A psychology professor took “fat shaming” medical doctors to task, outlining the ways they’re guilty of “microaggressions” and “sizeism” toward their obese patients.
“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,” Joan Chrisler, a Connecticut College psychology professor, said during a symposium titled, “Weapons of Mass Distraction — Confronting Sizeism,” at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention last week.
She pointed to studies that show patients’ psychological stress can be linked to doctors’ negative interactions with them, a news release said.
“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,” Chrisler said. “Microaggressions are stressful over time and can contribute to the felt experience of stigmatization.”
Chrisler said that research has shown that some doctors “repeatedly advise weight loss for fat patients while recommending CAT scans, blood work or physical therapy for other, average weight patients,” which can lead them to misdiagnosing overweight patients.
More from the release:
In one study of over 300 autopsy reports, obese patients were 1.65 times more likely than others to have significant undiagnosed medical conditions (e.g., endocarditis, ischemic bowel disease or lung carcinoma), indicating misdiagnosis or inadequate access to health care.
Maureen McHugh, a psychologist who also spoke about fat shaming at the session, criticized the “weight-centric model of health,” which assumes “weight is within an individual’s control, equates higher weight with poor health habits and believes weight loss will result in improved health,” the release said.
Chrisler also noted that there is no research showing exactly how much weight is too much, the release said, adding that while other illness predictors — e.g., genetics, diet, stress and poverty — also play a role, obesity is often equated to poor health.
McHugh said that “stigmatization of obese individuals poses serious risks to their psychological health. Research demonstrates that weight stigma leads to psychological stress, which can lead to poor physical and psychological health outcomes for obese people,” the release said.
(H/T: Young Conservatives)