One of the things I expected in dealing with my father’s medical odyssey was “weight talks” or fat shaming — not of him, but of me. You know, the “Well, you should take care of yourself by being thin” talk. It actually hasn’t happened. I think it’s partly because the patient weighs 175lbs and partly that his primary health problem is strongly linked to smoking. “You don’t smoke? Good for you” tends to cover that.
I have new reason to be glad of this. See, a couple weeks ago I visited an in-law in the hospital. The reason she was in the hospital wasn’t related to her diabetes, but an HbA1c test was run and her results were high. During the time I was visiting a diabetes educator stopped by to discuss blood sugar control, including testing, meal composition, activity, stress reduction, and weight loss—a pretty typical “weight talk”. About an hour later a hospital dietitian came in to discuss the hospital food, diet, and, again, a weight talk. And both pointed out that weight loss can cure type 2 diabetes! (Maybe.)
Anyway. The weight talk wasn’t with me this time; I reminded myself, repeatedly, that it wasn’t about me. The in-law in question would like to lose some weight, slowly, and with an emphasis on maintaining it. That is her choice, not mine. No one told me that I should lose weight. Cool, right?
…and then, last week, I put off calling to get an appointment despite chest tightness and needing to use my albuterol inhaler multiple times a day, after having had a cough and sinus stuffiness for a month. Why? Because I didn’t feel able to deal with medical practitioners when I was tired and sick. I feared the stress of “You’re fat and therefore you don’t deserve to be healthy” more than I feared the chest pains. (Granted, I put the pain at about a 2, and breathing shallowly or using albuterol relieved it. But still.) When a friend urged me to get an appointment — which turned out to be with a new-to-me doc at my practice, because that’s who was available — memories of weight lectures past, and others’ bad experiences, caused me to bring the man of the house with me for support.
As it happens, the visit was fine; pneumonia was ruled out and I was given antibiotics for a respiratory infection with no fat-shaming or weight talk. I was treated as a patient, not a fat patient, and I’m glad. I just wish it was that way for everyone.
Huffington Post: When Doctors Judge Their Obese Patients
Prepared Patient: Larger Patients: In Search of Fewer Lectures, Better Health Care
American Medical News: The weight of obesity: Linking large people to care
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