Home Health and Health Care Doctors, Bedside Manner, and Weight: Fat Prejudice in Health Care

Doctors, Bedside Manner, and Weight: Fat Prejudice in Health Care

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I know I’ve written about this before… but if not, I don’t mind saying this again:

I remember being in high school.. and my doctor never – never – mentioned my weight. I can’t say, for sure, exactly why that was… but this very cheery, young, happy doctor would tell me “Well, you’re 215lbs, but that’s ok.. you’re just tall.” He wouldn’t look at last years chart to see whether or not I’d gained 20lbs in one year. He wouldn’t talk to me about food or activity levels at all. He’d just bypass the subject altogether.

I’d eventually go on to gain weight at a pretty ridiculous rate for the next few years.

Needless to say, I didn’t experience that which I’m about to write about… but that doesn’t mean I can’t highlight the confusion, here.

Welcome to First, Do No Harm: Real Stories of Fat Prejudice in Health Care. This is a website that chronicles stories of medical bias and prejudice occuring between doctors and their patients.

Every so often, I get someone who comments about their doctors and how uncomfortable their doctors have made them in regards to their health. There’s even a tale on this site of a woman who’s doctor clearly overlooked signs of pneumonia because the doctor wanted to primarily focus on the patient’s weight. It’s easy to see that many of us fear going to the doctor – something all too common in the Black community – but you’ve got to admit, this poses a big problem for us. For those of us who can move beyond the “Ahhh, I don’t neeeeed to go to no damn doctor” attitude and actually go… if we – Black Americans, of whom, approximately 60% are overweight – go to the doctor and are met with bedside manner like that mentioned below… how many of us will actually keep going?

Last April, after four months of hard exercise and healthy eating with only four pounds of weight lost, my mom suggested I get tested for hypothyroidism. She had recently lost about 40-50 pounds after getting her hypothyroidism under control, and it had also been diagnosed in my grandfather, aunt, and cousin. Considering it’s hereditary, I figured I might as well and set an appointment with a doctor at Austin Regional Clinic to get tested. I’d heard a lot of negative feedback about ARC, mostly that they treat illnesses, but don’t deal with/care for preventative treatments. They were the only people I could afford that took the s—ty insurance I had though, so I really didn’t have much of a choice.

When the doctor came in to see me, she didn’t even look me in the eyes before she flipped a page on her chart and said, “You know you’re obese, right?” She didn’t even make fucking EYE CONTACT with me before she just came out with her b—s— BMI calculations to tell me that I needed to lose weight. I said, “Well yeah, that’s why I’m here. I work out hard and nothing happens, so we thought it might be a thyroid problem.” She lectured me for a bit about needing to eat better and work out longer, but didn’t let me explain that I do eat well and I do work out.

The most commonly accepted threshold for TSH levels is 5.0, but I had read some studies saying that the reason those TSH levels were so high was that there were a lot of people with untreated hypothyroidism included in the studies to determine the average. My mom’s doctor, who spotted and subsequently treated my mom’s hypo, follows a couple of studies that came out a few years ago saying that the recommended TSH levels are actually 3.0, with another expected drop to 2.5 in the next few years. To accurately diagnose hypothyroidism though, you need to compare those TSH levels to triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc, and you can’t base a positive or negative diagnosis just on TSH levels. It also helps to have a family history when diagnosing, so you can determine when the spike in TSH levels generally occurs in your family, but when I tried to tell her about the other members of my close/immediate family that experienced this, she shushed me.

After the embarrassing lecture from the completely inept doctor, I tried to bring up the new studies with the lower TSH levels, but I was so frazzled and she was so uninterested that she wrote me off with what amounted to “I’m a doctor and you’re not so shut up.” She shuffled me off to the lab so I could get my blood tested, without telling me what she was actually going to test. I guess I figured “she’s a doctor so she knows what she’s doing” and didn’t question the lab tech about what was on my chart. I got an automated call two days later with my results, a TSH of 2.56, but no explanation or diagnosis of those results.

I called and left three messages for the doctor before getting a returned call from her one week later. She succinctly said, “You don’t have hypothyroidism,” and when I asked her about the other aspects she was supposed to test, she said, “I decided not to test those.” When I told her about the specific scientific journals where I read about the new TSH levels, she basically said she hadn’t read/heard about that and didn’t really care.

I was talking to my mom over Christmas about something I thought was entirely unrelated (okay it was constipation you guys, are you happy?) and she said that was something she experienced a lot of before she started getting her thyroid under control. I went home and looked at related symptoms for hypothyroidism, besides unmanageable weight, and it was basically like a checklist of s— I deal with that I thought was just my own bad luck – unnaturally heavy and unreliable periods, very dry skin, sensitivity to cold, brittle nails, and achy muscles.

So now here I am, almost a year later, and still basically the same exact weight. I work out HARD for about 1.5 hours a day, I eat remarkably well, and have even started eating m—–f—– vegetables. I do everything a person is supposed to do to lose weight, and I’ve made practically no progress. My mom and I have decided that I really need to be tested again, and this time by a doctor who actually knows her s— and not some worthless s—head at ARC.

Which leaves me in a jam. I am broke. I make like negative dollars in my paycheck, and I have a lot of bills to pay every month. I don’t have $100 to spare on a monthly basis, but I need insurance if I want to get this treated. My only other option is to pay $353 for the initial tests and hope the doctor can figure everything out on the first try because I can’t imagine being able to scrape that together more than once.

What would you do? Would you stay chubby and hate yourself a little more every day, while losing the will to continue working so hard to lose weight and because you see absolutely no results? Or would you go into debt in the hopes that you do have hypothyroidism and all of this could change, while risking the chance that it isn’t and you’re back to square one? [source]


I’m 22 and I have multiple mental illnesses – complex PTSD, OCD, social anxiety disorder, depression and a sleep disorder – most of which are the result of surviving rape and sexual abuse. I’ve had disordered eating for most of my life, which is currently manifesting as compulsive overeating disorder.

I had lap-band surgery in 2007 and lost a lot of weight, but my doctors kept telling me I needed to lose more. My psychiatrist told me that she thought my social phobia would go away if I achieved a ‘nice figure’. Since my metabolism has been affected by the various medications I’m on, as well as years of yo-yo dieting, it is exceedingly difficult for me to get to a BMI below 28.

My psychiatrist decided to adjust my medication 8 months ago, which caused me to start regaining weight. Since the new antidepressants didn’t work, bingeing was the only way for me to regulate my emotions in order to stay alive. I am now back on the original antidepressant, but it hasn’t been as effective since then.

I saw her a few days ago. Within the first 10 minutes she started attacking me about my weight. It started with the usual spiel about the supposed link between high weight and various diseases, but she seemed angry which was out of character for her. I calmly told her that my weight gain was mostly due to a higher dose of anti-psychotics (which I take to get to sleep). I admitted that I had been eating more, but said that if I didn’t binge I would probably kill myself. She responded by saying, “You are killing yourself” (meaning I would give myself diabetes or hypertension). I told her that I didn’t wish to discuss it any further. When she persisted, in an increasingly censorious tone, I got up to leave and told I wasn’t there to be lectured about being fat. She told me that I was being irrational and making ridiculous accusations. I have low self-esteem and am very sensitive to criticism, so this made me feel as though I’d been struck.

At this point I was sobbing and feeling like I was watching myself from outside my body. I now realise that I was having a panic attack. I thought the gate was locked and I was waiting for her to unlock it (she works from her home and has a locked gate in front of the door for security). Feeling trapped is especially triggering for me because I was raped in a locked house when I was 13. I was struggling to breathe, and being ordered to “stop hyperventilating” wasn’t helping matters. I told her, between sobs, that my problem was my trauma and not the fact that I’m fat. I also kept saying that I wanted to leave. When she asked me why I didn’t just leave, I told her that I couldn’t get out. This seemed to enrage her, and she said, “You’ve been coming here for 6 years and you know you can always open the door, you’re being ridiculous”. I didn’t know this because she is always the one to open the door and the gate and I hadn’t thought to check whether the key was in the lock (which it was).

I left feeling like my stomach had been ripped open. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so betrayed in my life. I’ve told her every detail of every trauma I have, and I trusted her completely. It’s very hard for me to trust anyone, and I’m so angry with her for making it even harder. I don’t know how she can justify what she said when she knows that I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts and that I’m not able to handle any more stress at the moment. I’m scared that I’ll have to either stop taking my medication when my prescription runs out or go through the hell of trying to find another psychiatrist, who most likely will turn out to be just as ignorant and judgmental as she did. [source]

One more, sigh:

When I was 10 years old I went my pediatrician for tonsil problems. However, all that seemed important after getting off the scale was my weight. While I was sitting there in terrible pain from tonsillitis (which I’ve been seemingly getting monthly my whole life), he just kept going on about how dangerous it was that I was 10 pounds “overweight.” He guaranteed her that I’d get type 2 diabetes. This is not the first time my doctor visit has went like so. As soon as I was at risk of being “overweight” when I was about nine, he’s been telling my mom to put me on a diet.

In fact, my parents have already tried to put me on a diet. They’ve been trying since I was 8 years old. After that doctor visit my parents humiliated me and said they’d pay me $10 for every 10 lbs I lose. I decided to go on a diet. By the time I was 12 I was 5’5′ and 72 lbs. I was very underweight and couldn’t go to the mall without passing out from exhaustion. My mom brought me to a doctor to see if I was anorexic. I would not admit it then but I was. I ate no more that 400 calories a day and thought about nothing but calories. We went to my pediatrician (the same one as earlier) and he said that I was going through what all teenagers do as far as worrying about my weight and that my parents shouldn’t worry. I ended up having to go to the emergency room a week later because I was unable to defecate in over a month due to starving myself. After that ordeal I was sent to a eating disorder clinic. Point being, my doctor saw being 10 pounds “overweight” and even at risk of being “overweight” as a serious issue. Anorexia however, was not. [source]

I have words for this… but I’m not going to share them just yet. What are your thoughts? Have you experienced this kind of fat prejudice? Has it affected your desire and willingness to visit your physician? How prevalent do you think this is in our community?

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Jubilance September 14, 2010 - 10:54 AM

OMG those stories were horrible! I cannot imagine.

I recently got a new gyno & she was the first doctor to talk to me about my weight. She has a lot of PCOS patients, and even though I don’t have it, she still counseled me about my weight. She was perfectly nice about it & I talked to her about the weight I had already lost (I was down about 15 pounds when I saw her). She recommended a low-GI diet, which is pretty much what I follow being a Primal eater.

Anyway, it seems like doctors either have 2 extremes – ignore the weight completely or be a jerk & think that a person who is fat is a lazy slob who eats all day. Both are dangerous but the latter really is. There are plenty of medical reasons that make a person gain weight & assuming its all their fault & just a willpower issue means that the doctor isn’t doing their job in looking for the possible medical cause.

Ebony September 14, 2010 - 11:49 AM

I have absolutely experienced this. Unfortunately, like the last example, I once had a pediatrician tell me when I was six or seven years old that I was fat. Not that I needed to slim down, or any other more gentle explanation. He straight out called a 1st grader FAT. And didn’t understand why this was a bad thing to do.

Later in life, I developed an aversion to going to the doctor unless absolutely necessary because on so many occasions I’ve gone for severe symptoms (including a trip the ER for severe sharp pains in my head that would not go away after taking Tylenol w/ Codeine!), only to have some doctor ignore everything I said, tell me to take some Advil (which I said at the beginning of the meeting WAS NOT working), and lecture me for 20 minutes on how I needed to cut my carbs (which I wasn’t eating a lot of) and lose weight.

That man so nearly got my foot stuck in his you know where… UGH.

Anywho, I had a bunch of bizarre symptoms, but everyone only wanted to tell me to lose weight so I stopped going to the doctor and did my own research (turns out I have Gluten Intolerance, most likely Celiac Disease). I totally understand all of these experiences. Being overweight is not the source of everything that ails you. In some cases it could be the byproduct of something much worse. It’s a shame that a doctor would rather lecture you about something you already know you have to deal with, rather than assist you with the issue you actually came in to talk about…

Kim September 14, 2010 - 1:14 PM

Yes, I have experienced weight prejudice at doctors’ offices. My solution? Go to a new doctor. I’m thankful that I have health insurance that allows me to switch practitioners (unlike some folks who have had to stick with physicians who obviously were not trying to hear them at all). I wish that I had the nerve to write a letter or otherwise let these doctors know why I refused to see them again, but I just don’t have the time or energy.

BlackBerry Molasses September 14, 2010 - 4:47 PM

I had one unfortunate experience that caused me to find my fabulous doctor. I was having severely painful periods and abdominal bloating– and after me being my own damn doctor at since this horrible GYN practice wasn’t LISTENING to me, I was finally diagnosed with fibroids and large ovarian cysts. The surgeon that practice wanted to put me in the hands of seemed genuinely disinterested in doing my surgery, because of my size (hell, I’m not that big– and even if I was, SO WHAT?). Even on the sonography report it said something to the effect of “suboptimal visualization due to lg (large) body habitus”. Excuse me?

This surgeon actually proposed removing my ovaries altogether. Saying that the reduction in estrogen would help me lose weight (seriously dude? I’m a healthcare practitioner as well. that’s a bunch of bunk!)Taking the ovaries of a young married woman who wants to have a family… are you kidding me?

Luckily, since I didn’t trust this doctor as far as I could throw him, I was seeing my current doctor who also happens to be a family friend, and a specialist in reproductive endocrinology. When I told her what he had said, she was incredulous (to put it mildly). She performed my surgery, takes excellent care of me and actually talks to me about how I’m caring for my body overall, not just my weight.

Kristina Brooke September 14, 2010 - 6:56 PM

The first story really touched me as it could be my story.

I was where she is until this February. I had insurance but all of my previous doctors were not listening. Then I decided to have weight loss surgery and I was sent for extensive blood test that the surgeon requested. He mentioned that I had all the symptoms but my regular blood work was not showing anything. After the test I was diagnosed with HypoParathyrodism (which is not quite a thyroid problem but has many of the same symptoms). Anyway, I did go on thyroid meds and lost weight (22 pounds in 3 weeks) but the meds have some bad long-term effects. So I researched natural remedies and began learning as much about it as possible. http://www.naturalways.com/thyroid.htm

Please find a new doctor. Go to a clinic. Lie and tell the doctor that you have been having heart palpitation- whatever you need to get them to run a full array of test. Don’t worry about paying- medical bills don’t accrue interest so!

Gloria May 1, 2012 - 4:01 PM

Thanks for the link, Kristina! 😀

Kait September 14, 2010 - 10:24 PM

As someone who is in the process of applying for medical school, these stories both anger and scare me. Yes there are legitimate medical issues associated with being overweight. And yes carrying extra weight may cause some medically-related difficulties. But regardless, it is not my job (nor any physician or physician-in-training’s) to judge, criticize, or do ANYTHING but attempt to serve a patient.

Though I have never personally experienced this prejudice, I have had some awful experiences with insensitive, rude, and incompetent doctors who have left me alone feeling scared and vulnerable. I pray that I will never lose sight of my beliefs about medicine as a healing vocation and that I will never treat any patient in this way.

Missb1203 September 15, 2010 - 8:52 AM

These stories made my heart leap into my chest. My mother is going through a similar experience. My mother was unenmployed for a period of time. This resulted in her losing her house and seemingly broke her spirit. During that period of time my mother gained alot of weight. She is also going through menopause and had an hysterectomy two years ago. She says she just cant motivated to get out of the bed some days. She has asked her doctor over and over to perhaps test her for depression etc. Instead of listening to her concerns, the doctor gave a forty five year old woman who has high blood pressure phentermine and told her to start walking. While i acknowledge that weight loss would probably alleviate her body aches and back pain, alot of the time doctors ignore what their patients are going through emotionally. Some of them treat their patients like cattle. They hand you your meds and send you on your merry way. And emotional/psychological problems can take a huge toll on your motivation to eat right and exercise. Why should i exercise or eat these veggies and fruits when i cant even get out the bed? it really is a shame.

Tina Fite September 15, 2010 - 5:59 PM

I’m dealing with a various version of this right now. I am a military spouse and in order for me to leave with my husband next month to move overseas, I have to go through an overseas screening. They will not send you to the next duty station if the facilities on that base cannot care for all your needs. Well, since I did not receive care on base and went through an outside source for care, I had to get my records copied to give to my overseas screener. Now, mind you, I have been with my doctor for four years and he has only mentioned that I needed to lose weight, even further suggesting methods that would help that process such as Jenny Craig or Curves. However, my beef with him is that he never mentioned the problem. It’s like a math teacher giving the answer of “2” but not telling you the problem of 1 + 1 =?

Today, yes, today 9/15/2010, I discovered (yes, I read the medical copies) that I had been having some serious medical issues since 2006 that could have prevented my hospital stay in February of this year had I known about them. I had no idea that my cholesterol (which is under control now thanks to a hospital stay earlier this year which ultimately revealed many issues to which I have eager responded with a 60+ lbs weight loss since March 2010) was 207 or that my LDL was 135. Not once did he mention that in 2006, I was past the verge of being the “borderline diabetic” that he said I was at that time and that I was a full-fledged diabetic. Now I do know that medical guidelines change from time to time, but as I stated, I have been going to him for four years and if there were changes to any of those issues, I had no idea what was going on in me, and I trusted him enough to listen to the statement that I just needed to lose weight.

I am upset because as a person with PCOS, we are more susceptible to things such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We have to keep a check on all things and harmonize our bodies as soon as possible to get the best usage out of our bodies. By not knowing this, I have been charged with holding unnecessary guilt towards myself for not being able to have a child, for continuously gaining weight without explanation and for not understanding the true need to lose the weight. However, as my wise-beyond-his-years husband said earlier today, it is not so much about what happened in the past as it is about what are you going to do about it now. So now that I know better, I’m doing even more preventative work by going totally holistic.

If anything, I would say to make sure you at least know and have records of your most recent blood work and learn how to read it. It is well within your rights to request a copy of them for your personal usage. Because what the doctors may not tell you can be found on that piece of paper they shove in your medical file as they simply tell you to lose weight. And that could mean the difference in the type of health you have from that point of time on. Just a thought…

Msladee September 17, 2010 - 10:15 AM

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days as I’ve experienced medical foolishness so many times, it’s unreal (I have a scar behind my ear from my 4 surgery on it to prove it). Anyway, if these “doctors” were publicly held accountable for such shenanigans, they would lose their clients with options. I definitely wouldn’t go to any of the doctors described above if I knew who they were. If you can’t treat me before or during my weight loss journey, I certainly don’t want your help at the maintaining level. Yes, doctors provide so many wonderful things, but at the end of the day, they are SERVICE workers too, and they can be replaced.

Adrianne September 20, 2010 - 11:27 PM

I experienced poor medical treatment with an OB/GYN. He was extremely popular (it took weeks to get an appointment) and seemed really proud of the “thousands” of women he’d “helped.” He was recommended by my GP because I’d been experiencing unnaturally painful periods for months that she suspected might be related to fibroids or endometriosis and this doctor was considered an “expert” on the issue.

At our first meeting, he immediately harped on my weight and said that any reproductive problems I had were because of my “excessive” weight. My husband came for support, but the doctor said that he was glad my husband was there because “women should not make reproductive decisions without their spouses.” I was like, hey, nobody said a darn thing about babies. Plus my husband and I had decided long ago that babymaking wasn’t in our future. I mentioned that and he immediately pooh-poohed that and said, “You’ll change your mind but it will be nearly impossible to conceive at your weight and if you do, you’ll be high risk.” He also said that even if hysterectomy was my best medical option, he refused to do that on women as long as they were of childbearing age.

I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. He listened to NOTHING I said. Dr. Giggles had a better bedside manner! I should’ve walked away then, but I was so desperate to relieve my symptoms and he was supposed to be the “best.”

The final straw was in the middle of a follow-up visit, he said he wanted to do a uterine biopsy. He failed to explain why that was necessary but said that it wouldn’t be as invasive as a pap smear. Well, I’ve had those before and while uncomfortable, are usually bearable. There is a HUGE difference between grabbing cultures for a smear and actually REMOVING tissue for testing. It was terribly painful. When I started crying, the nurse that was present immediately grabbed my hand. When I practically broke it, she said with horror in her voice, “Did you take any pain meds? It shouldn’t hurt this bad.” I told her I didn’t know he was going to do this. She gave him the meanest look. The doctor said, “Please, this procedure used to require an overnight stay in the hospital. You should be glad you can go home today.” I had no idea walking into that appointment that day that I would be having a surgical procedure! Before he left, while I was still in tears, he instructed the nurse to give me a maxi pad, telling her to do her best to “find one that will fit.”

Needless to say, after that I went back to my GP and asked for another referral. My new doctor was so wonderful, she made me realize just how awful the prior one was and I got angry. I made a lengthy complaint to my state medical board and told them that I would follow up to make sure that my complaint had been taken seriously. They definitely paid attention when I mentioned that a surgical procedure was performed on me without prior notice. He received a formal letter regarding the complaint, but he was not censured. I don’t think he lost sleep over it, but it at least made me feel better about standing up for myself and perhaps if the next person he mistreats makes a complaint, there will be record to back them up.

Rebecca December 29, 2010 - 10:30 PM

Late to the show on this post–but I have PCOS too and I am just going to have to say that MOST doctors have no clue what they are doing when it comes to this syndrome. Yup, I said it. I have story similar to the one above and from reviewing message boards and talking with women I am going to say the malfeasance is rampant.

Debbie Estelle January 25, 2011 - 12:18 PM

These stories are so sad! The first one and last in particular. 🙁

There seems to be a disconnect between doctor’s wanting patients at a healthy weight and prejustice and/or frustration when they feel that patients aren’t doing what it takes to ‘care’ for themselves.

In the second situation it seems like a HUGE misunderstanding. (At least to me). It seems the doctor was frustrated that after 6 years she didn’t think her patient was doing her own part to care for herself. Did she take it kind of personal? Seems so… But she, too, is human.

I know of situations in where patients are told to do certain things as part of treatment and a doctor can (also) feel betrayed and angry if they feel the patient hasn’t done what is necessary to aid in their own treatment. The way she handled it was emotional though.

In my researching this week, I wonder how many ailments can be prevented, treated or even cured with food. In other words if we as overweight people were willing to go to the point of eating purely clean and even raw, I wonder if we would see a lot of improvements. (To our overall health).

This does NOT excuse fat prejustice but I think the preception that people who are overweight just sit in the house ‘eating brownies’ adds to the frustration to people in the medical field. 🙁

I think the preception is ‘I’m trying to treat this (not so kind word) and they are just eating and killing themselves in the process…” I’ve noticed that a lot of medical personnel are rude/lack bedside manners in general!!! This is whether you are skinny or fat!!! They tend to be know-it-all persona’s who are QUICK to prove you wrong… as opposed to trying to work with you to find a solution.

To me the bigger issue is that we, as American people, are usually prone to looking for the easy way out. We don’t want to press through opposition or go the FULL distance for most things including our health.

We want to see how much we can do… get away with… and still get results. (I’m included in this). We don’t really want to eat ‘healthy’. (This is no matter what weight!!!). We don’t want to eat clean.

I truly am coming to think/believe that if we were really willing to take it THAT far… We would see a difference in our health in EVERY area. This is even if we are already ‘thin’… I think it goes deeper than appearances and just as a Nation we are really unhealthy… But we spend too much time advocating for our right to keep an unhealthy lifestyle as long as we LOOK thin… as opposed to saying “I’ve gotta have my body function properly”.

Doctors are no different. They are human too! What I hope to see is a change in the way we view food (as a Nation). Then we ALL could get healthier. Truly!

Debbie Estelle January 25, 2011 - 12:30 PM

The other thing is IMO the medical system need to be re-vamped. It seems that a lot of the prejudice is and may be a result of some doctor’s not knowing (or caring) how things can affect weight.

A lot of times they seem only to be knowlegable in their field (sometimes experts) and have NO idea how another ailment can affect a current diagnosis.

I really am of the belief it isn’t always due to weight they act a ‘fool’. It sometimes seems they think it’s the WEIGHT that is causing other things to go wrong. This may not be true though… and why I feel them having more knowlege would help…

I’ve had doctor’s come in and not look at me and prescribe me medication without really asking questions and I don’t think it had ANYTHING to do with my weight… Just a lack of preventative care (to me this is the healthcare system) or just being so one tracked they don’t even want to research unless you bring it up.

Drea June 9, 2011 - 12:26 PM

These stories are heartbreaking. brings me back to the time it happened to me. My regular doctor is cool…..nicest guy you can meet, no issues with him. The problem started when I was hopsitalized for diverticulitis. the first time I had the infection was in 2003. I went six years without incident until September of 2009. This time my doctor referred my to a gastroentorologist to discuss surgery. Again, great doctor, no issue with him. He recommended surgery to remove the affected part of my colon ( a little over a foot). This is where it all went to hell. The surgeon I was referred to was the damn devil. Comes in the room, doesn’t look at me, says I’m morbidly obese ( at 5′ 5″ 252 lbs he was right) and that although he’s a minimally invasive surgeon, i should be prepared to be cut wide open becuase of the excess fat around my waist.I sit there crying like a baby, terrified, and he just says well….you kinda did it to yourself. He walks out the room saying its in my best interest to lose all the weight i can in the next few weeks.

Fast forward four week,down ten pounds, prepping for surgery. The surgery was supposed to take four hours. After nine hours, I wake up to find out I had an active infection at the time of the surgery and they couldn’t reconnect everything. Here I am, 25 years old, mother of 2, with an ileostomy bag on my side. I was devastated.

After the surgery i was put in the CCU because my heart reacted poorly to the length of the surgery. For 3 days my heart rate was between 170-180 bpm at all times. The first day after surgery my surgeon comes in and tells me how in a billion years of practice i was the worst surgery he ever had to do, how i’m a selfish mother because i don’t take care of myself and i almost left my children motherless. In a room full of interns, nurses and residents, no less. All I could do was cry and cry.

It didn’t end with the doctor either. The nurses in the CCu were just as bad if not worse. After the 2nd day, my catheter was removed in an attempt to get me out of bed. By the way, he cut me wide open, from navel to my c-section scar, 29 staples, so i was in an insane amount of pain. The anesthesiologist had to come twice to bump my morphine up because I was screaming in pain. I’m no lightweight, believe me. i was 46 hours in labor with my daughter, no epidural. But this pain, was something esle. Back to the subject.

Once I was able to move around I asked a nurse to remove my morphine drip for a second while I go to the bathroom. After that painful five foot journey, I rang that nurses bell about a hundred times only to hear ( and see) the nurses talkin about me. One was like “oh I’m on break, she can wait” and the other said”well that’s what you get when you let urself go and then want gastric bypass”……WTF? Finally the b&^%$ walks on and says sweetly what do you need? And i SNAPPED. “How about giving me my f&^*() morphine? I’ve been here for 30 minutes with no pain relief cuz you want to make fun of big people? Did you read my f&^%* chart? And even if i was here for gastric bypass, who gives a f*^(? WHy are a f*&%$Y nurse if you have no interest in helping people in pain? F^&%&$ B**$$@!!!!!!!” ( Totally not proud of myself but she had it coming)

I was enraged. Just becuase i was overweight she assumed I was there for vain reasons. Even worse was the surgeon who made it a point to tell me what a piece of shit i was inside and out (literally). He had no interest in curing my illness…..just degrading me. A few weeks later during my follow up, I let his ass have it too. He was actually proud of himself for “getting thru to me with tough love”. He got his dose of mouth, trust me but i had to get another surgery with him six weeks later to remove the bag. SO i saved most of it for that last follow up. Let’s just say in short…..I was escorted out of the building. He never saw it coming. he got it worse than that nurse did.

Now its a little over a year later (surgery was Feb. 2010), and it’s been a traumatizing experience. I’ve lost some weight since then, but I think back on it and it actually hinders my progress because i can;t get all those comments out of my head. My motivation was to prove them wrong. But that will do nothing for me, and they won’t give a rat’s ass just like they didn;t give a rat’s ass before. Reading this blog, I finally see the work I need to do inside, so my journey is renewed. I thank you for that Erika, I truly do.

Fat discrimation is so present, and even in instances like this where the emphasis should be on help, its only worse. I should’ve told him to f%$# himself after that first consulation. We, people of all shapes and sizes, deserve respect and care and compassion like everyone else. And if they, as doctors, can;t get off their high horses to do the job they swore to do, then its up to us to knock them off their high horses. Bet you he won’t be talking to another patient like that again.

Ren June 11, 2011 - 12:26 AM

When a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer she had to go to special clinic to get an exam done. When she went to check in the woman at the counter asked her weight and when she asked why the woman said “I doubt we have anything that would fit your size.” She is big but she ain’t that damn big. She was humiliated and left the clinic in tears. My friend almost gave up her life over not fitting a gown. We had to make a sister circle around her to help get her to continue trying to fight for life instead of giving up.

sanssel June 11, 2011 - 3:55 AM

My first experience was when I was pregnant and I was having problems with lactose intolerance, and some other discomfort, and asked to see a nutritionist to figure out how to get calcium in my diet. At the time I was overweight, as I have dieted constantly since puberty.

The nutritionist asked me what types of food I ate and I gave her a variety of foods and snacks, and I believe this woman interpreted that I ate EVERYTHING I named exclusively every day, and she started to rake me over the coals for being overweight, at times even screaming at me. I had to rein her in for a clue as to adjusting my diet. I was that close to cussing her out. I was livid but had no idea after reining her in how to report her behavior.

Technology has been my weapon since then. I now have a new doctor who is willing to work with me and my weight problem.I have an iPhone food diary and exercise app, use Nike+ and a downloadable pedometer, so I now have records of every bite I eat and how much activity I’ve had. And my doctor appreciates the fact I am documenting all of this.

Even before the toys, I had books and spreadsheets with this information…so you don’t need an iPhone! You can still use a notebook to record it in. Show your medical professional you are making an honest attempt to eat healthy, exercise and lose weight.

However, don’t do like me when I went to that nutritionist. Instead speak up and say, “Please talk to me professionally, you are offering me a service and I deserve to be treated with respect”.

Ronise October 23, 2011 - 1:19 AM

I thought my doctor is bad, but after reading these stories, mine may be alright. It’s sad that this prejudice exists. Take my doctor, I tell her everything…I have been getting a pap smear every year since I was about 17. I did not realize that it’s only required if you’re having sex. So I addressed this with my doctor last year (@23) and she states that’s usually the case. I told her there was no reason for me to get the exam. She told me, that because of the way I answer certain questions, she’s unsure of whether or not I am telling the truth. Really??? WHY would I lie to MY DOCTOR? Unless you are a drug addict trying to get ‘scripts for some percocets, there shouldn’t be any reason to lie to your physician.

So, you know when they need to update info and your there for a wellness visit you’re given a questionnaire. I was asked if I had any suicidal ideations and how often (I stopped taking my thyroid medicine). My answers revealed that I clearly need to talk about life. What happens when the doctor came in? Nothing. We talked about my reason for being there.

Lastly, I was forced to take a pregnancy test. I say forced because after providing a urine sample, and informing the nurse that there was no possible way I could be pregnant, she STILL tested it. I told the doctor I would not be paying for that test (being as though I have no insurance).

Sorry, I got carried away. I would love to change to another physician, but I don’t know where to start. I have been seeing the same one since I was 14 years old. She’s not as bad as some of these other doctors, but I feel she doesn’t listen…and that makes her no better than.

Ronise October 23, 2011 - 1:29 AM

Sorry, my post wasn’t about being discriminated against i’m big. It was mainly an example of how some “doctors” seem not to care.

Thembi November 3, 2011 - 12:24 AM

On my first and last visit to a new doctor, as I still lay on my back under a paper sheet, I had her tell me “well everything seems fine…of course you need to get rid of *this*” and when she said “this” she grabbed my stomach with both hands and jiggled it. So dehumanizing.

MyzDevyneOne January 10, 2012 - 3:43 PM

This has happened to me. My doctors has been telling me for years that if I lose weight, everything will be better. I get the feeling that they don’t believe I exercise at all. Breast cancer runs in my family, but instead of testing me for the gene-even though my aunt & my mother had it-they keep telling me to lose weight. I’ve asked for thyroid tests, but ironically because
my BMI is less then 35, my insurance won’t cover it. It’s a no win situation.

Kelaine May 14, 2013 - 12:28 PM

I’m actually in the camp of “the doctors passed it off as normal,” all except for one. We went to him when I had to get a check-up for a school trip and he went on about things that were recommended but not necessary, then sat down, fidgeted a bit, and said that it wouldn’t hurt if I lost some weight. He seemed extremely uncomfortable with talking about it at all, like he was afraid of something.

Since I graduated from high school though, I haven’t been to the doctor, purely due to lack of funds/decent insurance. So I suppose I don’t have as much experience as other people. I didn’t even have a regular doctor after third grade. We just went to whoever was closest/cheapest/insurance would cover the best.

Vee February 2, 2016 - 8:45 PM

Doctors seem to forget that weight gain and loss is a symptom. A symptom something is wrong, not right, weird. I was always an active kid. As a little girl my mother would get in frequent trouble for “not feeding me enough” I was skinny, tired and went through periods of muscle wasting. Mom’s not a good cook, but I was always fed. We always had enough food. Tonnes of food. I had my first depressive episode (full blown suicidal thoughts)at the age of 9, then again at 11, 12, 16, 18, 24. My weight got harder to keep off. I worked out 2 hours a day as a teen to maintain a size 7. I gave up during my 18th year and just stopped trying. I gained 130 pounds by 28. I’m not going to list the other symptoms I’ve had during my life, because they are gross, but I had them and my doctors throughout my life knew all the things I complained about. No one ever connected the dots. While pregnant with my 3rd kid. My tests came back low B12. I’ve heard so many doctors mummble “huh your b12 is low” over my lifetime I finally called that particular one on it. I said WHY!!!! I told him that I always get that. A few tests later, I have Autoimmune B12 Deficiency (Pernicious Anemia). Started treatment and am feeling better but still have work to do to loose weight and I developed Kidney stones from the constant protein imbalance. I had just had a baby, (brought the baby to the office with me), specialist, I have never met before, he doesn’t know anything about me. Draws little pictures of my kidneys, draws little pictures of my stones, then says “boy these must hurt.” I said yes, I’ve had back pain for a long time. He says “well that is cause you are fat”. – I was in his office with the newborn, I was tired and not sleeping well, suffice it to say I lost my temper. I reported that dick to the college of Physicians. They told him he did nothing wrong and he should sue me for harassment. The guy knew NOTHING about me. Doctors have a free pass to tell you whatever they like and you have to take it. Bedside manner is a pipe dream. I don’t go to my family doctor much anymore, since he’s the one that referred me. I’m scared to get the stones treated. They hurt and I am getting sicker. I have to go to the new specialist but I’m really scared. Haven’t I been through enough? It’s not like I’m blind to my weight, but I’m in pain and working out isn’t the top of my list.

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