The Dreaded Doctor: Advocating for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

Fat people and/or people recovering from an eating disorder likely have a complicated relationship with medical providers. Most likely, they have experienced weight stigma and fatphobia when engaging in our medical system. Weight stigma research shows that medical providers self-report more bias towards fat people and often prescribe diets or weight loss before testing for maladies. 

Now, while the medical system is changing, it is slow, to say the least. So, in the meantime, I’m here to give you helpful tips on how to speak up for yourself and create meaningful boundaries with your medical provider. 

  • Find a better doctor

      1. Know that there are “fat-friendly” or HAES-aligned practitioners out there. If you have the ability to change providers, you should. Change to someone who will give you higher quality, comprehensive care. Thankfully, someone decided to compile a list by state and country: Fat Friendly Doctors List
  • Prepare

      1. Speaking up at the moment can be hard. So, call your provider’s office ahead of time. Ask them to make a note on your chart that you don’t want to be weighed (YES, it’s totally ok to refuse. Unless you are rapidly dropping or gaining weight, your weight isn’t a “vital sign”). 
      2. Now, some people on certain medications and/or with certain conditions may need to have their weight more closely monitored. Or perhaps you don’t want to refuse to be weighed, which is totally fine. You can stand with your back to the scale and ask them to not tell you the result. This allows them to take their “vital sign” and doesn’t trigger your eating disorder. 
      3. If applicable, also have them note your eating disorder on your chart. Tell them they may not counsel you on weight loss for any reason. 
  • Activate your care team:

      1. If you work with an ED Recovery Therapist, give your medical provider their contact information. Direct your provider to speak with your therapist about any concerns they might have regarding your weight. (You’ll most likely need to sign a consent form). The same thing goes for anyone working with nutritionists or dietitians during recovery, allow the provider to talk with your “care team” if they have concerns instead of activating your ED.
  • Bring a Buddy

    1. If you can, bring someone with you to your appointment. It can be intimidating and isolating to advocate for yourself alone. If you bring a spouse, family member, or friend who can help advocate for you, you might have more success and feel better about the whole situation. 

Most providers make appropriate adjustments when presented with one or all of these solutions. If your provider doesn’t change and continues to have fatphobic interactions with you or is dismissive of your symptoms, find a new provider. It is worth it because you’re worth it. You deserve to have quality health care regardless of your weight or body size.