In response to my blog about “really fat people“, many people commented, e-mailed and facebooked me to let me know that they had an experience where a doctor refused to treat them because of their BMI and insisted on weight loss prior to working on them. Many people who contacted me were told that it was simply impossible to properly diagnose someone of their BMI, or that treating them is a “waste of time” since they are likely to re-injure themselves anyway. One woman was told that, at 5’4, 250 pounds, she was simply to big to get an MRI.
I find that interesting because last week the following people received the absolute best medical treatment, including in some cases MRI, with no discussion of weight loss at all:
6’2, 308 pounds – knee injury – “class 3 obesity” (Super Fat!)
6’4, 285 pounds – arm injury – “class 2 obese”
6’4, 263 pounds – ankle injury – “class 1 obese”
6’3, 260 pounds – achiles injury – “class 1 obese”
These are, in fact, just a handful of “obese” people who were afforded evidence-based medical care for injuries without being required to lose weight and despite the fact that they are very, very likely to re-injure themselves. These people are Jerel Worthy, Justin Smith, John Abraham and Terrell Suggs and the thing they have in common is that they all play in the National Football League. As of 2012 there were 352 players over 350 pounds. Every week during football season hundreds of guys who meet the BMI qualifications for being obese, including “super fat”, are given high quality medical treatment. Apparently if you can play football we can find an MRI machine that will fit your 6 feet tall 350 pound ass but if you’re a 5’4 250 pound woman we just can’t get it done.
Now, I’m not suggesting that there is no difference physiologically between a professional athlete and someone who is not a professional athlete, regardless of size. I am also painfully aware of the amount of money that people are willing to pay for medical treatment of professional athletes versus those who do something other than throw, catch, kick, and run for a living. My goal is simply to point out that a doctor saying someone’s BMI category makes them untreatable, or that a risk of re-injury is a contraindication to treatment, is disingenuous.
I also think it highlights some of the major issues that stem from the amount of weight bias among doctors and those planning to become doctors. I would personally like to see more healthcare professionals at the forefront of activism to help fat patients. I would like to see more of them railing that they have sick patients and they don’t have the tools they need to treat us. I would love to see them fighting for the right to use whatever MRI is used for the defensive tackle on the nearest NFL or College Football team. I would like to see a word where fat people and our healthcare professionals are fighting against the problems that prevent us from getting good treatment, not healthcare professionals insisting that fat patients are the problem.
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I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.