How to Choose a Fat-friendly Doctor and other Medical Suggestions

by Mara Nesbitt

It's difficult, if not impossible, to know how an unknown potential medical professional (called doctors or physicians in this article for the sake of simplicity) will view your fat body, and how they will treat you. I have a few suggestions about avoiding the "all your problems will disappear if you lose weight" type of doctors. I'll give some examples of how I personally handle this task.

First of all, I ask around. My fat friends have been a great help in the past for finding amicable doctors. If I am faced with a choice of physicians from an HMO list, I generally start with the closest females. Then I widen my scope outward. I call each doctor on the phone, and ask their support staff to have the doctor call me. It sometimes takes several calls on my part before the physician actually returns the call. I give them three tries. If that doesn't get them to return the call, I figure the doctor doesn't want my business and I cross them off the list.

I ask the same questions of all of them:

"Do you think a person can be both fat and healthy?"

If they say no, or qualify it.. up to X number of pounds.. then I don't give them my business. If they say yes, I proceed with:

"Are you comfortable touching a fat person?"

Most of us have experienced being diagnosed from across the room, as if the doctors fear they will catch fatness from us.

Then I ask whatever other questions I have: alternative therapies, office hours, etc. It is very rare that I get past the first question. They usually don't think fat people can be healthy. I go on to the next doctor on the list.

I won't waste my time, energy or my insurance company's money with a doctor who won't treat me with dignity and respect. If you belong to something like Kaiser, where you are assigned to a doctor, I'd recommend starting with the first one, expressing your needs for a non-judgemental physician with him/her, asking for their cooperation, and if they don't want to work with you in that way, asking them for a referral to someone who will.

Most doctors need some educating about fat people. There are some good books written in medical terminology which your doctor might give credence to. The one I'm thinking about in particular is "Rethinking Obesity" by Dr. Paul Ernsberger and another doctor. I've actually turned some doctors around when they stopped to think of things that they already knew, like how many fat patients regain weight after dieting. They know, in their heart of hearts, that dieting doesn't work, but they get (some of them at least) frustrated because they have no other solutions to "the obesity problem". Ask them how they would treat a thin person with your condition. There isn't a single condition or disease that fat people get that thin people don't also get.

NAAFA has an excellent brochure called Healthcare Bill of Rights. (Link leads to a PDF file.)

They have copies available, and recommend that you give one to each doctor or health professional you see, and if you are entering a hospital, to have one in your file there, as well as by your bed. This will alert each and every person who takes care of you to what you expect and deserve in the way of health care.

Other brochures available from NAAFA are:

I don't believe you need to be a member of NAAFA to receive these brochures, but they do cost money to print. I'm sure a small contribution to offset the printing costs would be appreciated.

It helps to think of doctors as a service worker, like the person who fixes your car, or caters your party. You would ask questions and find the right person for those jobs, wouldn't you? Spend your money where you get the best service.

You also have the right to refuse all medical tests and treatments, like being weighed, or being put on a diet. If someone asks me to (well, they don't ask, they tell me to HOP up on the scale usually) get weighed, I just say "No." They usually look at me in horror, and I continue with "I don't do scales." Of course, if I'm going to have surgery and want the anesthesiologist to give me the proper dose, I will weigh for them. There might be other instances where it's important to get weighed for some individuals, but for those of us who choose not to weigh, we *do* have the right to refuse.

If your doctor doesn't have armless chairs in the waiting room, ask them to provide some. Many people have never considered the needs of fat people's comfort.

If it is your choice to not be weighed at each appointment, It should say "DO NOT WEIGH" in your medical chart, in very big letters, so you don't have to go through this each time you go to the doctor's office. They usually want to take my blood pressure *right* after going through this push-and-pull about the scale. I tell the nurse to wait till I've forgiven her to take my blood pressure, usually at the end of the visit. And I always insist on a large size blood pressure cuff. A too-small cuff will give you a falsely elevated BP reading.

You deserve the very best in health care. If you think that your doctor is treating you disrespectfully, find another. Bring along an advocate to appointments to ask the questions you might forget, or to give you their feedback about how you are being treated. Bring along your own 10X size hospital gowns, available through NAAFA. Taking charge of your health is extremely empowering.

Mara Nesbitt LMT     Yoga for Large People Videos
Superbbw on IRC
Undernet                   Educate! Infiltrate! Celebrate!

To Health Care Tips Page

To Fat Friendly Physicians List

Web page maintained by: Stef
No unsolicited commercial email.