Battling Weight Bias When You are Battling Obesity

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I call myself an obesity ass-kicker because it’s a battle I’ve fought for more than 30 years. And I’m winning! But the process isn’t easy, and along the way I have experienced weight bias by the very people who are supposed to help us achieve health: doctors!

Look at the state of health in our country. According to a recent New York Times article, one in every three people is obese. I can’t even imagine how much money is spent treating obesity-related diseases. That’s what doctors are trained to do. Treat diseases.

Raise your hand if you’ve been told by a doctor you need to exercise more and eat less. I know I have. Countless times. It took me years to get someone to actually look at me as a whole person and try to connect the dots between obesity, thyroid issues, a pituitary tumor, and the inability to lose weight, in spite of the 1200 calorie a day diet. Just treat the symptom and there’s no need to investigate the root cause.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to empower yourself to be your own advocate through the healthcare system. I’ll have a story on that in the future.

The driver for this post is this article shared by the Obesity Action Coalition, Barriers to Obesity Care and How to Create a Support Team. I react when I read that someone isn’t being offered the best medical options because of their weight. As an overweight person with knee pain, I was told it’s arthritis and there’s nothing to be done and I should stop running. Oh, and lose weight. That’s it. No guidance, no alternatives, nothing. I’ve been there.

However, I have also been lucky to have physicians who advocated for me, helped empower me to make decisions that led me to a healthy weight, helped me work with the insurance company to appeal bariatric surgery denial, and get me to a bariatric surgeon who understands the science of obesity and the challenges for someone who has struggled their entire lives and fighting an uphill battle against their metabolism and co-morbidities.

It takes work to build a support team, to research so you know how to ask the right questions, to understand not just “diet” but nutrition and lifestyle changes needed to be successful, and to navigate the complexities of insurance and the healthcare system.  This gives me hope that the rise of holistic health coaching can be a compliment to medical care for people like me who battled obesity. There’s some great suggestions in this article about how to put together a medical team for support, but kicking obesity’s ass requires so much more support. I was fortunate to have a mentor through my weight loss process — another bariatric patient who could answer questions or tell me what to expect, cheer me on, or kick me in the butt when I needed it. That emotional support really completed the picture for me and launched me on this journey to becoming a health coach.