Not One More 2024 | Reasons Eating Disorder Center

February 21, 2024

Not One More Day Without Care: A Call to End Weight Bias in Healthcare

Seeking medical care should be a straightforward decision, yet the reality for many people is that it is clouded by anxiety and shame in anticipation of fatphobia and weight-related concerns from healthcare providers.

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • Having a sore throat, fever, and lightheadedness – symptoms that undoubtedly call for a doctor’s visit
  • It is time for an annual well visit check-up, mammogram, or dental cleaning
  • Needing to go and get routine bloodwork or vaccinations
  • Having a chronic illness that needs consistent follow up

And you do not go because the fear of potential weight-related comments or judgment creates too significant a barrier. This barrier prevents many from seeking the essential care they need. This daily struggle emphasizes the critical need for a healthcare environment that is not only compassionate but also supportive.

Weight bias is a pervasive issue in the United States, and its impact is devastating. The prevailing societal message that fat individuals are somehow less deserving, and less human perpetuates an extremely harmful narrative. This biased mindset, whether subtly conveyed through trendy diets or wellness apps or more explicitly stated in conversations with medical providers has real-life devastating consequences.

Today, our focus is on addressing weight bias within the doctor’s office because no one should go another day without the care they deserve. How can we challenge and change this bias to ensure fair and equitable healthcare?

Mindy Hoffman, MA, LPC, NCC, therapist, advocate and blogger, of Living In The Hot Pink has courageously shared her personal battle with fatphobia and eating disorder recovery. Her recent experience while visiting an urgent care sheds light on the importance of individual stories in creating meaningful change:

“Last March, I visited an Urgent Care for flu-like symptoms that were not going away and seemed to be getting worse. During triage, the male tech did my vitals and then asked how much I weighed. I told him I was unsure because I had not weighed myself in three years. He asked me to come with him to get weighed.

Me: No thanks.

Tech: I have to get a weight.

Me (already knowing the answer): Why?

Tech (clearly annoyed): Because some medication is weight based.

Me: I’m happy to be weighed if any weight-based medications are prescribed to me.

Tech (still annoyed): Fine.

**I would like to point out, I was at Urgent Care for flu-like symptoms. Very few medications in general are weight based for adults. Once I got home, I reviewed my discharge summary. To my surprise, there was a weight in the paperwork. I was LIVID! The male tech guessed my weight without my permission or knowledge. I posted the experience on Instagram. A week later, the Marketing team from this Urgent Care reached out and assigned a patient advocate to my case.

I explained the weight issue and also elaborated on the subpar care received from their contracted doctor. The organization did not honor my complaints about the physician, but they did offer resolution for what happened with the tech guessing my weight:

  • They removed my weight from the electronic record.
  • Patients can now refuse weight, and they can record it in the electronic record.
  • They have committed to adding weight stigma training to their DEI efforts.

Advocating for myself is hard and exhausting! It’s doubly hard being in a larger body. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m taken seriously or respected because of the assumptions about me (like my guessed weight experience and advocating for myself) due to my body size. It’s also anxiety provoking. This experience about my weight is my experience every time I visit a medical provider. Being able to stand up for myself in a larger body has been a long and difficult journey. Advocacy for myself and others in larger bodies isn’t something that happened over night. It has been years of not using my voice, believing medical professionals, and at times just being too tired to fight the good fight. The times I’ve chosen to stand up for myself in the midst of fear, ambivalence, and anxiety have gotten me where I am today. It has been worth it! I will keep using my voice and standing up for what I do and don’t want for my body!”

Mindy’s story is just one example of how sharing personal experiences can contribute to dismantling weight bias. Additionally, we have included some other ideas that individuals can take to advocate for themselves in healthcare settings.

As Mindy said, being able to use your voice and advocate is not easy, and it’s okay if you are not ready to take that step. Give yourself grace, and know you are worth advocating for and you are deserving of care. It is also important to remember, advocacy is not just for folx in larger bodies. Everyone deserves to be heard and respected and we can all advocate to dismantle weight bias in healthcare settings. By actively participating in these conversations and advocating for change, we can collectively work towards a healthcare system that values every individual, regardless of their size or weight.

For those of you who are healthcare providers, you have a responsibility to create weight inclusive and safe spaces for your patients. There are a lot of amazing resources to support you with this, we have included a few below:

It’s time to break free from the shackles of weight bias and create a healthcare environment that prioritizes compassion, understanding, and the well-being of every patient.

Nestled in Southern California, Reasons Eating Disorder Center specializes in holistic and integrated treatment for eating and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our approach prioritizes gender and size inclusivity and affirmation, ensuring that adolescents and adults benefit from a tailored continuum of care designed to meet their unique needs.