Body-shaming comes in all different forms — sometimes, it's the person commenting on your Instagram to call you fat as an insult, and sometimes it's the concern troll or even a doctor who makes a comment about your body because they're just really worried about your health.
But any which way you spin it, body-shaming can take a toll on a person's mental and physical health, especially if it comes from a medical professional. A review of recent research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association confirmed that fat-shaming does indeed exist within the medical community, and it's physically and mentally harmful for patients.
During a symposium called "Weapons of Mass Distraction — Confronting Sizeism," Joan Chrisler, PhD, a professor of psychology at Connecticut College, spoke to the effects of fat-shaming from doctors.
"Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming, in an attempt to motivate people to change their behaviour, is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers," she said, according to a release shared with Refinery29.
As the researchers noted in an abstract, those with intersectional identities may suffer even more from discrimination, such as sexism, ageism, racism, classism, and transphobia.
"Recommending different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight is unethical and a form of malpractice," Dr. Chrisler added. "Research has shown that doctors repeatedly advise weight loss for fat patients while recommending CAT scans, blood work, or physical therapy for other, average weight patients."
Those who have been stressed out at the thought of being weighed at the doctor for this reason can likely attest to Dr. Chrisler's statement. Earlier this year, a study found that fat-shaming can be linked to greater risk of other diseases, including diabetes and heart disease — and that study wasn't even specific to the way doctors sometimes treat patients based on their size.
"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," Dr. Chrisler said. "Microaggressions are stressful over time and can contribute to the felt experience of stigmatisation."
In the end, the researchers recommended better training for health care providers when it comes to empowering and speaking to patients.
The bottom line is, size discrimination is an issue deep-rooted enough to permeate even professional settings where we're supposed to rely on doctors to prioritise our health instead of giving way to weight-based biases.
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