Helena! So happy you have a good doc! I hope that your health continues to be her priority and that your conditions are well maintained! Yay good doctor!

  12. Great video. I was appalled by the prescribing before examining even though I know this happens. In college, when I weighed much less than I do now (around 150 – I’m 5’8″), I went to the infirmary because I couldn’t swallow my own spit my throat hurt so badly. I was prescribed cough syrup and 15 pounds of weight loss. My sister finally dragged me off campus to a walk in-clinic where I was diagnosed with strep, mono and tonsillitis and told that I had a severe allergy to the black mold growing in our dorm’s bathroom and that I could’ve died from respiratory failure.

  13. What a superlative video, Ragen — you are so intelligent and articulate. I am not saying anything about thin women, average women, only fat women: Has anyone ever noticed how smart we are?

  14. I went to a surgical specialist about a getting a hernia repaired that was causing me pain. The jackass, I mean dr, said I should lose 160 pounds and come back. When I told him that was unreasonable. He disagreed and said that losing 160# was a very achievable gal.

    1. I just wonder if that Dr. Jackass would have the nerve to say that to a fat man because I have a feeling he would have ended up with a fat lip!

      1. I am a fat man. So he did have the nerve. I haven’t instigated violence since high school.

  15. I’ve had so many crappy experiences with doctors, from my pediatrician who told me, at 10 that if I didn’t lose weight, I would end up “having to have my clothes made by Omar the Tentmaker” (I was 5’4″ and 120 lbs and well into puberty at the time), to the heinous gyno in college who told me that my fasting blood sugar of 80 meant I was pre-diabetic and I would die from it if I didn’t lose weight (hello anorexia), to the neurologist I saw recently who told me he wouldn’t even look into what was causing my debilitating pain because I wouldn’t agree to lose weight. When I told him that all studies confirm it is not possible, he said he didn’t want to hear about studies, I either lost weight or he wouldn’t be treating me. I told him he most definitely would not be treating me.
    Oh, then there was the gastroenterologist who likes to try to bully me into losing weight, though I was seeing him because I couldn’t keep any food down. I finally told him to cut it out, showing him studies, which he said were “taken out of context…” and after he just hinted at all the ways my fat would kill me, like a guy who wants to have sex… like “You know what’s good for headaches… sex…” only with YOUR LIVER COULD BE FATTY, YOU’RE GONNA DIE! “Nope, my liver’s fine…” Oh, well, you know… yadda yadda, fat kills, blah.” Thankfully, without his help, I got my IBD under control so now I don’t have to see him anymore!

  16. Something that happened to me recently: I went to the doctor for my annual check up. The medication I was taking last year made me gain 25 lbs in one year, and I had just learned about it, since I don’t weigh myself often. So I was still processing this fact, getting used to it, and not very comfortable with it.
    My doctor asked me how much I weighed, and I told him, having weighed myself the day before.
    Then he insisted that I step on the scale in front of him. I asked if that was really necessary and told him that made me uncomfortable. He insisted, I did it, and the weight on the scale was exactly what I had told him. The whole thing was humiliating and frustrating. Why did he not trust me in the first place? Why could he not respect my feelings and the fact that I was uncomfortable to do that? I felt it was a kind of power trip on his part. I wish I could change doctors but it’s not easy where I live (family doctors who take new patients are difficult to find).

    1. Whether he was on a power trip or not, his insistence was unacceptable. I wonder what he would have done if you simply told him, “No.” I hope you can find a new doctor because this one has shown you he doesn’t trust you and does not care about your choices.

      1. Thank you for your support! The problem with just saying “no” is that I needed him to prescribe me something else, and I didn’t want to alienate him by sounding uncooperative. That’s what so frustrating about it. Having to be so vulnerable in front of someone who doesn’t respect my feelings.

    2. Doctors are told in medical school that people lie. They won’t write down what they really eat or drink. They won’t be honest about sexuality issues and they can’t be trusted.

      1. The worst part is that this is a self-fullfilling prophecy deal… since we KNOW that we won’t be believed, why should we tell them the truth?

        1. Yep. If you want me to be honest with you, don’t put me in a position where it’s not safe for me to be honest. See, if I tell a doctor how I normally eat, and they think “Wow, she admits to eating ice cream most days–I bet she’s polishing off three or four bowls a day,” then maybe if I say I have sweets pretty rarely, your assumption will come closer to the actual truth.

          And while we’re on the topic of honesty, I absolutely hate it when doctors lie to me about pain. No, a thyroid biopsy is not “about like an IV” (unless perhaps the phlebotomist is using the biggest needle they can find, and is also drunk).

  17. After losing my job and having a rough year i became depressed and had social anxiety. I only gave in to see a doctor when i had a really bad panic attack, When i explained my symptoms, i couldn’t get over the fact that it seemed like that doctor had never dealt with someone with anxiety problems before…when i finished, one of the first questions was “When did you..get like this..gain weight?” “Do you have insurance that covers weight loss surgery?” when i replied “No” he gave me the “OMG another lost cause..i don’t know what to do with this person” look..needless to say I felt worse and i never went back there again.

    1. The last experience I had with a doctor, which was actually a few years ago as I’ve been terrified to go back every since, revolved around mental health issues. I mentioned to my gyno that I thought I was depressed but had never been diagnosed. She not only made me feel like an idiot for saying anything about it but went on to say that it’s probably just “situational depression” (this was my first time meeting with her and she knew next to nothing about me) and that if I lost some weight, maybe took a walk around the block everyday I would be fine. Her comments completely shut me down. All I wanted was her to just stop talking about it. It also really shut down my desire to seek professional help for my possible depression.

      I saw her again the next year and in that time had gained a lot of weight and hadn’t realized it. She treated me very coldly and with disdain. I was very near hysterical in the office (pretty much focusing all my energy on not breaking down in front of her) and she read my blood pressure as so high I could have a stroke. She pretty much blamed this all on my weight and said that she couldn’t force me but thought I really needed to go across the street to the ER and get attention. She didn’t seem concerned that I was distraught as could be or that I was very nearly crying. I did break down into sobs the moment I left, and after driving around for about 15 minutes did go the ER. My blood pressure was a little high but normal. The doctor told me that there was a good chance the reading was wrong because the cuff didn’t go around my arm and next time to tell them to take it a different way. So yeah, I haven’t seen a doctor since.

      1. I’m so sorry you had to deal with such an utter fool. You deserve better. I hope you will think about checking out a different doctor. Not all of them are so horrible. If you let her scare you away from other docs, you end up punishing yourself because of her shitty behavior. You are worth more. *hugs*

  18. I was at a restaurant with my family recently and overheard the conversation of the people at the next table – a doctor with his wife and their friends. He was bitching and complaining about how people are acting less and less like patients, and more and more like customers, as if they know better than him. It was all I could do not to get up and interrupt his dinner to inform him that what he provides is a service and that we are consumers as well as patients and deserve to be considered in charge of our own health. That we are, in essence, hiring him as a consultant or a service provider to meet OUR health needs. We take our broken computers to an IT specialist, who works for US to diagnose and address a specific problem. Doctors are no different – they are not magic men who have some kind of divinely whispered knowledge that is unavailable to the rest of us. They are simply professionals in a particular field. Some of them are good at their jobs and some are not. I wanted to tell him to consider all these points whilst shoving his chips and salsa up his pompous ass. But I decided to enjoy my time with my family and mentally note his name and face so I would never have the misfortune of receiving medical care from him.

    1. belcanto29, you make such an important point. My husband is an RN in a hospital, and if people don’t think medicine is a business, they’ve never seen the inner workings of a hospital. We should think of ourselves as customers and ask ourselves if the way the doctor is behaving would be acceptable from any other service provider. When I lived in NYC, I heard about a patient who sent the doctor a bill for making him wait so long in the waiting room.

    2. True…and come to think of it…why on earth are they bitching and moaning? they aren’t getting paid minimum wage! Hey in reality some doctors shouldn’t even complain of fat patients, since it makes their jobs easy..they just look at us and say..Lose Weight.

  19. Personally, I’m quite angry and fed up with a majority of the medical community. I go to most doctors and either get treated like an idiot or a recalcitrant child. It’s rare that I can have an intelligent conversation with one. Yes, it has made me reluctant to go to doctors for fear of how they will act. I’m not embarrassed, I’m afraid of them. What happened to compassion in the medical community? I’ve had some really good doctors over the years but the vast majority have been jerks (and I include a female doctor in that comment.) I am not getting effective medical care. I know there are a couple things I should probably go get checked out but fear holds me back and I’m also afraid that is having a negative impact on my health as well. We really need a registry of fat friendly doctors.

  20. Just wanted to post on here to melorajohnson and any others that there ARE several options for finding fat-friendly doctors and medical professionals. Unfortunately, they don’t list a LOT of people, but it’s always worth a look:

    Fat-Friendly Physicians and Health Professionals List

    ASDAH — “Find HAES Expert” on left-hand side

    Linda Bacon’s HAES Community member search

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.