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What’s The Stupidest Remark You’ve Heard From a Health Professional About Your Weight?



sharma-obesity-trust-me-im-a-doctorRegular readers will be well aware of my concerns about the level of obesity expertise (or rather lack of it) amongst health professionals.

It is certainly no surprise that in the course of my practice I have had my patients tell me some incredibly insensitive stories and recount some ridiculous advice that they have received from health professionals.

Indeed, there is enough evidence in the literature to suggest that a substantial proportion of health professionals are as (if not more) weight-biased and discriminatory when it comes to their overweight and obese clients. I have also heard incredible stories about how the most unlikely health problems have been attributed to excess weight with virtually no examinations or considerations given to other causes.

So here is your opportunity to share with me (and everyone else) some of the most ridiculous, unhelpful and perhaps offensive things that you have heard from a health professional with regard to your weight. What has been the most frustrating experience that you’ve been through when it comes to seeking professional help for a health problem – related or unrelated to your body weight.

Just one rule: please do not name the professional or provide any other identifiable details – I am more interested in the nature of the comments than in who said what.

I look forward to your response.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

83 Comments

  1. We have started a pilot parent group for children struggling with weight related issues, and frequently have MDs and some RNs referring to it as the “fat-kid” group. I’ve also had MDs refer their ped patients to me to lose weight, and have told the parents that their children need to lose weight!

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  2. I had asked my doctor for help, my weight was out of control. He looked at me like I asked the dumbest question he had ever heard and replied “Just put your fork and spoon down and go for a walk instead.” He got up, started to leave the office then asked me if I could find a job for his brother in my field of work. That was my last visit to that doctor.

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  3. I reader had this to say: When I asked (in my early twenties) what I can do to lose weight, my family doctor told me, “Don’t eat so many cookies.” She had not taken any dietary or other weight history, or she would have learned that I didn’t eat any cookies, and very little junk food at all. The remark humiliated me.

    I also became seriously disillusioned when a “medically supervised” weight-loss program denied any possible connection between my development of hypothalamic hypogonadism and the weight loss from adhering to the diet; they continued to deny it even though a subspecialist (gynecological endocrinology) confirmed this was the only possible cause. Another program just in it for the money, I felt.

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  4. And this what another one sent me: “How to lose weight? Just stop bending your elbow.”

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  5. I was told if I lost weight I would not be having severe leg pain. No physical checks done. No follow up. Next patient called in. Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis will do that to a person. Thank God for ER care. I was planning on my right to die. Steroids and rheumatoid help and I am back at the gym. I am fat but I am worthy.

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    • My primary doctor said I need to lose weight because I am basically killing myself I’m 210 and 16 , (I know I am fat) I have a visit the 20th of this month , and he told me if you don’t lose weight , I am going to refer you to a psychiatrist

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  6. Travis Saunders over at Obesity Panacea covered a similar issue at his blog when we had this conversation at a CON meeting (http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2012/01/26/time-to-watch-my-weight/).

    I recently went for a check up, and, as you’ll remember Arya, last year I broke both bones in my forearm. It had been about a year, so I was back lifting weights and training and my life had returned to “normal.”

    Rather than ask me anything about my broken arm, or how the healing was going, or whether I had any lingering symptoms from having a bone stick out of my arm, the doctor focused exclusively on my BMI of 25.8 and how I need to lose weight to be healthy. No discussion of my physical activity, weight history, diet, or anything else. Just that I needed to lose weight.

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  7. Boy where do I start:

    My childhood pediatrician yelled “You’re too fat!” in my face.

    Primary physician: “Clearly you are NOT dieting and exercising like you say you are, otherwise you would lose weight!” (At this time i had a personal trainer 2xs a week and was doing weight watchers)

    And my favorite comment was from a GYN for my annual check up. He randomly blurted out after the exam: “All you have to do is weight watchers!” When I looked at him and didn’t respond he replied, “Well don’t you want to look attractive and get married? No man will want you at your current weight. I’m just trying to help you out!” I left out of the office in tears and never went back.

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  8. I was 216kg as I worked through the door the physician said “my god you are fat. Have none of your colleagues noticed how fat you are

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  9. I suffered from depressions some years ago and went to a psychiatrist. She gave me different pills over the years and I gained alot of weight. Each time when I asked, if my weight gaining has anything to do with the psychopharmacal medicine, she told me, that I should eat less and move more. As higher my weight was, as much more trouble I got with propper sleep. She gave me pills in order to sleep netter. I gained even more weight.
    After a while I went to a hospital an they told me, that I have sleeping apnoe. I got a machine for home, I could sleep and no pills were needed. I was very happy, and told my psychatrist at the next appointment bout the good news also about my plans abut gastric bypass. Her reaction was cruel. First she freaked out because I went to the hospital and that I stopped taking the strong sleeping pills. She still told me, that my sleeping problems are caused by psycholigical problems, second she told me, that a gastric bypass would never help me, because I have a lack of discipline, and third, if I know everything better then she does, I should do what I want, I will be soon dead.
    I was shocked, left her and cried, never went back to her.
    By the way, I have my gastric bypass almost 5 years now, lost alot of weight, diabetes, sleeping apnoe….thank God I found good doctors now.

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  10. I don’t know if these were “stupid” comments, but they certainly were not useful.

    When I first developed Type II diabetes, my doctor said, “If you lose some weight, you may be able to make the diabetes go away, for all intents and purposes.” So I went home armed with new resolve, tried my damnedest and lost four pounds in one month. I went back to his office, all proud of my achievement. He looked at my results, sniffed, and said, “That’s not enough to make any difference.” So much for that.

    The other time was when a doctor told me that she would NOT prescribe me diabetes medication until I lost weight, despite the fact that I had been diabetic with high bgs for years. I said, “I don’t know, can’t we do both?” Nope.

    Or the time that I sprained my ankle at work because I was carrying a huge load of trash to the dumpster across a rock-strewn back lot and stepped the wrong way on a rock. The doctor explained to me that it wasn’t the rock, it was my obesity that caused the fall.

    Other than that, the most annoying thing was doctors insisting that I was lying when I said that even though I was gaining weight, I had not changed my eating habits. It was not until I went to the Joslin Clinic and their wonderful weight loss program that someone actually acknowledged that I was NOT lying and explained metabolic syndrome to me.

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  11. And of course, there was the doctor who (when I was in my teens) said, “Here, take these; they’ll do the trick” and handed me a prescription for amphetamines. Yeah, that was helpful.

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  12. I have a lot of willpower and an IQ well above average and yet, when it has come to my struggle with addictions in my life – I have often received inane advice. I quit drinking 9 years ago and my doctor `disowned`me as a patient when I asked her for help with my drinking two years prior to quitting. Seven years ago, I stopped smoking and I knew better than to go to a doctor for help by then. I`ve recently had gastric bypass surgery and am losing rapidly but my doctor adviced me to try eating carrot sticks!!!! I liked her but I see how often they are really lost to identify sub groups of overeaters of offer any valuable help. I`m not mentally delayed just overweight. Finally, when I talked to my present doctor about my feeling that my weight had an addictive component to it, she referred me to bariatric surgery. I hope one day there will be better treatments for addictive overeating.

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  13. Surgeons comment TO the patient they are examining in an attempt to assess need for Emergent OR….about their weight/abdominal girth and the like.

    I had to tell the doctor I work with after months of comments about my weight, “Do you think I don’t know that I am overweight?”
    Now there are no direct comments about my weight but issues around weight, exercise and outer appearances are part of the conversation daily.

    I have stories galore about comments made around patients/co workers weight. Health professionals have no boundaries in this regard.

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  14. I’m a dietitian and I was co-facilitating a group with a doctor who announced to a group of clients all affected by mental illness and weight problems that “sometimes losing weight is as simple as learning some new information”. Enough said.

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  15. The day after my C – Section the obstetrician called round whilst checking on the incision said ‘ Looks like we left another baby in there’.
    This comment crushed me so much I have not had another baby.
    Incidentally, this doctor was so kind to me 11 months and 9 days prior as he had before this when my son was stillborn at 6 months.
    I know this doctor was teasing and I am always joking but those words cut deep.

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  16. My doctor once told me (when I was 25) that I was “too short for my weight”. She was just joking of course, but that almost made it worse.

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  17. I am now in my 60s, and maintaining a normal weight after a lifetime of obesity. Although I’ve been lucky to always be in good health, I’ve received MANY negative statements. A couple of the most offensive remarks from health professionals that I’ve received are…
    (1) As a new mother, age 20, weighing around 210 (at 5’1″) and … except for obesity… in excellent health, I went to a new dentist to have a tooth pulled. No physical exam, of course. He told me that unless I lost weight, I would not live to see age 30.
    (2) At age 27, weighing around 135 lbs (at 5’1′) after having successfully dieted to lose 100 lbs,…. during a medical exam required by civil service for clerical employment … which I passed due to my good health,….. the medical doctor who examined me poked my stomach with his forefinger and told me I was too fat. I told him I was really proud of my recent 100 lb weight loss. He jiggled my stomach and said “then you need to exercise, flabby, too flabby.”
    (3) One Outrageous Bias shown by an Authority other than a medical professional …, at age 19, weighing 145 lbs (5’1″)… after receiving high scores on written tests that were required for employment by Pacific Bell as a telephone operater, the woman conducting my personal interview told me that although I was very qualified, my application was being denied because I was too fat. (In those days, employment applications required marital status, age, plus height, & weight, etc. which gave potential employers written proof….before a physical exam…. of my BMI in the Overweight category)

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  18. My extremely overweight doctor told me to lose 10 pounds and I responded you first.

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  19. I was asked by a so called dr around when i was about 25 and over 300 pounds if i had ever seen a skinny walrus. …that walruses were not skinny, and neither would i ever be…..

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  20. I was in my doctors office being examined by a doctor filling in for my regular one. She said with complete disgust in both her face and voice while touching me “My God have you ever tried to lose any weight ?” I’ve never forgotten the shame I felt or the embarrassment and it happened 23 years ago.

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  21. I was experiencing some very heavy menstrual bleeding that was highly unusual for me along with a couple of rounds of vaginitis and anemia. All of it was attributed to my excess weight and age. I left feeling that I was the one causing the problem because I was overweight and just needed to deal with it. Through the urging of a friend I made one more call and asked for something more to be done. A nurse finally got me an appointment to have a vaginal ultrasound where they discovered a 4 cm diameter fibroid tumor that was pushing it’s way out of the cervix, which was the cause of the bleeding, the infections and the anemia.

    For other health problems I have or have had, I rarely mention them because the answer will be “you just need to lose weight” – this has ranged from knee pain, plantar fasciitis, heart burn, excessive fatigue etc. The message is that it is all my fault and there is nothing he/she can do for me until I lose weight. So what is the use.

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  22. My life long family doctor told me not to bother with an obesity boot camp and said that I probably have an obesity genetic marker and may never be able to lose the weight. This was at a time I was over 400 and could barely wak and I had not had any genetic tests to support the claim.

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  23. just follow the canada good food guide….

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  24. Such a dreadful unnecessary experience. All such similiar experiences – I went through a stage of having to visit more than one doctor to compare the diagnosis as I felt I was being fobbed off.
    Maybe if people that are overweight are looked at and treated instead of the YF Syndrome (your fat) – the whole ‘drain on healthcare’ would be lessened.

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  25. I was hospitalized with severe back pain. I had an CT Scan done and was sent home with clean bill after being told the back pain was due to being overweight. I took my result to another doctor and they clearly saw a protruding disk in my lower back. An MRI confirmed the injury. I was a captive audience 1 week in a hospital for a parade of nurses and doctors to make rude comments about my overweight condition (which I am all too painfully aware of).

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  26. After losing over 80 pounds, and with around 40-50 left to lose to reach my goal, I was very excited and enthusiastic about my progress. I was enjoying excercising with a trainer, a lot of walking and yoga. I was excited to share my progress with my family doctor at my physical. I was very disheartened to hear her suggest bariatric surgery as a means of reaching my goal. She also suggested that there would be counselling prior to surgery which would be good as often weight loss causes marital problems. It was so discouraging to have her mention surgery as an option, when I was working hard and making good progress with diet and exercise. That visit has really stayed with me and shaken my self confidence.

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  27. My doctor point blank said “You are fat because you eat too much meat!” I replied “I’m practically vegetarian!” She said “Elephants are vegetarian too!”.

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  28. Here is another one sent to me: Last year I found a new family doctor ..yay!! …happily because mine moved to Calgary. He took my weight. Said “Your BMI is 25.9 , you’re overweight”. That’s it…no further commentary. What I didn’t mention to him was that I had just had my body fat % measured at the U of A by the guy who does fitness testing for the Oilers, firefighters etc and it was 18.2 % which is in the “athlete” category.
    I didn’t say anything, but it made me really mad..and then I thought..”this guy is clueless”.

    I changed doctors.

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  29. Another reader: As to my story. I am very obese and have fought this all my life with no long term success. I was recently sent to a cardiologist for a stress test. All was well with my heart although I was winded too easily. I am aware that I could and should be fitter and I do take responsibility for that. During the consultation the cardiologist talked very little about my heart and never touched on ways to improve my cardiac health but spent his whole time on my need for weight loss. His diagnosis of why I was overweight was the most shocking part. The physician told me that I must have very little stress in my life because when he was stressed he lost weight, that did did not want to eat, and that when he was stressed all he wanted to do was exercise. I laughed and told him that the exact opposite is what is true for many people. I told him about the many stressors I have in my life (and they are multiple like most people). Instead of acknowledging any of this, he just kept telling me that my life must be too stress-free and comfortable or the weight would simply come off. He, in fact, said “I don’t wish bad things on you but it might do you some good if something very unpleasant happened to you for a period of time to increase your stress level.” Wait! Isn’t stress bad for your heart? I came away thinking this man is incompetent and a menace to the many overweight and obese patients he must see. And once again I was struck by how no doctor I have ever seen has been able to offer me a set of tools to deal effectively with my weight.

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  30. Well, they lost weight it Auschwitz didn’t they? The last time I went to see that doctor. What can one respond to such a thoughtless, cruel remark?

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  31. 1. Most inappropriate comment: When I was 17 a doctor leered at me and said, “You want to have boyfriends don’t you? If you lose weight you will.” Creeper.
    2. Cruelest comment: 25 years later a thoracic specialist treating me for a severe group A Streptococcus pneumonia (totally unrelated to obesity), told me I could well do with losing some of that fat that was weighing down my lungs. This was after 5 days in ICU so you can imagine my mental state at that point.
    3. Stupidest comment: Three weeks ago my family doctor of 14 years, familiar with my history of normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol, normal blood sugar and a completely clear angiogram, MRI, and ultrasound of my heart told me I was obese and should lose weight immediately, and then in the next breath said “although the research isn’t conclusive that would make a difference in your case.” Huh?
    I was measured and weighed in his office at 5’6” and 184 lbs.

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  32. My sister has been obese since puberty. We are very close. She told me that at the end of one appointment with a GP, the doctor tossed this comment back over her shoulder as she leaving the leaving the examination room: “Oh…and stop eating those butter tarts!”

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  33. I am an obese type II diabetic. I asked a new endocrinologist (my previous one retired) whether I needed to go back on insulin after being off insulin for a year. The doctor then asked if the reason I thought that I needed insulin was to enable me to eat a large meal.

    I asked my family physician for a new referral.

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  34. Twenty years ago our son was about 18, very tall 6’2 and about 30 lbs overweight. He went to the doctor for an issue, non-related to weight and the doctor said to him: Oh, by the way you are too f__ fat”. I was very shocked that a supposed professional would talk this way and needless to say we just never went back.
    I,on the other hand, just had a very good experience with the doctor I have now. He has seen me try and try for 10 years to loose weight – he pointed out that it could be my lifestyle (work, work, work) and he was partially right. After I retired he saw that I was still not loosing and suggested a weight loss clinic where, with their guidance, I have lost ten pounds. The nice thing was that he started out by say “I want to help you”.
    Hopefully, these two experiences show that there is some progress!

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  35. I love my bariatric surgeon and although others (rightfully) see him as a drill sergeant, I love the no-nonsense style and extreme expectations. On the other hand, a funny episode happened between us when I had already lost 90 pounds in six months and had about seven left to my ultimate goal of 105 lbs. I walked into his office with my usual food journal in tow. When he asked me if I had any questions or concerns, I mentioned that the weight loss had slowed down and I was only losing a few pounds a month now. He looked at my journal which showed that I was eating 700-800 calories, over 90 grams of protein and under 40 grams of carbs a day. All of this was fully on program. He looked at my journal and said, ” You need to stop eating blueberries until goal”.

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  36. My coordinator had its annual appointment this morning with her doctor. She kindly mentioned that she does not want to be weighed, because she wants to see the result of her lifestyle modification to be measured at the gym every 4-6 weeks. He refused. She closed her eyes when he weighed her.
    At the end of the exam he told her: “Well, everything seems OK, but you close your eyes to your weight problem.”

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  37. I have struggled with my weight all my adult life. I have been on every diet and money grabbing scam, pill and machine there is. One particular time I went to the doctor as I was gaining weight yet again. I had been losing, but from one month to the next I had gained 5 pounds. He looked right at me and said, “What do you do, sit and eat a pound of butter a day”. He then went on a rant about how it is impossible to gain 5 pounds in a month and that I should be ashamed of myself to allow this to happen. Good grief, I am a bonafide stress eater and I can put on 5 pounds in a couple of days let alone a whole month. I walked out of that office and lost complete respect for him both as a physician and health provider.

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  38. The doctor didn’t say anything to my husband when he went for knee pain. She just looked at him with disgust. The pain is muscle not bone so nothing can be done?

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  39. I was 23 and just married. I was 190 lbs. I had severe pain and, after examining the ultrasound remarked, your ovaries are disintegrating. If you want children you need to have them now. We were not ready for children and I was extremely upset. I went for a second opinion. The specialist advised there was nothing wrong with my ovaries. However I did need to Lise weight. When my husband advised she hardly eats, the dr replied, no one came out of the death camps fat.

    I never went back to either dr. However, my mother asked why the gp had made the original diagnosis. He said, I wanted her to lose weight and giving her a dire diagnosis would force me to diet. It was for my own good.

    I was traumatized over a lack of fibre!!

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  40. When I was in my early 20s and not nearly as overweight as I am now, I was taken to an ER department in the middle of the night as I was in so much pain in my lower abdomen. During the examination, the doctor asked my when I had had my baby. I looked at him and said I have never had a baby to which he replied, “Well, you must have because you have all these stretch marks on your body and you only get those from having a baby.” Again I state that no I hadn’t and he just shook his head at me and said “Then were do you think these came from?” (in a very snarky way) I told him I had been gaining and loosing weight for years. He just looked at me in disgust, made a kind of snorting sound and proceeded to do a exam procedure that wasn’t necessary and was extremely embarrassing to me. He sent me away saying there was nothing wrong with me, even thought I could barely stand for the pain I was in.

    The next morning I was at my family doctors waiting at the doors for them to open, crying my eyes out. My doctor took me in right away, did a proper pelvic examination and found that I had an extreme infection in my pelvis/uterine area. I reported to her the treatment I had received from this ER doctor and she was appalled. As she was also a teaching doctor for the U of S and this ER doctor was a resident, I know she probably hunted him down and taught him a thing or two about patient treatment!

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  41. The start of a lifetime of dieting followed by regaining more than I lost began at 19. I was 5’4″ and tipping the scales at 127. I was told to eat only fruit and nuts for a month. Walk 2 miles every day. And, for heaven sakes wear high heels so your calves tighten
    It’s only been downhill experiences since. You are obese. Is your husband ok with your weight? When asked what diet he recommended, I was told ” Follow Canada Food Guide. “

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  42. I had lost about 40 pounds, and had reached my goal weight. My doctor weighed me and was impressed. I lay down on the table and lifted my shirt so he could examine me and he saw my jiggly loose skin and said “Oh, you still have more to lose!”. That was heart breaking. That jiggly loose skin will never ever go away, it’s part of the success of losing weight.

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  43. I have had many cruel things said by non-health professionals, but when it came to health professionals it has been more a case of attributing EVERYTHING to my weight. I don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, mobility issues or any other co-morbidity health concerns due to my obesity; however, it seemed like every time my big toe crossed the threshold of the doctor’s office, no matter the ailment, it was due to my weight.

    I finally got fed up and remarked to one particular physician that if that was the only diagnostic skill he learned in medical school, he sure wasted his money and time — try again because I know I’m sick and it’s not due to my weight. He took another more serious look at things and more follow up was done.

    Donna the ‘fed’ up

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  44. When I was 16 years old & went to a doctor for issues related to PCOS and he commented that I might want to move to Turkey as they like hairy, fat women there. Another doctor told me he didn’t believe that I ate salad because then I wouldn’t be so obese.

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  45. and this: After excitedly joining a weight loss/support group, my new husband’s family physician snidely commented Weight Watchers was for people who couldn’t lose weight on their own. Talk about a confidence killer!

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  46. After dealing with severe PMS for more than a decade, trying various antidepressants, exercise, supplements, conflict resolution, counseling, scheduling days to hide from everyone, scheduling work around it, etc, I finally got a referal to an Obgyn. I took in 6 months of symptom charting that clearly showed a Day -9 and Day -7 peak of virtually sociopathic disturbance followed by 6 days of crying, salt/sugar binging, missed work, lost friendships. He glanced at it, inspected the internal workings of my nether parts and announced there’s nothing wrong with me, and “have you tried counting to ten before you let yourself get upset”.

    If I’d had a gun, I might have counted to 5 before I shot him. Luckily, those 9 days of hell were a few days off, and I didn’t have a gun. Also luckily, I was knowledgeable enough to realize that what he was saying showed ignorance and lack of empathy on his part. Three years later I finally got to see a Reproductive Psychiatrist, who helped me get to sub-sociopathic symptoms. And now that I am in menopause, I can finally know who I am without a looner cycle swinging through my life like a wrecking ball every month. Yay menopause!

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  47. A colleague of mine, a dietitian, was obese, but active and happy — a marvellous woman. She constantly met prejudice from the people we worked with at the hospital. She went on a ski holiday, and left half way through the day due to severe shortness of breath. She was so sick she took herself to emergency. The ER doctors said it’s normal for overweight people to be short of breath when they are suddenly active. She tried to tell them this was abnormal for her. They discharged her. 4 hours later she was taken by ambulance to the same hospital where she died shortly after from a pulmonary embolism. She was in her early 30’s. This is a true story. She worked in BC, skiied in BC, died in BC.

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  48. 1) while in agony on ER stretcher having just confirmed a diagnosis of diverticulitis I asked a young doc what causes this….instead of the truth (there are various theories but no known cause) he told me it was due to my poor diet all my life & I replied, “you mean all those vegetables?” And he said, “don’t play dumb, you know what I mean,” & he left. What?

    2)(can’t find a gp in Edm currently) I was in a walk-in clinic with a very swollen and sore ear infection….doc comes in room & immediately, before she even closes the door, says, “i am going to refer you to the Weight Wise Clinic.” I say, “thank-you but I am here about my ear.” She says,”that is not important right now.” I say, “i am very familiar with the excellent work at the Weight Wise Clinic since I just completed 14 months in their program; in consultation with their experts we decided together that bariatric surgery is not for me right now so I was discharged last week. i am here to see you because of my ear, I think I have an infection.”. She says,”i am writing up the referral, you need to go back and get the surgery.” End of appointment. I had to re-book for the ear since their policy is one concern per visit & obviously, the uninformed doc decides what concern is necessary to deal with. Absolutely amazing….i would not have believed this were true had I not directly experienced it!

    3) “eat what your sister eats, look at her, she is thin.” I was about 20 at this time and my sis was 23….i tried this for a month and I gained 12 pounds that month. She ate candy and cake and milkshakes….things I know I may not touch (don’t like sweets anyway). That was about 27 years ago so its hilarious to now read recent research that states that one prone to obesity is unable to eat the same diet as one who is not, without gaining weight (or words to that effect). I have long known this, anyone with obesity proclivities knows this!!!

    4) a family member of mine is now in 1st yr medicine….she has already been told

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  49. Med school future physicians are told that they are THE expert (& the patient knows nothing.)… It is my belief that I have a certain expertise about my body and that a physician is an expert consultant….a subtle difference that means the world to me.

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  50. My lapband surgeon told me to take up drinking alcohol if it “loosened my band up to ease eating.” Needless to say, that was advice I did not take. He also neglected to perform procedures that would have shown my band had slipped, and six months later my band came out in emergency surgery.

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  51. The most useless, unhelpful remark I ever received from a Dr. was, “All you have to do is use your willpower. That will fix it for sure.”

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  52. Anonymous: I went to my ob/gyn as I’m pregnant and was scolded for gaining 20lbs
    by 24wks. I was then asked did I know what 300 calories looked like.
    Interestingly, I am a dietitian and was silenced by the insensitivity
    of the remark. I asked her to recalculate my weight gain as it was in
    fact only 15lbs, but she was intent on me knowing that 300 calories
    wasn’t a whole lot more to eat in a day. I told her well its a good
    thing I’m a dietitian then, but couldn’t help but think of all of the
    other mothers-to-be out there who might not be equipped with the same
    knowledge or be struggling with weight and now be focused on just
    consuming 300 calories extra for fear of additional weight gain. A
    reminder, we do not eat calories we eat food; food to nourish not only
    our bodies but the growing beings inside us if we are so lucky to get
    pregnant.

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  53. Female, 64.5 inches tall, just over 170 pounds on the doctor’s scale, disgustingly healthy from a heart/glucose/lipids standpoint. No discussion of weight during appointment, no discussion of current exercise habits or dietary habits. Without discussion, they tacked on a “wellness” plan to my patient plan encouraging me to cut 250 calories a day and increase activity by 250 calories. At the time, I was training for a century (100 mile) bicycle ride so I was putting in weekend rides of 30 or 40 miles along with regular cycling during the workweek. I hit the roof. That office has not suggested any more “wellness” plans to me.

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  54. Anonymous: My Dr I have now is not too bad but I have had a weight problem all my life.
    My first Family Doc had me stop drinking milk at 10 years old. He did not give me away to get calsium.
    I did have Gastric bypass surgery 5 yr ago & lost 125 lbs. I’m still not skinny but Ive kept it off & my health is much better.
    If I go to a different Dr about anything they alway start with I should lose weight. I now before they can say anything tell them you think I’m fat now you should have seen me before I lost 125 lbs.

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  55. During my annual physical, the nurse measured my waist circumference and told me “you should lose some weight around here.”

    Gee, thanks.

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  56. Because the development of diabetes troubled me (I was raised with my relatives saying “Natalie, don’t eat that; you’ll get fat and get diabetes), I finally decided I was going to get serious and lose weight. I was never obese to start with (5’3” top weight ever 168, but usually at around 155), but I starved myself down by 33 lb. and all I got was compliments for losing weight. Well, I didn’t meet the criteria (BMI was at a normal place) but I was engaging in anorexic behaviors, hoping against hope that the diabetes would go away. Well, it didn’t, and I ended up in treatment for an eating disorder. So I would say that the most damaging thing the medical community does to people who develop diabetes in adulthood is the constant admonition to lose weight and the diabetes will go away. Maybe for some people, but for a person who is not obese to begin with, maybe, just maybe the diabetes is NOT weight related!

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  57. Well, here is a different take on it. Five years ago, at 38 years old and 212 pounds, I started eating clean and exercising daily. In seven months, I lost 70 pounds, and I have kept it off ever since, consistently weighing 139-146 pounds from the spring of 2008 to present day…by eating clean and exercising daily. I visited a new primary care physician for the first time in August (my previous MD relocated) — she is a young woman (by which I mean, younger than I am), slim and trim. We talked about my diet and exercise habits, and she said to me, “I am concerned that you might be affecting your daughters’ body image” (my children are 11 and 12 years old). I was completely confused. “How so?” I asked. “They might become paranoid about gaining weight because you are so vigilant about your weight.” It was all I could do to not scream at her. Why isn’t anyone concerned about the 200+ pound woman eating junk food all day and the example about body image she is giving to HER children? My children eat better and know more about basic nutrition than most adults, and they enjoy being physically active. They understand that my health, mobility, energy, mood, and appearance have improved VASTLY compared the mom they had when they were younger. No one was ever concerned about the example I set back in 2006 when I was hitting the drive-thru for donuts every morning (and handing off donuts to my kids in the back seat)…no one was concerned about my sitting on the couch chatting on the phone all day while my kids watched TV and grazed on cookies. Now that I eat properly and take care of my body, I’m putting them at risk?

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  58. It’s amazing how deeply the comments can cut, and because they come from our “trusted” health care professionals, I think it’s hard to push back. It’s hard to say “Well, that’s insensitive” or “maybe you should watch what you say, doc. You really hurt my feelings”.
    My family doc told me to just cut my portions sizes. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but this was not a statement of conclusion after she had asked me some questions, it was just an assumption that I eat crap, and a lot of it.
    Doctors are intelligent people (and nurses too) but sometimes they just need to have some street smarts when it comes to being sensitive.

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  59. When Dr asked me if I drank pop I replied that I drank some diet pop. She then said that diet pop has a lot of calories and that was why I had a big fat belly. I have always regretted not responding.

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  60. I don’t remember what was said, but I remember crying every time I saw the doctor when I was a kid — not because of shots, but because I was ashamed during the conversations about my weight.

    Now, I stay with a doctor whose clinical skills I don’t trust because she doesn’t say anything about my weight.

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  61. “Your allergies would disappear if you lost weight.” My response: Right. Because hay fever is caused by the dust bunnies collected in your belly button.

    Also, 30 weeks pregnant and significantly overweight, “You need to eat small meals. Like half an apple.” My response: Are you kidding me?

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  62. I went to the campus health clinic with a horrible earache, and the doctor told me “It’s because your overweight. Your weight affects everything, even your eardrums.”

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  63. That’s got to be a joke – mmh probably not though – nhow awful. I would have been inclined to have said ‘I think there’s something wrong with my hearing……….I thought you said I had earache because I’m over weight.’
    Followed by ‘ excuse me dr, would you mind if I gave you 2 acres…….
    Hopefully he would say ‘what’

    Then you give him a swift kick between the legs’.

    This putting everything to weight is a huge excuse for getting away with laziness and not giving an S H & one T.

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  64. The stupidest remark came from my (also overweight) boss, a veterinarian, when I told him I had hurt my knee. He said, “Well, it would probably help if you lost weight.” I told him that was stupid because (1) my other knee was fine, and (2) this was a very atypical and temporary injury!

    The best remark was from my podiatrist when I went to see him for plantar fascitis. I said, “It’s probably because I need to lose weight, right?” And he said, “If that were the case, why would thin people get plantar fascitis, too?” And then went on to explain it was due to my shoes. Love him!

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  65. My husband was told his fatigue, no enthusiasm was all weight related. Years later my husband asked for a testosterone test………my poor husband had such low testosterone he was one hole short of being female.
    He’s aged incredibly quickly – now on testosterone he is feeling much better – how many times he went to the dr about feeling exhausted……, so many I couldn’t hazard a guess.
    It saddens me thinking how many years he struggled 🙁

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  66. Oh my goodness! Some of these accounts are horrifying!

    Mine happened when I was in a “medically supervised diet” program. I was having trouble staying in ketosis. The DR. told me to tie a bow on my finger to remind me. Then she had a better idea and said, “better yet, tie it on your mouth.”

    But as I read these, it also seems to me that doctors are in a no win situation. We obese people are so accustomed to being chastised for our weight, that even when a doc might be trying to be helpful, albeit, clueless, it offends. The mental state of obesity is very tricky.

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  67. Wow, these stories break my heart. I was born ‘big’…over 10 pounds and remained ‘big’ for my entire life. I grew up thinking ‘big’ was the worst thing possible. When I look at grade school pics with my classmates, I am the tallest and biggest…but when I look at pics of myself alone, I look normal. And I wonder, where did it all go wrong? Where did I learn the being small meant you were prettier and smarter? Why wasn’t I small? Why wasn’t I prettier and smarter? Fast forward to my physical exam just prior to my marriage when I was 20. I was 5’8″ and weighed 180 pounds and was told by the old family doc, “If you don’t lose weight, your husband will leave you.” Twenty years later we did split up but not before I had tried just about every diet plan available in the 1970-80-90’s. Fast forward another 40 years and, and after repeated weight loss programs incl weight loss surgery, I weigh 2 x 180 lbs. Altho I knew I had ‘disordered eating’ it has only been recently that I have been dx with binge eating disorder and was advised the only help for someone like me is a 12-step program like Overeaters Anonymous. My sons are 6’6″ tall…so I know there is some genetic component to my size. I just wish I knew when I was 20 what I know now…I could have been a very healthy worthy person at 180 pounds if I had maintained that weight instead of all the yo-yo dieting that I have done. At 60, not sure what my next step is…but I don’t think I will ever forget the embarrassment of that doc’s comments when I was 20!! What a jerk!!

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  68. In 2003 I went for my annual physical examination. My lab work showed a slightly elevated cholesterol, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar. I was overweight at 250 pounds, 5′ 3″. I did not drink alcohol, sodas, ate “real” food, non-smoker, walked 20-30 minutes a day. I had no physical complaints. My doctor told me, “Everything is normal except for you being overweight, which is a SOCIAL issue. I remember being unable to make a comment because essentially I understood what she was saying. At that point in my life, I had no health issues from obesity but apparently society had a problem with MY weight . . .

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  69. Wow. Some of these comments are amazing. I have had some of them, too, but I count myself lucky that they were not quite as bad.

    1. I was stabbed by a stranger when I was 11 (he was schizophrenic and thought I was someone else). After two days in hospital a young resident told me I was lucky to be fat because the knife had not hit any internal organs, but that I should lose weight anyway. I was completelly humiliated.

    2. I went to a doctor because of tendonitis in my foot from playing squash. She told me “fat people shouldn’t play sports.”.

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  70. Wow it’s pretty clear that doctors need to A) Respect the reason a person comes into see them, B) Learn to be more sensitive to the needs of a person with excess weight (why yes! we are people)and C) Learn some intervention strategies that might actually be useful – like brief interventions used in addictions.

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  71. I have to be honest in that I’ve been treated with nothing but kindness and respect from my family doctor and specialists with regard to my weight, even when they’ve been honest with me about its effects on my health. They aren’t all bad. 🙂

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  72. These comments are worse than I expected, it’s upsetting. It’s so important to always ask if a person is comfortable and interested in the topic before bringing it up. Unsolicited, critical advice is hurtful and counter productive in many ways. If you lose rapport with a client/patient how can there be a beneficial relationship after that?

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  73. I had a fertility specialist tell me it would be “unethical” to help us try to get pregnant because of my “state”. I had naively gone to the appointment armed with ovulation charts, thermometer charts, and my cycle plotted on a graph. Little did I know it would not be needed or even referred to. She spent 3 minutes with hubby and I, and at the end of it as she left the room she looked back over her shoulder and said that all she could offer was possibly sending us to another province to harvest my eggs IF I had any left (and if we had $15 grand in the bank).
    Now 173 lbs lighter and hoping for pregnancy soon, I hope that this “lady” one day gets treated the same way that she has treated me.

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  74. Dear Dr. Sharma,

    Thank you for the attention you are bringing to the issue of the perpetuation of bias and stigma among health care professionals.

    Our research team from Dalhousie University led by myself (Dr. Sheri Price, School of Nursing) and Dr. Sara Kirk (School of Health and Human Performance), are employing a novel dissemination strategy – live theatre, to share the findings from an original research study on obesity management. The original study, led by Dr. Kirk, investigated the experience of obesity management from the perspective of patients, practitioners, and policymakers across Nova Scotia and found that bias and stigma are commonly experienced by those with weight issues, and that practitioners play an important, and often unseen, role in perpetuating stereotypes about weight.

    The dramatic play of our findings is entitled “Behind the Scenes’ and the production takes place within a series of interprofessional and interactive workshops for health professional students across Atlantic Canada. The workshop series is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

    The workshop is intended to reveal tensions that exist between patient and provider and raise critical questions about the way we understand obesity and how we might better work collaboratively to address this issue. Workshop participants watch the live play and then participate in activities with each other that help stimulate dialogue about the issue of weight management and envision how future practices in supporting those with weight management can be ‘re-scripted’. Workshops were held at UPEI and UNB Saint John in October 2013, and a Dalhousie University workshop in Nova Scotia is scheduled for November 14th 2013. A workshop for Memorial University, NFLD, is in development for early 2014.

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    • Hi Sheri – this is important work – as you know addressing weight bias and discrimination and promoting professional and empathic conduct with obese clients is a key priority of the Canadian Obesity Network.

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  75. I heard this while waiting to see an orthopedic surgeon. In a nearby clinic room, the surgeon was seeing an overweight lady for a knee problem.

    His words to her were: ” you have to eat less to get the weight off your knees”.

    She responded ” I dont know if its what I eat because I eat like a bird”.

    His response was ” Isn’t that something – I thought pterodactyls were extinct millions of years ago”

    I couldnt believe what I was hearing!

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  76. Anonymous: I went in for my last physical examination before leaving home to go to university. I told my doctor I was going to get a Kinesiology degree. My doctor then said, “ You know you need to be athletic to do that,” and then sent me home with a pamphlet entitled, “Helping your obese child.” I was 17 and had a BMI of 28 at the time.

    P.S. My last year of high school I was captain of the girls volleyball and soccer teams….and I ran 5 km at least 3 times a week not that my doctor even bothered to ask.

    Stupidly enough when I think about this experience almost ten years later it still makes me cry.

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  77. Depending on whom you ask, I am either normal weight or slightly overweight. Because I had my fair share of insensitive MD comments (“Well, you’re fat, obviously! Ha ha ha!) I now refuse to get on the scale at the doctor’s office. I just shake my head politely. Now he just asks, “Is your weight stable?” It always is.

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  78. When I was 8 years old a Dr. “specialized in obesity ” showed me lots of pictures of severely obese people and told me if I wanted to look like those “whales” I should continue the pad I had because I was just like them when they were kids

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  79. When I was young (like 10 years and younger), I was treated horribly about my weight by my doctor. I understand that she was just concerned, and doing her job to make sure I didn’t end up where I did eventually end up. I don’t remember what all was said, but I do know that it was enough to keep me away from any type of doctor for the next 15 years.

    At age 25, after years of trying to have a baby with my husband I finally gave in and booked an appointment with a new family doctor. When they weighed me I was shocked to see the number – 386lbs. I knew it was bad, but didn’t realize it was that bad.

    The new doctor I coincidentally chose happened to work at the Edmonton Weight Wise Clinic. She was definitely concerned about my weight, but didn’t treat me like most others would. She told me about the clinic, but made it completely up to me if I chose to go down that path.
    After a few months and some encouragement by my gyno (after some discouraging test results), I asked her to refer me to the clinic.
    I had RNY in April of this year and I am down to 230lbs. It’s not my ultimate goal, but I am happy, healthy and on my way to becoming a mom!

    So, my story basically shows that Doctors aren’t all discriminatory. I think that most probably don’t have the proper training.

    I am extremely lucky have by chance picked an amazing doctor that is part of the amazing program at the Royal Alex.

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  80. My first attempt to get help with my weight, was to call a clinic that was designed to help women with women’s issues. When I called, I explained to the nurse at the clinic that I would like to lose weight (had not lost weight from having a baby a year earlier) and she said, “You do realize that this will take at least 2 to 3 years to do.” She did not offer help and I hung up feeling that maybe there was no hope for weight loss.

    I had gallstones out after the birth of my second child. In the follow up check up by the surgeon the next day, he looked me in the eye and said,” I do not want you to overeat one more day.”

    A gynecologist I saw for bladder surgery asked me, “Have you ever watched Dr. Phil?” She told me I had to lose 100 lbs. before she could perform surgery. When I cancelled the surgery some months later, because I failed to lose 100 lbs., she asked me angrily why I cancelled, I said, “You asked me to lose 100 lbs before surgery and I knew I couldn’t get there in time (for the surgery.)” She huffed and said, “We can do the surgery!!”

    Now, very depressed that I am clearly becoming more obese than just fat, I saw a counselor who referred me to a psychiatrist. In my meeting with the psychiatrist (5 mins long), he asked what I thought was the problem for my depression. When I said that I was depressed about being fat, he asked how much weight I’d like to lose. I told him, “80 pounds.” He said, “No problem!” prescribed me prozac and left after 5 minutes.

    This same psychiatrist became a co-worker of mine 10 years later and during rounds one morning, we were discussing the case of a mental patient (who happened to be morbidly obese.) He indicated to the team that he would put said patient on said medication, then looked down the table at me and said, “You too.”

    I recently went to my family physician to request regular dr appts to I could track my weight and have some system of regularity and accountability for my weight and knew in my first visit that he couldn’t help me. The scale in his office couldn’t record my weight – it didn’t go that high.

    I did see a doctor in the small northern town I was living in about a plantar fascitis problem and he told me, “Sue, you’re fat. If you want to not be fat, then maybe we could meet weekly and I will help you to lose weight.” I was walking daily about 1/2 hr., moutain biked in the summer and could do 45 mins on the treadmill at the gym at that time. I was simply using the wrong shoes to do my workouts in. His comment did motivate me to lose a lot of weight, although it started first with attending an overeaters anonymous meeting (where they brought snacks to) and ended with me doing regular 2 hr. workouts per day (in lieu of attending OA) durign which time I regained a normal weight. I did appreciate his offer of help, however, didn’t really need it in the end. This was during my pre-morbid obesity state.

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