Only A Healthcare System Rooted in Fatphobia…

Bad DoctorIn the US we have a healthcare system that is rooted in fatphobia.  This is demonstrated to fat people in numerous, sometimes dangerous and even life-threatening, ways:

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • would create hospitals and clinics without rooms, furniture, or medical devices that accommodate fat people – despite the fact that these items exist, and these centers knew that they will be called upon to treat fat patients when they built the buildings and bought the supplies.

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • could create a world where thin people are encouraged to eat whole foods, slow foods, and locally grown foods, but fat people are encouraged to join weight loss schemes that deliver frozen food in a baggies to us to be microwaved and consumed, or include 5 reconstituted soy protein shakes a day that are even less successful than they are rational.

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • would create a situation where fat people’s actual health concerns are shrugged off by doctors who are desperate to focus on their body size instead, such that thin people get evidence-based health interventions and fat people get diets that have basically no chance of making us thin or healthy (which are two separate things.)

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia:

  • would consider it ethical for a doctor to recommend amputating someone’s perfectly healthy stomach  – leading to possible death, horrific lifelong complications, and malnutrition – so that they the patient can shop in “regular” clothing stores, or walk in high heels

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia:

  • would prescribe fat people dangerous drugs that can kill us, have almost no chance of of making us thinner in the long term, or healthier (again – two separate things)

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia

  • would create a world where thin people with type 2 diabetes are given insulin and other evidence-based treatments, but fat people are given a surgery that amputates a perfectly healthy, functioning organ and often results in dying, or a lifetime of horrific side effects far worse than type 2 diabetes.

Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia:

  • would create a situation where fat people consistently have a completely rational fear that our doctors will kill us, either through a lack of competent care, or an excess of negligent care

We need a healthcare system that acknowledges the natural diversity of body sizes and the fact that even if doctors believe (sans evidence) that making fat people look like thin people would make us healthier, there isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at significant long term weight loss, so they have literally no idea how to get it done.

We need a healthcare system that actively wants to support the health of people of all sizes, rather than trying to make everyone the same size and only caring about people’s actual health if/when they are not fat. We need a healthcare system that is not rooted in fatphobia and the good news is, it’s entirely possible to have one.  If you want to read more, this piece by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor is a great place to start.

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28 thoughts on “Only A Healthcare System Rooted in Fatphobia…

  1. Sadly it’s just going to get worse and worse. People like me with diseases and issues (I have Alzheimer’s and my wife has mobility issues that affect her) will die before we see good health care. My wife and I will die so rich people can get richer. I want people to know that. I’m very fat, so is my wife and I’ve never recieved good medical care because weight loss is always the primary focus. Now we have a ruthless dictator in power who wants to make his rich friends richer and barely anyone will bat an eye when people like me and my wife die from his policies. I know I’m speaking to people who know this here, but it needs to me said: my wife and I will die because of mal treatment of fat people and making rich people richer.

    1. So so sorry to read this. I cant even imagine how difficult it is right now to have ongoing health issues, poor healthcare, and fat discrimination on top of that. I know this comment is no help but just feel badly for your situation and so many others.

      1. The part that really got me was my original doctor calling my Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes and trying to make it sound like it was my fault because I was overweight and had high blood sugar that I got Alzheimer’s disease. It was so unfair and it almost seem like he just wanted to warehouse me and put me away in a home even though I need to take care of my wife because she has mobility issues and can’t really exist without me. So instead of trying to treat me like you would a thin person, who if I’m not mistaken also get Alzheimer’s disease he wanted to just put me away in a home for my own safety is what he told me. Instead of trying to treat me it was just put me in a home. Instead of trying to treat me it was just put me in a home. And I can only imagine how much worse that’s going to get now the doctors are under so much pressure with the new Trump care to just make more and more money for their insurance masters.

  2. This is so very true. I have had three healthy pregnancies and never ever has the obgyn office nor the hospital labor and delivery floor EVER had gowns in my size. Every dr visit I was told to “just make it fit” or “just cover with the paper”. I insisted on having a gown brought in that fit me every time. But couldnt someone just make a note that whenever I came in the “regular” gowns were not going to fit and the staff could just be prepared. I mean the gowns were available the staff just didnt keep them in that office and on that floor. It was always a big embarassing ordeal of the nurses having to go find a big big gown. Goodness. The last check I had after delivery I was told to just walk down the hall naked to the scan room. Hell No! For people that dont mind great but I do mind and I prefer to be covered. That was 13 years ago and sadly nothing has changed. Like most other fat people I could go on and on with one incident after another. I finally found a wonderful PCP and she has never once made my weight an issue. I told her I didnt want to be weighed and she said that was fine unless it ever became needed to determine dosage or some other necessary reason. Its so refreshing she treats me in the same manner as slender people that present with an illness. She has no problem touching me during an exam or looking at me while talking to me. But this is the first time to receive such treatment and Im a lifetime fatty in my late 40’s so what does that tell ya? The struggle to find quality care is real.

    1. The gown issue is the weirdest one for me, with the addition of a couple of ties, some elastic and a bit of Velcro you could make a gown fit any size smaller than the largest one it can comfortably fit.

      You’d need to make 2 or 3 different sizes to cover the fullest range of options and make in 3 different lengths. Then you could cover far more people comfortably.

      1. Fitting into a hospital gown should be easy. But only the smaller ones were kept in those areas. I wear a size 24 top and size 18 bottom so there is no way that the “regular” gowns would even cross my shoulders. But when my very large father went in for surgery there was no problem getting him gowns that fit. So is it more a statement against fat females? I was told I should purchase my own gown. Then I asked how much my bill would be reduced for providing for myself items that were provided for smaller people. You are so right elastic,velcro, and ties. Easy fix if someone cared enough to do it.

    2. Those damn gowns! At least they told me ahead of time to bring my bathrobe.

      I had a knee injury years ago, when I was smaller than I am now and could easily find clothes in the local Big Box store. The only place within driving distance that provided knee braces did not carry them in my size and had no idea where to find one.

      They gave me a bottomless prescription for muscle relaxants and nothing else. And sent me home.

      If somebody who’d been through it before hadn’t asked me how my PT was going, I wouldn’t have known that I was supposed to be getting any.

      Because fat.

      (I got PT in time.)

  3. This is not fat-related, but healthcare related. My roommate finally got health insurance for the first time in her adult life because of ACA, and felt like she’d been let into some secret club. She didn’t have to worry about paying immediately or put off care.

    The system is so messed up, that as appalled as I am by fat people being treated poorly, I’m really not surprised.

    I have enough thin privilege that I don’t have problems other fat people do, and I feel extremely fortunate that I’ve only had one care provider harp on me losing weight. As she’s my current provider, I really need to find a new one. I don’t really trust someone that tells a diabetic to fast.

  4. OK, 1 – Doctors should not encourage anyone to wear high heels, because they simply are not good for you. Unless you’re a cowboy, and you need the heels for riding, there is no practical reason to wear them.

    2 – Only a healthcare system rooted in fat phobia would refuse to let fat people donate their bodies to medical schools, for the medical students to study, and use for surgery practice. And then, once they are out in the real world, dealing with LIVE patients, they have no clue how to treat us! For US, they learn via trial and error, whereas for thin patients, they learn via actual study and practice!

    1. There was actually a news story tonight about high heels that women are required to wear in restaurants as waitresses. Most have bleeding feet and toes by the end of shift, can’t walk, and after 12 yrs of her job one woman can’t even feel her toes. The legislatures of BC and AB are discussing it now to ensure gender equality.

      1. Food service? Nobody should be wearing high heels in food service. That is horrific!

        And any job that would require its employees to regularly injure and mutilate their feet, for a stupid dress code, needs to be sued out of existence. For goodness’ sake, you’d think they’d want to encourage health and safety (and good shoes) if only to avoid all the workers’ comp claims.

        They DO get workers’ comp, right? RIGHT?!


        1. Not just their feet. Wearing high heels (or heels of any kind, even low ones) causes major damage to your ankles, knees, pelvis and spine, as well as all the muscles holding them together. Once in awhile you can probably get away with wearing a heel, but no one should be wearing them regularly and especially not a job where you’re on your feet all day.

        2. I don’t know if they complained, or were allowed to complain and keep their jobs. I feel bad for them. The men weren’t required to wear heals. That’s why I don’t even bother applying for those jobs, as I can’t stand for long in flat shoes.

  5. So many blatantly obvious bits. a bigger gown with ties will fit more patients that a small er “one size fits all” and they know it, it really is an open conspiracy to shame, badger and humiliate into not being fat anymore any one perceived as just too big (esp women) they are so brainwashed half of them don’t even know. And they don’t want to anyway, part of the privilege is is the not knowing and part the benefits that come with the privilege what ever it is and it is always tied to a good life and a long healthy life (assumed). They know and they either don’t care or benefit from the cross the board practices of discrimination. I am not sure which part is more false” “Health” or “Care”? But it certainly is a System… In all intents and purposes, social, moral, financial, physical. Answer don’t be fat. That’s all they mean. But then no fat would put an end to the Multi Billion Dollar diet harassment and weight loss schemes of the country.

  6. I had my mammo this AM and they had gowns in many, many sizes. Each one had a variety of ties so they were readily adjustable. This was a specialty breast center and you could just tell they were interested in making the experience equally comfortable for ALL. I wish everyone were that fortunate!

    1. Oh, and this: “Only a healthcare system rooted in fatphobia could create a world where thin people are encouraged to eat whole foods, slow foods, and locally grown foods, but fat people are encouraged to join weight loss schemes that deliver frozen food in a baggies to us to be microwaved and consumed, or include 5 reconstituted soy protein shakes a day that are even less successful than they are rational.” ZOMG YES THIS SO TRUE.

    2. Where I have this done they only provide a cape, opening in front, which barely covers the bottom of my 50+-year-old breasts, and then parade you down a hall wearing this breezy embarrassing garment. Seriously? A gown over the cape just to get down the hall would make me feel a bit less vulnerable in what is always an uncomfortable situation.

  7. Hi Raven,
    I just got home from the Dr., one I have never been to before. I was there to talk about the chest pain and heart palpitations I’ve been having. I was diagnosed with being fat. He gave me paperwork to take to get blood work done, which I thought was about my heart (I didn’t look at it, just stuffed it in my purse). I get home and read it, and he typed, “severely morbidly obese” on like 5 different places on the paperwork. I was like what the mother fucking FUCK?????? I weigh like 280 or something and I’m 5’11”. That’s not severely or morbidly anything. So I called back and asked the receptionist to please tell the doctor that I know I’m fat, I have mirrors at home, and I was there to talk about my heart, not being fat, which is not a problem, there’s nothing wrong with me. Fucking doctors. Sorry my comment is so long. I just had to tell someone what happened to me. Thank you.

    1. I am 5′ 4″ and about 370. Even my doc doesn’t write severely morbidly obese on ANYTHING. God these guys are imbeciles (oh sorry PHd imbeciles). My doc is a woman (small thin), broached weight loss surgery once I said “No.” and heard nothing more about it. Now if I go see ANYONE else, specialist, physical therapist, it will come up again. imagine if I wen’t for a hearing test the audiologist would have some theory on severely morbid weight and hearing loss and suggest barriatric surgery…

      1. Thanks Jen. I guess I should have said up front that I don’t want to hear anything about my weight? I don’t know.

        1. I don’t know, That might make the doc think it is OK to question you on it. be nice if they would just go patient first then patient complaint and then leave fat bias till the END of the appointment! Give it the old college try and then drop it!

    2. Due to the fun rules about having to tell patients they’re obese, I now leave my allergist’s office after each visit with a piece of paper that lists my “active” problems: asthma, seasonal allergy, obesity.

      It’s so ridiculous. He’s never mentioned my weight. I have other active health conditions (bad cartilage in one knee, IBS, etc), but they don’t have to list (or even know about) those.

      After seeing an orthopedist one time for a fractured wrist, I received a really egregious letter, saying that at my recent visit they had “noticed” I was obese and listing the health problems associated with obesity.

      For fuck’s sake–I know, I know, I KNOW I’m fat. It just feels like harassment.

      1. It is harassment! Do they type, “ugly, funny-looking, and older than dirt” on other patients paperwork? No, I don’t think so! It’s so stupid.

      2. You know what I bet it is. Insurance claims issues. I have seen my print outs at the end of every visit and it lists the reason for visit at the top and the last three or four visits and then standard fare and somewhere at the bottom obesity. An “undisclosed” but always diagnosed condition that is just part of my medical chart… I bet it is insecure related everything has to be by the book and have a code for billing purposes.
        I wonder if some where a guy is going home with a piece of paper that says erectile dysfunction, excessive sweating, acne…

        1. I do know one reason they weigh me at each visit is insurance. I usually just step up, since I don’t mind, but o the occasion of the fractured wrist, I was x-rayed one day and came back the next for more views. I was tired and in pain and in a hurry, and when the nurse asked me to step on the scale I said I’d just be weighed twelve hours before, was not bloating, and could assure her my weight had not changed significantly.

          She seemed flustered and then said, “Well, I have to get three vitals for our insurance billing–I’ll just take your temperature instead.”

          And here I thought they took those vitals for diagnostic purposes. Silly me.

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