Injured in car accident? Weight loss will fix you right up.

Danielle writes:

Hi my name is Danielle and I wanted to submit a story. This blog has helped me to be a lot more aware of how anti-fat bias can impede interactions with health care professionals.

Three weeks ago my mother was in a car accident and suffered injuries to her feet and knees. One leg has swelled significantly and made it difficult for her to walk. She started going to a physical therapist for her injuries. This therapist told her that the best thing she could do to heal would be to lose weight, and he is requiring her to submit food logs to him so he can monitor her diet. I wonder how all of his thin patients recuperate from accidents. She has to see him three times a week, and every time she comes back more and more demoralized. Now he has started pushing weight loss surgery. What does bariatric surgery have to do with a car accident?

Another short story. I fell down the stairs a few months ago and have suffered back pain as a result. I never had back problems before. Now I can’t walk a block without experiencing severe pain. I put off going to the doctor about it for a long time because I knew she’d do nothing to help me, but it go so bad I had to seek help. Of course she said the only thing I could do for the pain is lose weight. She didn’t even bother with pain medication because weight loss is the only “cure”, and pain meds simply treat the symptoms. Now I’ve been fat all my life and I used to be able to dance and walk and run and wear high heels and I can’t do any of that anymore. I refuse to diet because I know that will make the situation worse, but I do feel trapped.

Thank you for helping so many.

Leave a comment


  1. Jill

     /  November 9, 2009

    I have a touch of plantar fasciitis in my left foot but not my right. A doctor told me that plantar fasciitis is inevitable for fat people, and I said, “But I’m just as fat on the other foot.”

  2. I feel sorry that you and your mother have been forced to deal with this sad excuse for medical attention. Dr Karl (a radio personality in Australia but also a Medical Doctor and general all round science guy) suggests that not taking pain medication can cause a pathway to form so that after the injury is gone, the pain remains.

    I wish I had a link to a source quoting him but I can’t seem to find one. I’d suggest checking the facts though before quoting me in case I am totally wrong.

  3. Danielle,

    I hate to hear this. I have heard lots of stories about doctors generally treating people as though they were invisible due to their fatness. What happens when folks file grievances against these doctors? Do hospitals have corporate compliance offices designed to serve the patients? You would think so, given the increasing corporatization of the healthcare industry. I just wonder what kind of guff folks come up against when they try this with the doctors who treat them poorly.

  4. himawari

     /  November 9, 2009

    This is unbelievably maddening. I’ve been in physical therapy only because of my own stubbornness before (e.g. completing marathon training with a running injury); however, I am not visibly fat. I have been treated only with kindness, and with the assumption that my injuries were the result of muscle imbalances and biomechanical error (which they were). Never ONCE has weight loss been suggested to me as a way of fixing the problems, even though I’m not super-skinny like some runners. There is NO REASON that anyone should be told that an injury that is not their own fault should be fixed by weight loss. None. Nada.

    Not being able to do the things you once did is a horrible experience and there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to do those things again. I hope you don’t give up on your back, and I hope the both of you manage to find respectful health care providers actually interested in solving the problem rather than eliminating teh fatz soon.

  5. inge

     /  November 9, 2009

    Go to a different doctor, preferrably one recommended by fat friends. Not only for the pain, but because back stuff can spread. Friend of mine who is somewhat overweight was ignored and insulted by doctors for years while her slipped disk damaged her leg nerves and caused paralysis. She got to a non-fatphobic doctor finally, he scheduled her for surgery the very next day. The nerve damage has mostly healed in the twelve years since, but she might never get all sensation in the leg back.

    I have personally made very good experiences for lower back pain with a chiropractor. It is said that chiropractors are trying to cure everything by fixing bones, but if you have bones to fix they might be more useful than a doctor trying to fix your bones by diets.

  6. QuiltLuvr

     /  November 9, 2009

    My mother-in-law (thin), brother-in-law (thin) and my friend (very fat) both got excellent pain relief from a chiropractor. My son-in-law (thin) did not.

    I don’t think size has anything to do with back pain. I know several other people with chronic back pain and their sizes are all over the map.

    If I ever had back pain, I would try to find a good chiropractor.

  7. Daria

     /  November 20, 2009

    “There is NO REASON that anyone should be told that an injury that is not their own fault should be fixed by weight loss. None. Nada”

    Except you know, if that’s true. Like it can be.

    “I don’t think size has anything to do with back pain. I know several other people with chronic back pain and their sizes are all over the map.”

    Unless you have performed some sort of randomised control trial or statistical analysis on them this data is functionally meaningless.

  8. Add me to the chorus saying that chiropractic care might help.

    It’s particularly helpful if you’ve had an injury earlier in your life from a fall, a sports mishap, a car accident etc. Even if these didn’t seem too serious at the time, they can have long-term effects on you.

    I was a total chiropractic doubter for a long time, but tried it out of desperation during pregnancy and was amazed at how much it helped. It’s not a miracle cure but it really can help many people.

    However, chiros can be just as fat-phobic as any other healthcare professional so it’s important to find one that’s size-friendly.

  9. I work in the health profession, and what we normally recommend to “try” first is to lose weight – not saying that this is the absolute solution to every situation, but this is just to see if the pain could be reduced somewhat.

    The physio recommending your mother to lose weight – maybe he just wants her to take the pressure off of her knees and legs? Adding pressure onto your knee/ankle joints can increase the inflammation and thus increase swelling. It’s like when you’ve been walking or standing for too long (such as when women go shopping!), you feel like your ankles are swollen, and the common solution is to sit in front of the telly and put your feet on a footstool. This takes the pressure off your ankles and returns the fluid back to your heart (thus reduces the swelling). I must say, though, the physio recommending your mother to get a lapband… that’s a bit over the top.

    As for yourself, we can’t know for sure if losing weight would help. It really depends on the cause of your pain – a slipped disk? a pinched nerve? you’d really need to see your doctor and get an x-ray/CT scan to know for sure. Slipped disks are hard to manage. Pinched nerves can be managed somewhat with weight loss +/- pain management. Sometimes the weight in the upper body can cause your vertebrae to press down and pinch the associated nerve. My dad also has this problem, and he hasn’t lost any weight since being diagnosed at least 2 years ago. His specialist, however, has given him some cortisone injections to reduce the inflammation and pain in that area. I think you should just get it checked out – better safe than sorry! If your doctor is unsupportive, then you know not to see her/him again. Your doctor should be helping you and your condition, and supporting you – not TELLING you what to do.

  10. While the injury isn’t due to her weight, there have been studies that show people who are physically in shape (not an emphasis on thin or fat…just in shape) recover faster from injuries. I worked for a PT and I can tell you all of our acrobatic performers who came in due to a work injury were usually done with therapy much faster than most of our other patients.

    At any rate, I don’t see why a PT would require a food log. That’s really not his place.

  11. Piffle

     /  February 3, 2010

    Have you tried finding a pain specialist? Chronic untreated pain is a very bad thing for your health, and, as you point out, your quality of life. My husband is fat and has chronic pain, fortunately he also has a very good pain doc.

  12. Annitspurple

     /  February 16, 2010

    What happened to the moderation on this site? I’ve not read it for a few months, I come back, and I’m noticing on several threads concern-trolling on what is ostensibly a blog focusing on anti-fat bias in the healthcare industry (not a typo–I’m using the term “industry” intentionally).

  13. vesta44

     /  February 16, 2010

    Annitspurple – Currently, I’m the only one moderating this blog, and have been doing so since May of last year. I delete a lot of trolls, and the few concern-trolls that do manage to get through, well – I try to educate them. And yes, I know that can be a lost cause in most cases.


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