“Medical fat shaming” at the doctor’s office is “mentally and physically harmful,” according to a Connecticut College psychology professor.
“Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming, in an attempt to motivate people to change their behavior, is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers,” claimed professor Joan Chrisler, speaking at an academic conference on Thursday.
Campus Reform reports that Chrisler claimed that doctors “repeatedly advise weight loss for fat patients while recommending CAT scans, blood work, or physical therapy for other, average weight patients,” and argued that “recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight is unethical and a form of malpractice.”
Her most recent academic article, “Sizeism is a Health Hazard” influenced her presentation “Weapons of Mass Distraction—Confronting Sizeism.”
The abstract of her article reads:
Sizeism and stereotypes of fat people can have a negative impact on their physical health and well-being. Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming (in an attempt to motivate people to change their behavior) is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers.
The assumption that weight is responsible for, or related to, almost any presenting complaint has resulted in misdiagnosis. Recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight (e.g., weight loss for fat patients; CAT scan, blood work, or physical therapy for other patients) is unethical and a form of malpractice.
Intersectional identities can result in a greater cumulative burden for people who experience sizeism as well as other forms of oppression (e.g., sexism, ageism, racism, classism, transphobia), and the stress that such unfairness causes can damage people’s health. Better training for health care providers and empowerment of patients are recommended.
During the presentation, Chrisler also reportedly claimed doctors often commit microaggressions against fat patients during medical treatment as well as interpersonal interactions.
“Implicit attitudes might be experienced by patients as microaggressions—for example, a provider’s apparent reluctance to touch a fat patient, or a headshake, wince, or ‘tsk’ while noting the patient’s weight in the chart,” she said before claiming “microaggressions are stressful over time and can contribute to the felt experience of stigmatization.”
While referencing a study of over 300 autopsy reports, the psychology professor claimed fat patients were 1.65 times more likely than other patients to have significant undiagnosed medical conditions. She presented this statistic as evidence of “misdiagnosis or inadequate access to health care.”
While responding to Campus Reform’s request for comment, Chrisler reportedly claimed she has a large interest in body-image, especially women’s body image, so much so that she has written a book about it which will be released later in the month.
“Fat shaming is a serious concern; girls have committed suicide after being fat shamed in social media,” she told Campus Reform.
“Fat shaming from health care providers can also have serious physical and mental health consequences.”
She admits there is no way to prove causation for her claims and “it would be unethical to do such an experiment.”
According to Chrisler’s article, “Sizeism is a Health Hazard,” she believes “health habits, body satisfaction, and self-acceptance,” are more important indicators of someone’s personal health.
“The Goldilocks Rule has no place in the healthcare system,” the psychology professor claims. “It is not possible to determine a person’s health status on the basis of their weight.”