I know often doctors telling their patients they need to lose weight can sound cold to some but there’s a host of issues known to get resolved by following that one simple piece of advice. It’s your doctor trying to help you, you know? And now a Connecticut College psychology professor Joan Chrisler has based an entire lecture saying that this is “medical fat shaming” and is “mentally and physically harmful”.
“Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming, in an attempt to motivate people to change their behavior, is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers,” Chrisler stated.
Asserting that doctors “repeatedly advise weight loss for fat patients while recommending CAT scans, blood work, or physical therapy for other, average weight patients,” she argued that “recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight is unethical and a form of malpractice.”
During her presentation, titled “Weapons of Mass Distraction—Confronting Sizeism,” Chrisler said there are many ways that doctors commonly microaggress against fat patients, not just in their approach to medical treatment, but even through interpersonal interactions.
“Implicit attitudes might be experienced by patients as microaggressions—for example, a provider’s apparent reluctance to touch a fat patient, or a headshake, wince, or ‘tsk’ while noting the patient’s weight in the chart,” she said, noting that “microaggressions are stressful over time and can contribute to the felt experience of stigmatization.”
Because of their apparent tendency toward fat-shaming, doctors “could jump to conclusions” that a patient’s condition is obesity-related, and therefore “fail to run appropriate tests, which results in misdiagnosis.”
In addition to “sizeism,” she stated that patients with intersectional identities (e.g., those who also experience sexism, ageism, racism, classism, or transphobia) experience an even “greater cumulative burden” at the doctor’s office, adding that “the stress that such unfairness causes can damage people’s health.”