Being Fat Shamed by a Medical Professional
I’ll never forget my “health assessment” by a nurse practitioner at my local GP surgery, where I had newly registered. I had all the usual checks; blood pressure (normal), questions about my daily activity (I’m quite active); bloods (normal range). Then it came to being weighed and measured. The nurse peered at her charts (I later discovered it was a BMI chart.) “Hmmph” she said, “you’re in the overweight range.” I hadn’t felt too bad prior to this, rather comfy in my size 14 clothes (16 on larger days…you will feel me here…) at 5ft 6inches. I gave her a worried look. “What will this mean?” I said.
“Well, you are far more at risk than other people of dying of heart disease and contracting type 2 diabetes.”
[later GP consultations showed that my chance of dying of heart disease is in fact less than 5%]
I said “Oh? I had been feeling good at the moment, because I was definitely size 16-18 last year, so I thought I had done quite well? I feel comfortable in my body now at size 14.”
She looked me up and down, and with a slight flare of her nostrils declared: “Well, it’s quite simple. You need to eat less and move more and the weight will come off.”
I felt terrible. I was full of shame. I must really be fat and disgusting, I thought, quietly shrivelling inside… I looked at this (very thin and miserable-looking) lady in dismay. I couldn’t seem to find the right words at that moment, so annoying. I thought “IF ONLY IT WERE THAT EASY, WE WOULD ALL BE AS THIN AS YOU,” (and between me and you I thought if I was going to be as skinny as this lady was, I might be a bit happier about it!)
So why can’t we “just” eat less and move more and – hey presto – lose weight? Turns out it’s a lot more complicated than that…. So began my exploration of the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, why diets fail, why being thin does not guarantee health (yes, read that again) and my anger and concern about fat shaming and the effect of this on our mental health.
Like me, you may have dieted repeatedly over the years, only to regain the weight…and then some! How did that make you feel about yourself? Some examples I have heard from clients are: “I am a failure”; “I am disgusting”; “I have no willpower”; “I’m embarrassed to eat in public”; “Everyone in the street is looking at me with disgust”; and even (sadly) “I hate myself”.
This is just plain wrong, we have not “failed” at our diets, our diets have failed us! There are many complex reasons for this, none of which are down to any character flaw whatsoever in yourself. I can’t state this enough. The cultural attitude that “obese people are Lazy” has a lot to answer for, and causes a lot of unnecessary unhappiness.
If you too are living in a larger body, and any of this is familiar to you, or you have been fat shamed by anyone (including a medical professional), then I would love to hear about your experiences. Please message me, email me or comment on my post about this. Its time fat shaming stopped!