21st Century Aging

Living longer and better.

Physicians Are Biased Against Overweight Women

Doctors think differently about those carrying extra pounds. Read More

Not taken serious by MD

As an overweight woman, I know how this feels. Our family doc treats me as if he despises me. Pays not attention to the reason of my visit, and just tells me to lose weight. No help at all.

I'm not overweight, but I

I'm not overweight, but I have DEFINITELY seen this happen to people. It's annoying (even to me, not being victimized with it) to see people try to write off their obvious prejudice against overweight people by saying, "I'm just concerned for their health." Even I can tell that's BS.


Look at the literature on carbs and good fats.

Actually Louis

It seems different metabolic profiles need different diets. How to explain that some people follow Weight Watchers religiously and still gain weight? Other follow Atkins and lose a ton of weight. Others have no effect at all with fewer carbs. That is my point-- I wish MDs understood the complicated research on weight and metabolism. It is not fair to ask patients to do all of the research.

doc's and overweight female patients

You failed to mention another serious side effect of being an overweight female. Sexual abuse of patients by doctors! I have been sexually molested by 2 male and 2 female doctors! When I was not overweight I was never molested. Another doctor said, "You are REALLY BIG! referring to my breasts. Other male doctors look repulsed. I believe most of my extra weight is a genetic thing and it occurred rapidly with multiple other serious symptoms, including a rare thyroid condition. Not fun. Other women I have spoken with haveshared that they have also been molested by physicians. Does anyone know?

Thank you.

Thank you for taking the decent and rational perspective on this problem. People are all too willing to take the view that doctors have taken on this matter these days.

Doctor's are biased against

Doctor's are biased against smokers, I've known people who were refused treatment until they had quit for at least 3 months. Doctor's were biased against treating my grandfather because he was an alcoholic, he just couldn't follow doctor's orders while dealing with his alcholism. You can pick apart the reasons why some people are overweight but let's face it, the majority are addictted to food but would never admit to it as much as my grandfather would never admit to his addiction. Any addiction that interfers with a person's abiility to heal and/or follow doctor's instruction is what it is. Until I can quit smoking I know that if I need to be treated for anything I need to quit smoking and this is something that I know!

Bad comparison.

First, I have no problem saying it: I have an addiction to certain types of food, which prompts me to throw away my usually reasonable diet under certain circumstances. But the doctors around me? *They* are the ones who refuse to see my addiction for what it is. They keep talking to me as though I simply didn't know how to eat properly (I do, I really do), or as though I was somehow blind to the fact that I'm obese (I'm not).

Second, once you quit smoking, you're done. It might take you three or six months, but you'll be done. But me? Not only would it take me MUCH longer than three or six months to shed the weight, but also, I will NEVER be done. A food addict on a diet never reaches the point where they are "done", ie. the point where they are not doing whatever their addictive behaviour is, simply because a food addict can never STOP eating. I'll always be in the process of stopping, with no hope of ever making it. Not quite the same.

And third, there's a difference between being refused treatment because of an addiction (which is something that wouldn't fly in my country, by the way), and not even being properly examined in the first place because *everything* you suffer from is put down to "Just lose some weight and it'll get better", without even a shadow of a proper investigation. So it's not that obese people like me can't follow doctors' orders; it's that we don't even GET any doctors' orders to follow, except for "Lose weight", whatever our problem is.

As a 'mere' science student

As a 'mere' science student and I feel nothing but contempt towards doctors who lack basic scientific curiosity and rigor. Medicine should be based on evidence, not on biases. My personal experience might explain my strong feelings about this.

It took doctors five years to figure out that my moderate weight gain wasn't the reason I felt fatigued and depressed. I made a list of symptoms which included joint and muscle pain, sore neck, loss of appetite, irregular periods, puffiness in face and dry skin. As a physiology student at the time, I knew that something was probably wrong with with my endocrine system. My GP bluntly told me that I wasn't going to tell him what to do. He started telling me to loose weight by exercising and eating less. I wasn't eating and as for exercising, I had to stop all my physical activities due to soreness and fatigue. I used to sprint and swim.

I decided it was time to change doctors...with no luck.

Some doctors would test my glucose at every visit just to 'make sure' I didn't have diabetes (type 2). Two of them asked me to keep a food journal. They accused me of lying because my calorie intake didn't rise above 1600 calories a day.
I was put on antidepressants - they thought they hit the jackpot. I was 'just' depressed.
Now I needed to loose my extra 14 pounds. I would feel better afterwards surely...it's what they say in their textbooks.
They ignored my family history, they also ignore my massive goiter. They ignored every single thing that didn't fit their theory.
Thankfully, a few months ago, I ended up in hospital for a bad infectious mononucleosis. The first thing the emergency doctor did was to point out my goiter. She admitted me for two days and tested every single little thing. They did a thyroid ultrasound and discovered nodules. Thankfully, after a biopsy, they found them to be not cancerous.
I do however have Hashimoto's Disease and started a treatment for both my T4 and T3. In three months, I lost 20 pounds whilst eating a lot more and exercising moderately. My levels are not yet optimal, but I already feel a lot more alive. I'm only 23, but those doctors robbed me five years of my life.

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Tamara McClintock Greenberg, Psy.D., M.S., is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.


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