How I’m treated differently within the health system now that I’m a normal weight

I can only imagine like me, anyone who has been noticeably overweight or morbidly obese has a story or five to tell about how their weight has affected how they have been treated by professionals in the health system. As of right we should be able to trust our health professionals and tell them anything but it can be really hard when you’re overweight and they openly judge you because of that.

I’m a pretty open and upfront person in general and when I’m talking to a doctor, nurse or any other health professional that doesn’t change. I believe that for them to be able to help me as well as they can they need to know the truth and what’s been going on to be able to make the best assessment. I have noticed recently that now that I’m not morbidly obese I get treated better and have far less judgements made about me and conclusions drawn about what my habits must be purely because of my weight.

I was reminded of this the other day when I went for my regular tooth clean at the periodontist. My usual lady wasn’t there and in the spirit of being upfront and letting them know what had been going on I let them know that I had to have some more fillings a couple of weeks earlier. They had no problem telling me that often the need for fillings was diet related and didn’t stop going on about it even after I said I just had rubbish teeth.

What really got me was the next comment though, “Do you drink a lot of water with lemon juice added in?” Now that’s a reasonable question but I’m fairly sure if I was still morbidly obese the question would have focussed around soft drinks or lollies because of course that’s all overweight people ever injest (Insert massive eye roll here!)

This got me thinking back to how things have changed and while I hate to admit it I definitely get treated a lot better and don’t have so many stereotypical conclusions drawn about me now. One thing that used to drive me up the wall when I was overweight was the suggestion that losing weight would help with basically any health issue I was having. I totally understand that there are many co-morbidities with obesity and they could all be imporved by losing weight but that shouldn’t be the default answer when an overweight person has a health issue.

My pregnancy with my now four year old was one time when I felt particularly judged. My midwife was fantastic and did not make a deal about my weight at all but towards the end things started to fall apart a bit and I ended up seeing quite a few hospital staff, as you do when you’re stuck there. My dad had come to visit me and he had got me some jellybeans, it was a lovely gesture and I left them sitting on my bedside table.

A hospital midwife came in and promptly told me off stating that I should not be eating them considering everything I had going on at the time. I was stunned. It was completely besides the point that I hadn’t even opened them and had one but I’m fairly sure it was my morbid obesity that made her feel she had a right to speak to me in such a demeaning and rude way. It’s things like this that make you shy of being open with health professionals because it leaves you fearful you are going to get told off.

Another comment I remember was when a GP saw me about something not related to my weight and commented, “You should get your weight under control, I don’t see why it’s so hard I’ve never had a problem managing my weight.” I think as well as being extremely rude to even say that out loud it just goes to show that, sometimes, if you haven’t struggled with excess weight or obesity you don’t begin to understand how hard most of us have worked to try and fix it.

Talking to other people about this I have had others tell me that they avoid going to the doctor about things because they are scared to be judged and told off about their weight or have their problem attributed to their weight. This is not good, many health issues are better dealt with the earlier they are caught and I hate that people would put off going to the doctor because of worrying about this.

This is just another example of the prejudice and stigma society in general has towards bigger people. I’m fairly sure health professionals know better than to make grand sweeping assumptions like that and most people I encountered within the health system then and now are very lovely and helpful and don’t judge or classify people based on weight alone. I also find it amusing that health professionals struggle to accept that I was morbidy obese in the past solely based on what I look like and how big I am now.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again, probably until I’m blue in the face. Don’t judge people, their habits, their activity levels, their physical ability, their eating habits or ANYTHING else about them just based on how big or small they are. It’s a very narrow view to have of someone and making assumptions is probably leave you looking like a bit of a dork.

Have you found you get treated differently by health professionals because of a noticeable outward change in your appearance? Comment below and let me know, I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in this.

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There are 13 comments for this article
  1. Emma at 7:37 pm

    ‘I’m fairly sure health professionals know better than to make grand sweeping assumptions’
    No they don’t unfortunately –
    Though all my training over the last few years I have come to realise how completely ‘blinkered’ the majority of our doctors are. They do make these assumptions based upon the archaic system in which they’re trained. They do not seem to be able to nove beyond the confines of this narrow minded system.
    NOT ALL but many or most cannot take the time to talk to you and get to understand their patients. This is not their fault (fully) but one of contraints with time, back up and regular PD – I’ve spoken to doctor recently who hasn’t done any further training in 10 years!!!! WTF!!!! He prefers Google!!!!!

      • Marlene at 9:46 pm

        The thing they say is that I should loose weight. Another is that I should stop eating carbs. As if I sit around eating all day…..sigh.

    • Marlene at 9:40 pm

      Sad to say Emma, but many of them Google DURING the consultation! What does it say for and about their abilities and capabilities? Absolutely ZERO!

      I have came to the conclusion that it does not take much to become a GP. However, a good GP, now that is a different story.

      I am looking for a new doctor on the Shore…….

  2. Landi van de Venter at 7:53 pm

    I’m still obese and I hate going to my GP. Everytime I go,no matter what is wrong with me, it is always because of my weight. Now I don’t even bother going, because I knew what the answer is going to be.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 8:27 pm

      This really saddens me to hear Landi but unfortunately I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes it’s worth seeing a few different doctors to find one who is a better fit with you and looks past that as the first answer for everything.

  3. Bron at 6:28 pm

    That’s such a great read Melissa and so true! I’m always reluctant to talk to my doc about my challenge to lose weight because I think she is judging me (she is very petite ) so also too scared to push the gastric band issue with her for fear of her laughing at me.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 6:34 pm

      It’s really hard to talk about it isn’t it. Fingers crossed you have a good one and she would be helpful, maybe next time broach the bariatric surgery thing with her because you never know. I was scared of the same reaction from my GP when I first went to talk to her about bariatric surgery and she said she wonders why she hadn’t thought of it and suggested it earlier! You never know and it might really pay off if you bring it up!

  4. Rachel A at 9:21 am

    I used to have a doctor that walked me out of her consulting room, through the reception area to the scales to be weighed every time I went to see her, regardless of whether or not my appointment was weight related. I found it so humiliating it made be avoid going, it still upsets me to think about it. Fortunately I have now got a fantastic doctor who has supported me 100% during this time in which I am deciding whether to have the surgery (I raised the idea not her), and she only weighs me when she has to, and she had scales in her room.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 9:30 pm

      Oh my gosh Rachel, that is so inappropriate. I can’t believe how some people think it’s okay to treat others because of their weight. I’m so glad you have found a doctor who seems much more professional! It’s important to feel like we can tell our doctor anything, and all the things we need to. While your story sadly doesn’t surprise me it still gets me how anyone could think that’s an acceptable way to treat someone they were looking after.

  5. Carolyn at 8:33 pm

    A month ago I had an appointment with specialist at the diabetes clinic and wow…..The specialist asked me if it was ok to discuss my weight…did not assume he could just talk about it. I felt respected! I did say yes….then thought later…what if I said no…heehee

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