Edinburgh based plus size style and fat positive blogger AmandaApparel discusses her struggles as a fat woman seeking medical care and shares her top tip for speaking with your GP.
Content warning: This blog post mentions weight loss, fat phobia, anxiety, depression, suicide, and fertility. If these are topics you’d prefer to avoid, that’s totally cool! Feel free to check out the style page instead.
When fat people talk about how we’re fighting for equality, we’re not just talking about shopping for clothes. Access to fair healthcare is the biggest struggle for many folks out there. My personal healthcare experience has changed significantly since I moved to the UK. Back in the states my family doctor was also a fat woman. She provided me with tests when they were needed, she never pressured me to lose weight, and she helped me with PCOS way back in the day.
Since moving to the UK I’ve had my fair share of doctors. Each new post code means a new GP office, and it usually takes some time to find one who isn’t blatantly prejudiced against fat people. I’ve been with my current practice for 10 months now, and my usual doctor is an angel. She helps me manage anxiety and depression, she helped me get off of my birth control, and I only wish she had been available when I recently visited the doctor for wrist pain.
I’ve been struggling with an annoying case of carpal tunnel. It’s manageable, but it’s starting to complicate my uni and work life. I booked an appointment to speak to a doctor about treatment options. After inspecting my wrist she immediately agreed that it was carpal tunnel, and was pleased that I’ve been wearing a wrist brace and treating it with anti-inflammatories. Right when I think the appointment is going well, the doctor gives me elevator eyes. You know, when they look your whole body up and down then up again? She looks me square in the face and says, “You know, carpal tunnel may be caused by your weight and diabetes. Weight loss would be a useful treatment for you to pursue.”
Okay, so. Hmmm. First of all, the doctor didn’t ask about any activity or motion that could’ve caused this. I work in retail, which means loads of repetitive motion with my hands. I’m a student, which means hours of writing and typing every week. I’m not a doctor, but in my opinion those are probably the aspects of my lifestyle that caused this flare up. As for my weight, obviously I’m fat. But fat does not equal diabetic, and fat diabetic people still deserve treatment options when they have physical ailments. In the past I’ve been able to prepare myself for potentially fat phobic comments from doctors, but this time I was not at all prepared. Naturally, I took to Twitter and Instagram and asked other fat women to share similar stories. As always, the fat babes of social media had my back!
10 Outrageous Reasons Doctors Have Told
Fat Women to Lose Weight
1. Cervical screening
2. Back injury
3. Gallbladder issues
4. Foot pain
5. Thyroid disorder
6. Respiratory concerns
7. Reproduction and fertility
8. Knee Pain
9. Anxiety and depression
10. Wait for it: DRY. SKIN. *eye roll emoji for days*
If you've had similar fatphobic experiences at the doctor, I'm so sorry. It can be outrageously intimidating because we're not taught how to advocate for ourselves at the doctor. We're brought up assuming that the doctor knows best and that they're truly neutral about bodies, but that isn't always the case. I want to share a good response when a doctor suggests treating your fat rather that treating whatever is troubling you.
"I understand that you think this is about my weight,
but I'd like to know what you would recommend to
someone smaller than me with the same symptoms."
This shows that you're proactive, and that you want to be treated fairly and without discrimination. Whenever I meet a new doctor they always ask me what I do. I like to use that opportunity to share "I'm a full time student, a part time sales associate, and a plus size blogger/activist." This at least gives them a hint that I'm happy at my size and I don't want to talk about weight loss.
Alternatively, you could always follow in Molly's footsteps! (You can buy the shirt here!)
More resources on this topic:
Jes Baker dissects fat and health in chapter 5 of her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls
Daria Matza discusses medical fatphobia in episode 6 of Every Body Podcast
Evette Dionne writes about her experience at Revelist
Yrfatfriend has a valuable thread on twitter about this topic
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