“Warmth, Sympathy and Understanding May Outweigh the Surgeon’s Knife or the Chemist’s Drug”…Unless They’re Fat. An Analysis of Fat Patients’ Experiences with Health Care Providers



Byers, Lyla E E

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Dominant medical discourse of fatness primarily focuses on weight and weight loss as a means to achieve health, rather than focusing on overall wellbeing and implementing healthy behaviors without weight loss as a central pillar. The United States has seen a 66% increase in weight stigma since 1995 (Puhl, Andreyeva, & Brownell, 2008). Unfortunately, the prevalence of weight stigmas amongst health care providers occurs at the same rate as the general public (Pantenburg et al., 2012). Fat women are especially prone to weight shaming by doctors. Doctors shame patients, refuse to treat them for the symptoms presented, and generally view the patients as not worthy of their time. The pervasive negative attitudes in the biomedical community has perhaps an unintended consequence: it actually motivates the fat person to avoid interacting with health professionals at any cost. Though there are a plethora of studies confirming weight biases amongst medical providers, there is very little research exploring fat women’s experiences with health care providers and the consequences of medical fat phobia. This is an intersectional feminist study examining how the medicalization of fatness and fat phobia intersect in the treatment of fat patients, and how it impacts the care fat women receive. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with women who have been classified by a medical professional as overweight or obese. These women experienced malpractice, fat shaming, and physical anti-fat messages when seeking health care. This study highlights the critical need to change the way health care providers view, treat, and understand fat patients.



Fat Studies, Medicalization, Healthcare, Weight stigma, Fatphobia