Thursday, August 17, 2017

Weight discrimination can affect health


...And health care.

Recently, a team from Connecticut College surveyed studies and found that disrespectful treatment and fat shaming to get people to change their behavior can cause patients to avoid treatment or even consulting a doctor altogether.

I am, ahem, no skinny and at age 40, gave up on the constant dieting. I also refused to get weighed at the doctor's office, because I had had doctors blame every complaint and symptom on my weight (one time even a strep throat) . I got a number of reactions to this refusal...One physician said get weighed or leave. I left. Another made me turn my back to the scale. Recently, because I was facing surgery and drugs based on weight, I had to return to the scale--the nurse said it's in kilograms, don't worry about it. Another said she never wanted to know the number, either.

Is the latter a change of attitude? I don't know.

More serious is the attitude you can detect in a doctor--of disgust, disdain, impatience. The study revealed that fat patients are often told to just lose weight, while the so-called normals are given batteries of tests.

In a study of over 300 autopsy reports, obese patients were 1.65 times more like to have undiagnosed conditions, indicating missed diagnosis.

Some doctors also prescribe the same doses for an overweight person as a normal weight person--resulting in underdosing.

And then there are the microaggressions. Doctors are people out in the world--they may share the same distaste for overweight people as many in the rest of the population. They may refuse to even touch a fat person to examine them. They may see the weight in the chart and wince or roll their eyes.

Medicalizing weight means weight is seen as a disease and loss as a cure. This assumes that weight is well within a person's control--more weight thus means poor health habits. Many, if not most, overweight people do not eat cheeseburgers r whole cakes all day. Many exercise. Other predictors of illness--notice, I say predictors not cause--are genetics, diet, stress, and poverty. And maybe bearing the weight of stigma?

Fat shaming is also prevalent in the social media--resulting in bullying.

All this leads to stigma, to feeling "less than" all day.

I once had a doctor tell me to walk an hour a day. I could not think of a good reason not to, so I did--for years. When I went back to her after a year, I said, I am walking. She said, well, I hadn't lost weight so she didn't buy it.

Never went back to her.

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