We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about a time when they experienced fatphobia from a medical professional, and there were hundreds of infuriating, heartbreaking, and equally important responses.
1. I went in for a mild UTI, and the entire time I was there, the doctor kept making comments about how thinner women don't get UTIs and how, if I lost enough weight, I would stop getting them. First of all, it was my first time ever getting one. Second of all, it was my thin roommate who helped me figure out that it was a UTI because she got them often. And third of all, how did you graduate from medical school??
2. I twisted my ankle, but the pain never went away. Because I could hardly walk and I was in constant pain, I started eating more (emotional eater), plus I got no exercise, so I gained a lot of weight. None of the doctors I went to for 12 years took my pain seriously. I finally found someone who did a CT scan.
Apparently the twisted ankle also resulted in bone fragments in my foot and arthritis. So it was most definitely more than just a twisted ankle, but since I gained weight and was overweight when I complained about the pain not subsiding, no one ever bothered to take it seriously.
3. Years ago I was trying to have a baby, and after about a year of trying, I finally got pregnant. Now, I'm a BBW, always have been, but I'd had a baby before without any issue. Well, with this one, the HCG hormone stopped going up around 8 weeks, and that meant that I was going to miscarry, and I did. When I went back to my OB-GYN, she informed me that I had miscarried because I was too fat to have a baby and that the miscarriage was my fault because I didn't get my weight under control before even trying.
I was devastated beyond words, and I have a tendency to blame everything on myself, so this just made it so much worse. Eventually I got pregnant again, and I was TERRIFIED, but I switched OB-GYNs, and the new one was so nice and explained that the other doctor had been wrong to say those things, because no one had control over something like that and it just happened; it had nothing to do with my weight. My baby girl will be 7 in April!
4. I was at my gynecologist's office to talk about fertility options. He looked at me, after I had lost 40 pounds, and told me that if I just lost more weight, I’d have no fertility issues. He asked if I exercised, and I told him that I try but have been struggling with arthritic flare-ups in my knee. He told me that I didn’t have arthritis and that my joints were just tired from all the weight on them.
His nurse looked up and corrected him by pointing out that I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 16. I switched to a different gynecologist, who told me that my infertility issues were due to premature ovarian failure. Had my old doctor run tests instead of insisting on weight loss, I might have been able to save my eggs years earlier.
5. I had just had a C-section after 36 hours of labor, and the medical staff came in and told me that maybe if I wasn’t so fat, I could have delivered naturally and avoided all the surgery and complications. Not that it matters, but I weighed less after I gave birth than when I got pregnant, FYI.
6. I’ve been overweight my whole life, and when I was younger, I was constantly getting sinus infections. My mom took me to a doctor at my pediatrician’s office, and instead of checking me over for a reason for the sinus infections, she informed my mom that there were Weight Watchers programs for kids. Every time my mom brought me in for one of these sinus infections, the doctor told her the same thing, completely ignoring the fact that I was actually sick.
Eventually my mom brought me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. He did an MRI of my face, and it turned out that THE SINUSES IN MY FACE WERE SO SMALL, MUCUS COULDN’T DRAIN OUT, AND THATS WHY I WAS CONSTANTLY GETTING SICK. I had to have surgery to open the sinuses in my face. For years because of a fatphobic doctor, I had to deal with constant sinus infections with nothing to help them, when she could have just ordered an MRI to see what was going on.
7. When I went to a new OB-GYN for my second pregnancy, the doctor brought up that I was overweight and started telling me all about how "vegetables actually do taste good, just add a little Mrs. Dash to it." Like, bitch, I went to school for both culinary and food science. I'm not fat because I eat Oreos all day. I'm fat because I had a baby 9 months ago. Then she sent me home with a list of things you can eat to lower blood sugar. I've never been close to being diabetic.
8. I went to a new primary doctor after my eating disorder was diagnosed. I put on my forms that I was in eating disorder treatment and that weight was not up for discussion at this time. I refused to be weighed in by the nurse and explained why. The doctor came in and immediately dived into my weight once he saw me (I was there just to establish a primary). I cut him off and explained that I was in treatment and was not willing to discuss it.
He kept going and then compared my eating disorder to being date-raped. It shouldn’t have mattered, but he didn’t know my sexual history. I was so triggered that I started sobbing. He continued on without any regard to my emotional state. He also told me to sign up for Weight Watchers, which is completely contradictory to eating disorder treatment. I never went back again and should have reported him.
9. A few years ago, I had what I thought was a bad cold. It worsened over several days, and after I talked to the nurse on call with my doctor’s office, she said that it sounded like strep throat and made me an appointment with the next available healthcare provider. I saw a PA I’d never met before, and by this point I felt like I was dying — I just needed an antibiotic. She was cold to me the entire time and acted as if I was an inconvenience to her just for needing medication. She ended the interaction by telling me how obese I was and that I was going to die soon if I didn’t lose weight.
Thanks, that’s super helpful! I noticed later that she also wrote a lengthy medical note in my chart and discharge paperwork. I’ve since found a doctor who knows that strep throat is not caused by obesity.
10. I was bleeding for eight months. Two doctors in the same practice supported each other in saying it was because I was obese. Eventually I saw another, who discovered that I had HPV in my cervix and I needed a D&C — a pretty simple procedure that could have happened a lot sooner if not for the assumption that the bleeding was because I was fat.
11. I started having severe pain and vomiting anytime I ate at the age of 12. I went to the doctor and was told that my gallbladder was failing, but because I was young and overweight, I should just use the pain and vomiting as a system to keep me eating healthy foods and to lose weight.
12. I went to a follow-up for my tonsil surgery with a doctor who was not my regular practitioner, and after he said that everything was fine with my tonsils and they were healing, he immediately looked at me and said, "So, what are we doing about the rest of you?" I said, "Excuse me?"
He proceeded to say, "You're fat, honey; you need to fix that before you lose everything." I promptly left and told them to check me out and let me leave because it was none of his business. My regular PA helped me file a complaint about him, since this apparently isn't a first for him.
13. I had an appointment with a new gynecologist to have my old IUD removed and replaced. All went well, and at the end of the appointment, the doctor suggested that since I was a new patient, I should schedule an appointment to have my blood drawn and be checked for diabetes, blood pressure, etc. I figured that made sense and scheduled the appointment. She then requested that I book a follow-up appointment to discuss the results.
During the follow-up, she pulled out pamphlets, literally for children, explaining what fruits and vegetables are and proper portion sizes. She went through all of this even though my test results came back normal and showed that I'm perfectly healthy. She never asked me about my eating habits or discussed my weight; she just assumed that I have the nutritional knowledge of a kindergartner.
14. When I was 11, my mom took me to my pediatrician because I was having severe mobility issues. We went to him at least four times in a single year with the same problems, and he kept doing blood work and then saying there was nothing wrong, before blaming my weight because I was an overweight kid. My mom would NOT stand for that as an excuse because she saw me struggling every day. Finally, I guess something showed up on my last blood work, and he referred me to a rheumatologist.
The doctor literally just read my complaints, took a 10-second peek at my hands/slightly deformed fingers, and diagnosed me ON THE SPOT with rheumatoid arthritis. The relief I felt was instantaneous, and I burst into tears. It might have only taken just over a year for my diagnosis, but I thank my mom for being such a strong advocate and not listening to my pediatrician.
15. In high school, I went to the doctor to have an X-ray, as my foot had been bothering me and I thought I had a small fracture. As the doctor prepared to examine my foot, I guess he saw that I had on sweatpants and said, "Are you wearing sweatpants because you can’t fit into regular jeans?" I legit didn’t know what to say.
Anyway, he said that nothing was wrong with my foot and sent me home, and a couple days later, my foot actually broke, which means he didn’t catch the fracture when I went to him.
16. I had huge tonsils that were touching together and giving me sleep apnea. The ENT removed them and proceeded to tell me, "Yeah, it might help your sleep apnea, but it'd be better if you lost weight." THE TONSILS WERE TOUCHING. Big surprise when, after they were removed, my sleep apnea disappeared without any weight loss...
17. As a kid, I was always heavy. As a freshman in high school, I really enjoyed learning about the human body and decided that I wanted to be a doctor. At a checkup, my doctor asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I proudly told her, "I want to be a doctor!" She said, "Well, they don’t let fat people into medical school. Can you imagine a fat doctor telling you to lose weight? You’re going to have to work on that." And that’s when I decided to give up my dream of being a doctor.
18. I had an appointment for cervical spine problems. Before examining me, the doctors told me I might be vitamin D deficient because obese people have that problem. I have made a one-sheet that I hand to doctors, explaining that I know I am fat, I know about diet and exercise, I don’t have diabetes or polycystic ovary syndrome. At the bottom, I have a line that says, "I am here for___." Doctors who only see the weight, not the person or condition, deter patients from seeking treatment.
19. At my six-week postpartum checkup, the nurse-midwife was huffy about needing a larger speculum to do my pelvic exam, and she lectured me about my weight while she was literally up in my vagina. "I want you to be around to raise your baby," she told me, implying that my life was in immediate danger because I was fat. We then discussed birth control options, and she flat-out refused to prescribe me the birth control pills I had used comfortably in the past with very few side effects.
"They'll make you gain more weight, and we can't have that," she said. She heavily pressured me to get an IUD, which I did not want. I left the appointment with no birth control measures. I ended up having to go to my general practitioner to get the Pill.
20. When I was 22, I had abdominal pain lasting over a week. I wasn’t able to eat, drink, or even go to work because of the pain. I went to my male doctor and explained all of my symptoms, adding in the fact that I had barely eaten anything all week. He looked me in the eye and said, "Well, you’re probably just pregnant or need to lose weight, so go home." I asked for a pregnancy test, and it came back invalid because I was so dehydrated, I couldn’t even pee. Two days later, I was in the ER, got an ultrasound, and found out that I had gallstones the size of marbles and my gallbladder was about to burst.
It is so hard to advocate for yourself when you are overweight, and I will never stop talking about my experiences until doctors believe me when I say I’m in pain.
21. When I initially sought treatment for what I now know was an eating disorder, I went to the ER for suicidal ideation. When the doctor asked if I had experienced dietary shifts or weight fluctuation, I told him I’d lost 62 pounds in six months. He told me, "Well, if you can lose that much weight that quick, you can get through these suicidal thoughts." He prescribed me Klonopin and sent me home. I was hospitalized for self-harm about a month and a half later.
22. I was 16 and having trouble with stomach pain for almost a year and kept going in to the doctor and being diagnosed with constipation. At one appointment, my regular pediatrician wasn't there, and an older female doctor came in to talk to me about my symptoms. While I was telling her about how every time I ate, I got a horrible stomachache and often diarrhea, she told me that it was probably because I was overweight and borderline diabetic.
I left feeling hurt and angry because I had tried diets and exercise and nothing was helping. Eventually it was found that my gallbladder was filled with bile and about to burst. After they removed it, I lost 60 pounds and felt a million times better without the constant stomach pains.
23. I am a Type 1 diabetic and decided to go to a local doctor. I was up-front and explained that I only needed a prescription for insulin because my diabetes was well in hand with a team of specialists at the hospital and my usual GP, who is an hour away. What should have been a 10-minute consult turned into a half-hour lecture on how I must be very depressed because of my weight and how I look.
She asked me so many personal questions and insisted that my weight was causing depression, despite my not having mentioned it once. I didn’t have depression, but I was certainly depressed when I left. I sobbed on the way home.
24. I tore my ACL in high school, and when I went for an MRI, the first doctor didn’t tell me that I'd also torn my meniscus. She told me that she refused to do surgery because it wouldn’t do me any good because "someone of [my] size doesn’t need their knee fixed, seeing as I couldn’t possibly be playing sports or doing any athletic activity." (I injured myself while playing soccer and then made it worse while playing volleyball.)
When I pressed her on the situation, she said, "Well, I wouldn’t even consider doing surgery until you lose a lot of weight. But you can’t do any strenuous activity on your knee in the shape it’s in." I went to a different doctor, who did surgery the next month, and he said it was ridiculous to think that my actual knee would put itself back together by me losing weight and that surgery was my only option to recover later on.
25. I was extremely short of breath after having my gallbladder removed and insanely bloated. A resident came in and told me I wouldn’t be so short of breath if I exercised regularly, and recommended gastric bypass. Didn’t look at my chart or leaking incisions, didn’t ask if I had this issue before surgery. Just saw someone fat and discharged me.
Turns out I had blood clots in my lungs and a massive blood clot in my liver cutting off all blood flow to it. I ended up having major surgery two weeks later at a specialist hospital across the state and needed procedures every other day to drain the 4 to 5 liters of accumulated fluid until surgery.
26. At a PCP appointment recently, I learned that I had gained 20 pounds over the past 1.5 years (not an unreasonable amount during a pandemic, plus several traumatic life events). The doctor walked in, saw my weight, and said, "Stand up, come on" with a peppy voice. I was naked under the gown, mind you, so I reluctantly stood up, trying to cover myself. She then proceeded to do jumping jacks, shouting at me to join her, like a SoulCycle instructor: "See how easy it is to exercise?!"
I almost started crying because I felt like I had to join her to make her stop. Not that it matters AT ALL, but if she had asked, or looked at any other part of my chart, she would have known that I exercise daily and am in excellent health.
27. A nurse practitioner refused to test me for ANYTHING other than diabetes. She refused to test me for autoimmune diseases because I didn’t "look like it and [was] too heavy to have any." Cut to years later — after I nearly died — and I found new doctors who have found THREE autoimmune diseases, two of which are severely life-threatening. And the combo I have is nearly unheard of. So solely because I am overweight, that woman said I HAVE to have diabetes and nothing else, and that fatphobia nearly killed me.
28. I’d broken my toe because I stubbed it against the sofa. I visited my doctor to see if there was anything I could do, and he berated me for my weight and actually told me, "Accidents like this don’t happen when you are healthy." Did I trip over my belly, doc? I’m sure that thin people stub their toes and break bones just as often.
29. My 84-year-old grandmother was in and out of the hospital with terrible stomach pains in the last year of her life. I distinctly remember being in the ER with her one of those times, her flat out on a gurney, hallucinating from the morphine they had given her for the pain. This male doctor walks in, places his hand on her stomach, and says, "This is her problem right here" while jiggling her stomach. She passed away not long after that. The day she died, they discovered she actually had a tumor in her stomach the size of a cantaloupe.
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.