Why fat patients don’t visit their doctors as often as they should.

Anna writes:

I don’t know if this is appropriate for the blog, but I had to send this after I got my latest Reader’s Digest:


The general tone of these doctors toward ALL patients was terrible. But some of the fat hatred seeping through was even more horrifying, although not surprising. Among the comments:

“I am utterly tired of being your mother. Every time I see you, I have to say the obligatory “You need to lose some weight.” But you swear you “don’t eat anything” or “the weight just doesn’t come off,” and the subject is dropped. Then you come in here complaining about your knees hurting, your back is killing you, your feet ache, and you can’t breathe when you walk up half a flight of stairs. So I’m supposed to hold your hand and talk you into backing away from that box of Twinkies. Boy, do I get tired of repeating the stuff most patients just don’t listen to.
–Cardiologist, Brooklyn, New York ”

“It’s pretty common for doctors to talk about their patients and make judgments, particularly about their appearance. –Family physician, Washington, D.C.”

“When a doctor tells you to lose 15 to 20 pounds, what he really means is you need to lose 50.
–Tamara Merritt, DO, family physician, Brewster, Washington”

That last comment was under the section in the article called “The Sensitive Side.”

It’s no wonder that one of the doctors admitted that most doctors themselves don’t visit their colleagues for regular checkups.

Leave a comment


  1. Trabb's Boy

     /  August 14, 2009

    I finally got a new doctor after “divorcing” my old one after 10 years of grief. Before going to the new one, I printed a copy of the UCLA meta study on diets not working, just to have some backup if the new doctor started in on the weight thing. She turned out to be cool, so I didn’t bring it out, but it made the process of going in less stressful. Here’s the site, if anyone wants to copy the idea.


  2. Me

     /  August 14, 2009

    You should go over here and type; “Obese” into the search board, but first you have to answer a really complicated Doctor question like “What is H20 commonly known as?”.

    Sanity watcher’s points warning, indeed!!!

  3. Miss Silver

     /  August 14, 2009

    Wow. Way to go there, New York doctor. Thanks for ensuring you’ll lose patients.

    I also very, very strongly recommend the use of RateMDs.com. I found out some interesting reviews about doctors that I visited in the past and not one of them has been inaccurate so far. You’d be surprised about what you can find out from fellow patients.

    While people will make judgments about each other, medicine is by no means the right place for them. Especially when the person making those judgments is the doctor.

  4. des

     /  August 15, 2009

    I will soon be visiting a doctor for the first time in eight years now that I’ve managed to get health insurance. I just know he or she will bring up the weight issue and I will NOT be intimidated, humiliated or disrespected. This blog has really taught me what to look for and that I don’t have to put up with inadequate service.

  5. Eve

     /  August 15, 2009

    A couple years ago I had a doctor harangue me for what seemed like 10 minutes about how I needed to lose weight or my knees would suffer later in life. She was so condescending, she said at one point, “I’m your doctors, and blah blah,” like some moms might say “because I’m your mother!” And I kept thinking, this is the first time I’ve seen you, and you have no idea what I’ve been through on account of my weight, and this is the last time I will see you, and in no way are you my doctor. I changed health plans after that.

    And I’m sure she thought I was just one more self-deluding fat person. She wasn’t even thin herself.

    The thing that gets me, is that it somehow reminds me of arguing with a pastor – like a Christian fundamentalist pastor who thinks that everyone else needs to be Christian too. I could never convince such a person that I have actually tried Christianity and didn’t take to it, and will never be able to believe in it. Just like I could never have convinced this doctor that I really am never going to be thin and no amount of my trying to change myself would make it happen. And I’m fine with not being Christian or thin. But being Christian or thin is fine for other people who aren’t me.

  6. But you swear you “don’t eat anything” or “the weight just doesn’t come off,” and the subject is dropped.

    If you’re a doctor, and you want to get me to hate you as quickly as possible, call me a liar. Or tell me I couldn’t possibly have any idea what I’m eating or how much (also known as calling me stupid). I have no reason on earth to lie to my doctor. And you, doctor, have no reason on earth to believe that all your fat patients lie, or that if we’re not experiencing gnawing hunger all day long, we’re “overeating.” And if you do have patients who lie to you, look in the mirror and ask yourself just how easy you make it for them to tell you the truth. I’d guess, probably not very.

  7. wriggles

     /  August 15, 2009

    When I was v. young, there were old people around from before there was ready access to doctors-pre NHS.

    A lot of them hated doctors. I was shocked, I couldn’t get it. Now I realise that they had simply seen another side to the sainted med prof. All this shows me how much both doctors and the public take for granted.

    The more doctors show themselves in this light, the more they will be seen in this light. The less they are the centre of people’s health, the more marginal and less godlike they become and the more we as individuals are forced to regain agency we’ve been duped out of, one or the other will have to give.

    Their exhaulted position has to some extent been garnered by encouraging us into a state of supine, passive adherence(another reason some of the seniors hated their guts). It’s also the reason they feel so much aggression towards the public, they need us to be suplicants, for the sake of status, but it is exhausting them and they loath us for it.

    They have to fall off their pedestal, for all our sakes.

  8. Over400

     /  October 5, 2009

    I’m a typist (medical), and I have come across so many dictations where doctors are BLATANTLY judgmental of fat patients. They will describe thinner counterparts as “pleasant,” “attractive” or “well groomed,” whereas when a fat patient comes in, the person can be described as “obese” or just “fat” nothing else and definitely told they need to lose some kind of weight. Also, if the person is fat, there’ s almost always a negative remark about a tech not being able to get proper films because of their weight.

    This reminds me – I was at the doctor not too long ago for an ankle issue, and the podiatrist brought up three times in our conversation weight loss surgery. Even after I told him I lost 20 pounds on my own volition, he mentioned it again, saying they are doing “wonderful things” with WLS. Needless to say, I need to find a fat-friendly clinic, in general (if one exists).

  9. This is a continuing issue for me. I won’t get on the scale–and so it begins. I decided 25 yrs ago to try to find other ways to make myself miserable–you know, change it up. So now I fret about poverty and not finding work. I have been told to leave the office, to get on the scale backwards, that Medicare won’t pay if I don’t–you name it. Nope. Now, I need another primary–it’s been two yrs since I went to the doctor. But I need an HMO because of the poverty thing…Medicare HMOs are cheaper, while they last, anyhow. I am calling the network primaries and feel out the staff on the scale deal.


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