photo credit: Tobyotter
Weight bias and prejudices coming from medical professionals? And, especially from dietitians? (let me hide myself here…)! This leading to clients feeling awful about themselves..even worthless. This is what I heard from one of my readers recently.
Perhaps this feeling worthless is a self-perception that becomes more sensitive when you are overweight or obese and need to see a doctor or dietitian. The special reader I connected with was keen to make lifestyle changes to become healthier for herself and her family…she has access to a dietitian at her job to help her achieve this goal. However, this dietitian made her feel bad about herself.
Because of that she doesn’t use this resource to achieve her goals. In fact, in our discussion, she pointed out something so apparent I never deeply thought about it before…She said that she (and others she knows) avoids going to doctors too because some of them make you feel so horrible about being a bigger person. Here is her comment to me, which she said I could share, “do they not think that fat people may be depressed enough ? I know I need to lose weight and all but don’t make me feel like a worthless person because of my size.” I guess I knew biases and ignorant attitudes by health professionals do exist…but I was shocked by how much! In fact, studies have shown that almost 70% of overweight and obese people have experienced weight bias by doctors and up to 81% of dietetic students have prejudices against the same group. (1,2)
I am sure that there are readers out there that have access to good health care, including doctors and dietitians, but refuse to go because they feel worthless about themselves when they leave the appointment! What is the problem? Are overweight people more sensitive to comments in medical consultations or are health professionals lacking in tact and have bias against overweight clients? Whatever the reasons it happens, the result is that some, perhaps many overweight and obese people who need good medical advice do not seek it because of self-esteem issues. And as health professionals we must be aware of this and use the proper terms to encourage clients to make healthy lifestyle changes in a positive way. Because when that client leaves the office, they won’t remember the suggestions on how to successfully lose weight but they will remember how they feel about being overweight. My question to you readers, have any of you experienced discrimination or untactful words at a health professional’s office? What was your reaction? Would love to hear your comments to know the extent of this issue.
(1) Rudd Report, Yale University, 2008
(2) Journal of the American Dietetic Association, March 2009, Volume 109/Number 3 p. 438