Weighing In

There were two articles in this week's New York Times about weight and health.

Only two? you say. There were several articles about weight loss and health, but none of them looked at weight, period.

The first was interesting- a study I had read about over the weekend and never got around to blogging. Called "The Dreaded Weigh-In," the article looked at women not going to the doctor because they didn't want to be weighed.

“Weighing concern may make these women, particularly those who are overweight and already at risk for certain ailments, less likely to visit a doctor,” said lead author Andrew B. Geier, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences. Mr. Geier said the solution for doctors is simple and inexpensive—weigh patients in private.

This quote addresses several issues, one of them being that overweight automatically puts you at risk for "certain ailments." Actually, it doesn't, though it's a moot point. The nexus of genetics and environment is so freaking complex that it's not always obvious what illnesses you are at risk for. Which means that regular check-ups are important, regardless of your weight. So if weighing people in private (a good thing, in my opinion) means that more people will get the health care they need and deserve, then great.

The problem is this: why are people so afraid to be weighed at the doctors'?

Many of the comments to the article said that obese people were in denial and didn't want to be confronted with the reality of how fat they were.

These people are obviously not fat. I'm not fat- and yet I don't know HOW you can be fat in today's day and age and not know it. By Hollywood's standards, I am plus-sized. I would be a behemoth next to most of today's celebrities. Well-meaning (or not) people love to comment on weight and shape. They love to hand out diet advice. I don't know any fat person who hasn't be ridiculed for their weight.

And that one word- ridicule- is the exact reason most people don't want to be weighed at the doctor's: they don't want to be shamed and ridiculed about their weight. Shame has never changed a person's behavior. It just drives it underground, makes a person secretive and fearful. If shaming fat people worked, there would BE no fat people. We would all be thin as Meme Roth would like.

My peers loved to tease me and shame me and hate me because of my weight when I was younger. I was about 90% weight as a child- and 90% height. Totally normal. Now, I track around 60% weight and 75% height. Shame didn't change that. Time did.

The other article looked at an interesting factor- not how much we weigh, but how much we think about what we weigh. The article was titled: Watch Your Weight, Sure, but Don’t Worry About It. It looked at a study by the CDC which asked people what they weighed, what they would like to weigh, and how many days in the past month they had felt "physically or mentally unhealthy." The percentage who felt unhealthy was higher in those who wanted to lose the most weight.

The real kicker in this study? It didn't matter what a person's weight was- the more they wanted to lose, the worse they felt.

My guess is that the people who wanted to lose the most weight were dieting or engaged in unhealthy weight loss behaviors. This makes you batshit crazy and weak and obsessed.

I think both of these articles illustrate the many problems Americans have with the weight and food and obesity obsession.

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Anonymous said...

You asked: "why are people so afraid to be weighed at the doctors?"

Because many medical professionals currently treat numbers, not patients. Most fat people know that most of the office visit will be spent on that number, rather than the medical issue that brought them to the doctors. Also, the weight on one's medical records goes to the insurance companies, employers or whomever else, and affects them in far more serious ways -- such as mandated weight loss to keep one's job.

carrie said...

Exactly- and I hope I addressed that a little bit in my post. I know I didn't look at it completely, but yeah. It's a matter of being shamed about your weight and having people focus on the number that is often irrelevent. Trends can be important (ie, PCOS, thyroid disease, etc).

Lucy said...

Surely it's not compulsory to be weighed at the doctors? Is it not acceptable to politely decline the offer of being weighed? My doctor is very understanding about the fact that I hate it, and if absolutely necessary, will weigh me in private and 'blindly'. It has certainly never discouraged me from going, but it doesn't reflect well on society's (perceived?) prejudices that it does others.

A said...

It's funny that it's not just those with ED's that hate/are phobic of being weighed. . .There is something seriously wrong with our society.

Speaking of weighing, I'm going to my dr's to be weighed today, go figure. And believe me, I am not excited for the appointment.


another anon said...

I also refuse to be weighed and I've never been given a hard time about it at either my of doctors offices. Sometimes I say "I'm in recovery from an e/d and I will be upset if I have to get on a scale" but most of the time I just flat out say I don't want to be weighed and they just say, "okay." It's never been an issue. If my weight were truly needed (to decide a med dosage, if my exact weight was truly a concern, etc.) I'd agree of course. But to get a mole removed? Examine my ear? No way. I'm paying them so I get a say. And again, none of the nurses or medical assitances have even flinched at this request let alone argue it.

another anon said...

oops - I hate spelling flubs! That should be "medical assitants" of course! *grin*

carrie said...

Oh, I agree. Right now, I'm new enough in recovery that I do need regular weight monitoring. But for many of the reasons I would see a doctor, you really don't need to be weighed. A baseline weight is good to measure trends, but you don't need to know every single time.

I'm more disturbed that people are so afraid of being shamed about their weight by MDs, snarky secretaries, etc that they avoid medical appointments. Which is NOT right.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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