Recently, popular body-positive Instagrammer, Corissa Enneking shared the gut-wrenching details of her “dehumanising” appointment with a doctor who exhibited shocking weight bias.
In the series of video clips, she explains that she went to the doctor proactively for testing on her heart. She was finding it difficult to resume her previous activity level after a recent illness. The heart tests came back “perfect and normal,” yet the doctor recommended calorie counting. She warned Enneking that she would be dead before she was 65 if she didn’t lose weight.
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Today it’s ❄️ snowing, so we’re celebrating with a #fatkini !!!! Because how else does one celebrate snow? Oh and bell bottom leggings. Obv. Link to the @youtube video of this TOTALLY SEASONAL try on haul with @alpinebutterflyswim in my bio ? #bigbellycrew #plussizefashion
As if this dismissive attitude isn’t despicable enough, Corissa Enneking has a documented history of anorexia. The doctor dismissed her medical history and denied her lived experience, even asking if she is sure her history wasn’t with bulimia, because she found it so hard to believe that a person with extra weight had ever restricted their food intake to a dangerous degree.
Horrified, Enneking expressed that counting calories would result in a return to her disordered eating patterns, and that it’s not an option for her. The doctor offered no other solutions. Twice, this physician used childish hand gestures instead of words, once making a motion meant to mimic shovelling food into one’s mouth.
Weight bias is often dismissed because being fat is still widely regarded as a choice.
During one particularly emotional moment, Enneking expressed hesitation to bring her partner to future appointments because they are overweight, too. She wanted her doctor to believe her, and that seems more likely if she brought along a thin person to “validate everything she says.”
The entire experience sounds like a nightmare, but it’s real life. Many overweight people have experienced this kind of weight bias firsthand.
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YOU DESERVE BETTER. Every. Single. Time. Leaving this here for anyone who forgets sometimes that they’re worthy of respect regardless of how their body looks or anyone’s opinion on it. No ifs, buts or maybes, you deserve better. ????? [Image description: a series of tweets by Megan that read “Reminders: You do not deserve to be body shamed by a partner. Being in a relationship doesn’t give someone ownership over your body OR the right to dictate what you do with it. It’s still YOUR body. You deserve better. You do not deserve to be body shamed by a family member. Not even if its ‘out of concern’. Not even if they ‘want what’s best for you’. Making you feel worthless in your body will never be what’s best for you. You deserve better. You do not deserve to be body shamed by your doctor. You are entitled to competent healthcare without guilt, fear or shame. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and any medical professional should know that. You deserve better. You do not deserve to be body shamed by ANY person EVER and especially not the people who claim to care for, support, or love you. Nobody in the world gets a free pass on making you feel worthless in your body. Okay?”]
Enneking tells, “Finding a doctor who wants to treat me as a patient without prerequisite weight loss has been nearly impossible throughout my life. Even as a “normal” sized teen, I was congratulated for weight loss when I tried to get treatment for nausea and anxiety – I was anorexic, and my parents told my doctors I wasn’t eating.”
I have been in frustrating and humiliating situations with physicians, too. A few years ago, I went to see an obesity specialist. I left confused and humiliated. This man makes his living assisting patients in losing weight. He performs weight loss surgeries, but he also runs a clinic that assists in non-surgical weight loss. I booked an appointment to discuss my history and talk about participating in the clinic. My hope was that I would see a nutritionist and be linked to support from other patients.
I never got that far.
During my initial consultation with the physician, he ran through a list of questions about weight-related issues, pop-quiz style. I answered every question correctly, demonstrating an understanding of science that he apparently did not expect. He said, “I’m shocked you’re overweight, honestly. You must be one of the rare people that has an actual underlying cause for this level of weight gain. I actually believe what you’re telling me about your eating habits and activity level. There’s no way you eat enough to warrant this weight. You’re so smart.”
My reasonable level of intelligence amazed him. I guess he expected me to be an idiot or a liar. I was mortified.
There are just so many problems with his attitude. First, he was was completely ignoring the gazillion types of privilege that equipped me to answer fairly difficult scientific questions aloud on the spot. (I’m thinking my education and media training probably played more of a role than inherent intelligence or body size, but okay, Doc.) Second, what the hell does my intelligence have to do with whether or not I overeat? How did he reach that conclusion? Most importantly, why is it so surprising to an obesity specialist that a fat person would be knowledgeable?
It’s because weight bias is not in our heads and its extremely pervasive. Yet weight bias is often dismissed because being fat is still widely regarded as a choice. Doctors have to do better, and it’s going to take some work.
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I could go on and on… but there’s only so much that’ll fit on an IG meme! If we cared abut people’s health, we’d acknowledge and address the profound impact that *stigma* has on health. Research shows that weight stigma contributes to health outcomes significantly more than body size and weight. Weight stigma increases the risk for depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders. Weight stigma is associated with increased disease and mortality risk. Research aimed at connecting BMI to health doesn’t account for, or attempt to control for, the effect that weight stigma has on reported outcomes. Eyes and hearts open ya’ll ?
Resident physicians Kunal Sindhu and Pranav Reddy admit, “Throughout medical school, we learned how to challenge a diverse range of implicit biases. But we received little to no education on the topic of weight bias and stigma. In an era when over 70 percent of American adults are considered overweight or obese, this oversight is simply inexcusable.”