Medical Fatphobia: Your Doctor and Your Weight

Sophie Griffiths
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Sophie Griffiths

Creator at Rymermade
Lifestyle and home education blogger at Wildling Wishes, main contributor and editor for She Might Be, draws pictures for money at Rymermade on Etsy.
Sophie Griffiths
Find me at

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Back in 2016, I wrote about what is so bad about my GP fat-shaming me. These kinds of posts are a bit of a mixed bag for me, because they always receive a lot of feedback – which is both wonderful, and heartbreaking. Wonderful because it is nice to know that we are all in the same boat, sharing similar experiences, and heartbreaking because it is horrible to know that we are all in the same boat, sharing similar experiences.

Interestingly, the time for the smear test I wrote about in that article has arrived, and I feel completely and utterly unable to attend. I have been to the doctor a lot in the last year, and every time I have had a blood test it has been performed by that same nurse, who has made a point of looking me up and down and sighing with disappointment every time she has seen me. I have come to realise that a lot of the problem is my own internalised fatphobia. Why is it that I can be so positive and carefree in so many other aspects of my life, but when I enter a doctor’s office I feel ashamed, and wrong, and scared of somebody pointing it out? Something inside of me still equates health with size, and then size with worth. This is so wrong for so many reasons, but the moment I enter the office of a medical professional I take 10 steps back in my journey and I feel like an absolute inconvenience and I wish I was anywhere else.

I have really struggled with working out why this is, but eventually it dawned on me – my doctors have been abusing me, and my mind is simply waiting for the next blow. I felt like maybe I was being dramatic, so I collected some data about the general experiences of fat people with medical professionals to ascertain whether or not I was just being oversensitive, or looking for problems where there were none. What I found was saddening, maddening and painfully familiar. From stories of small jabs that build up and up over time, to downright medical negligence, I was able to establish a selection of women – and 100% of the people who responded were women – who had been treated as if they were not worth appropriate medical care because of the way they looked. Their concerns were disregarded, their body types were blamed and ridiculed, and their mental health was overlooked entirely – in one case, even when in appointments directly relating to mental health. Here are some of the stories I heard.

I started with the story I shared in my last medical fatphobia post, with a few more details to boot. On top of this, I have another story that I did not share: when I was giving birth to my son, there was a horrible midwife who refused to see me as an adult. I was 22 years old, but she repeatedly spoke to my mother and husband instead of me. She asked me if social services were involved with me, and when I asked why she just shrugged and said she was surprised. When I was contracting, my mother could see my stomach harden from across the room but the midwife told me that she couldn’t be sure I wasn’t faking it because I was too fat for her to see any change. She was unhappy that the heartbeat monitor didn’t fit comfortably around my stomach. She told me she wasn’t happy with me having a bath because she couldn’t hoist me out of it. It got to ‘pushing time’ and when I told her I felt the urge, she rolled her eyes and told another doctor I was being dramatic and that there was no way I had progressed that quickly. I had gone from 6 to 10 centimetres in 30 minutes. My entire birth experience was very traumatic, and when I remember the way that horrible midwife made me feel subhuman it is just another painful memory to add to an awful situation. But unfortunately, people like her are not unique. Here’s how I know.

 

In addition to these examples, people with private accounts shared details of their difficult situations with doctors. Across the board, women found that they were insulted and denigrated because of their appearance, and the health concern that brought them to the doctor was secondary. There appears to be no rhyme or reason – nothing to suggest that men are kinder, or women are more understanding. Its just something that happens sometimes: sometimes, people are assholes. And sometimes, those assholes train to be doctors. And it is wrong and awful, and it shouldn’t fall to the abused to stand up to the abuser and tell them they are wrong – but maybe that is the only way we are ever going to see change.

So please: leave your doctors when they are mean to you. Make complaints to medical boards. Correct people when they are wrong. Set clear boundaries and do not let people cross them. Seek legal action if you feel that you have been treated unfairly.

It is time for us to be the change. Because the doctors sure aren’t willing to do it.

 

 

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Sophie Griffiths
Sophie Griffiths

Lifestyle and home education blogger at Wildling Wishes, main contributor and editor for She Might Be, draws pictures for money at Rymermade on Etsy.

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