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How I Navigate My Plus Size Body and Deal with Doctors

How I Navigate My Plus Size Body and Deal with Doctors

navigating doctor while fat

So this is a tricky topic for me, a plus-size boutique owner, to write about as it pertains to our weight and dealing with the bias we experience with doctors who tell us to “lose weight” to make our problems disappear. Don’t laugh, but I am usually on the very opposite side of this issue. I am not a fan of losing weight to be beautiful. You already are.

I don’t agree with women that think being skinny will fix all of their problems. At the end of the day you are still left with you. I am more about feeling comfortable in your own skin & being your healthiest version of you. But today, I am compelled to write about the biases, stereotypes, and discriminations against plus size people in the medical profession. That, along with being fat while dealing with doctors and how I push back.

Being Fat and Dealing with Doctors

navigating doctors while fat
Photo by Elle Hughes

So often I hear women say, “If I could just lose this belly I would be fine” and despite the thousands of dollars spent and months of deprivation and starvation women cannot seem to lose anything. Often I say, “Women who walk through my door are not the size they are because they can’t put the fork down, but because of menopause, genetics & medications.”

In my opinion doctors play a large role in this process, with their weight discrimination & the systematic dismal of symptoms of plus size people by saying, “Lose weight and you won’t have this problem.” Seriously? I am now at a point in my life that when I meet a new doctor I say from the initial visit, “If all you want to do is talk about or blame my weight, then you are not the doctor for me. I have been this weight (almost literally) for 30 years & my symptoms are new so let’s not blame it on the weight, ok?”

Some doctors are surprised by my stance (usually male doctors), but most new doctors I’ve met have been rather receptive to my take on my health situation. I also say, “I am a player in my own health care & if you don’t see me as an equal in MY health then we’re not going to have a great relationship.” Yeah, I’m that girl.

I understand I am not a doctor and that I’m just a retailer, but I am the expert in ME. I will not be “Fat Tracked” by a doctor because they are too lazy or unwilling to do their job. Those days are OVER.

navigating doctor while fat
Photo by StockSnap

Think this isn’t a REAL issue? Let me give you a little example.

A dear friend of mine who is an eating disorder survivor & someone who has had a large weight gain during her recovery has been having LOTS of health issues as of late, some of which include sweating profusely, heavy breathing for minor exertion, sleep apnea, and skipping periods. She approached her GP and her doctor told her “You have PCOS. Lose weight, and it will get better.” That’s it.

The GP didn’t order any lab work nor check for the usual factors. Well, my friend desperately wants to conceive but with her system being so out of whack it isn’t happening. She went to a specialist on whom she “pulled a Jan” and set the rules about the weight conversation. The Doctor’s reply was, “Your weight is the least of my concerns.”

After a lengthy chat about her health issues the specialist was shocked that the GP did not order any blood work nor did she check for the classic signs of PCOS like ‘the beard’. Well, within 2 hours of her blood work her specialist called to tell her her thyroid numbers were sky high & that she needed to start thyroid meds ASAP. She also told her that the hypothyroidism was putting more strain on her system & heart than her weight.

My friend came to me with tears in her eyes & said “I thought it was my fault”. Of course you did. That’s what the weight biased mentality of Western Medicine wants you to believe. 

feeling good is not reserved for the skinny
Photo courtesy of Janet Tanury

And. This. Happens. Every. Damn. Day.

As some of you can relate to, I am suffering from a lot of arthritis from an autoimmune disease & from wearing high heels on carpeted cement for the 30+ years I’ve been in retail. This year seems to be the worst. At the gentle nudging of a new GP, I reached out to an Obesity Medicine specialist. Her job is to help coach people through healthy lifestyle changes, prescribe weight loss drugs when necessary & to look at your current list of meds to see if any of them could be causing or maintaining a higher weight.

I gave her my opening line & then added, “I want you to know I am not here because I have a low self-esteem nor do I have any desire to be skinny. I am here because my weight is making it hard for me to stand long periods of time at work & it is affecting my business.”

She asked me, “How much would you like to lose?” I said, “25lbs. I feel really good at that weight.” She did the slow blink. She replied, “That’s it? That’s easy.” During this initial appointment she said, “Wow, you have a really good handle on the nutrition piece. You could get a little more exercise in & if you don’t have time for cardio try some weights. Now that I know you’re doing all the right things there let’s look at your meds.”

In about 10 seconds she said, “Here is your problem.”

Y’all, this is a medicine I have been taking for 25 years to help with my sleep. Not kidding. Even at a low dosage it will make you gain and/or maintain your weight and will not allow it to come off. It was my turn to do the slow blink. “Wait, what? You mean to tell me that all those doctors who have told me to lose weight in the last 25 years and not one of them saw this medication as an issue?”

*deep cleansing breath while trying to find a Zen place*

Forget it, I’ll Namaste another time. Thus begins my tirade, “You wanna know why????? I’ll tell you why…BECAUSE no one listens to fat people! Like ever! No one takes us seriously when we’re sitting in a backless gown that is too small for us while our chubby ass cheeks are sticking to that tissue paper you all make us sit on! NO. ONE. LISTENS. TO. FAT. PEOPLE.”

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The Doctor giggled and said ever so kindly, “I’m not sure why they didn’t say anything but I am here to make it right. By the way, you really need to be a writer or a speaker for the Obesity Society of America. You are really articulate about being plus size.” It was my turn to giggle, “Doc, you have no idea.”

So the Doctor & I decided to switch out the Devil’s Pill to something else and to see if there is any movement in my weight.

As I left her office I felt like I might have just gotten a new lease on life. I took a moment to count the blessing that I have found this practice and they are willing to find the answers. This doctor did not just hand me a brochure about proper nutrition & exercise, pat me on the ass & send me out there to fail again. 

Navigating doctors while fat
Photo courtesy of Janet Tanury

I am not entirely sure why I am writing on this topic today. It is a problem that has been rampant throughout the medical profession for decades but today I am moved to write. Do not to accept one doctor’s opinion or approach. I am telling you that you are the expert in YOU. Feeling better isn’t a privilege of the skinny.

Today I encourage you to be an advocate for yourself! I encourage you continue to seek out doctors who will not put you on the “fat track”. Today I am telling you that you deserve to feel good too. 

Namaste.

Have you had similar experiences? Tell us in the comments!

About Janet Tanury

Hello! I am the Owner & Bra Whisperer of Botticelli RI, a plus size boutique in Rhode Island. I have had the pleasure of working with thousands of women over the last 16 years. In addition, I am a body-image influencer and hopefully teach women to value themselves by my words and actions.

View Comment (1)
  • I wish i read this article before i just went to a new primary care doctor. I really am done. I have lost almost 200 pounds, not to get skinny but to get my afib in check. Well if you could have seen the look on the doctors face you would have wanted to slap her also. I would tell you how the email read from the blood test results. I am done, my cardiologist treats me better then this women does. She lost a new patient that for sure

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