For many who struggle with body image, it is more stressful to go to the doctor for a specific health problem or just a routine check than it needs to be.
Weighings is a standard practice before seeing your doctor, but if you have experienced an eating disorder or are self-conscious about your weight, it is a big task to jump on a weight in the middle of a busy aisle.
But here’s an underrated secret: You really do not need to be weighed every time you go to the doctor.
“It’s absolutely correct that after the age of 18, most people do not need to be weighed in the doctor’s office,” Jennifer Gaudiani, a Denver-based physician who treats patients with eating disorders, told HuffPost.
Of course, there are a handful of exceptions: Weight should understandably be tracked when a patient with an eating disorder has specific weight needs to be able to treat the disease.
If anyone comes in and is worried about unexplained weight loss, it should also be measured and monitored.
“And young children need to have weight and height monitored to ensure that growth proceeds properly,” Gaudiani said. “Pregnant people must also have weights followed – even if they do not have to have the weights revealed or discussed – to make sure the baby gets what the baby needs.”
But outside of exceptions like these, Gaudiani said she is convinced that “90%” of the weighings taken at doctors’ offices are completely unnecessary.
“That means anyone who comes in to talk about their depression, digestion, drug use or twisted ankle may be at the other end of a lecture on weight and weight loss,” she said.
This sometimes results in weight-conscious patients completely avoiding health checks.
“Unnecessary weigh-ins cool the patients’ willingness to see doctors, waste everyone’s time, fail to address the patient’s main concerns, and may push individuals into dieting, perhaps weight loss, and then regain even more,” she said.
Given Gaudiani’s thoughts on weigh-ins, she was thrilled last month when she saw these “Please Don’t Weigh Me” cards trending on Twitter:
The cards, created by eating disorder recovery site More-Love.org, read: “Please do not weigh me unless it is (really) medically necessary,” adding: “If you really need my weight, please tell me why so I can give you my informed consent.”
The cards were originally free for individuals, however now costs $ 1 apiece due to demand. There is a possibility of health care providers to buy a lot, to $ 35 per. 100 cards. The site also offers “Please do not talk about my child’s weight” cards for parents, to initiate important conversations with children about the often unfair mix of weight and good health prior to a check. (Children must be weighed, but the card says, “If you have any questions, ask me when my child is not present.”)
“I’m a fan of these cards because it’s a starting point where the patient or parent does not have to come up with all the words and reasons themselves, but rather has the support of the card as a neutral object to try to defend. For their bodies,” Gaudiani said .
Ginny Jones, the founder of More-Love.org, created the first batch of cards back in 2019. When she recovered from her eating disorder, Jones had begun asking not to be weighed at doctor visits. She quickly realized that not everyone knew it was an option.
It has been great to get healthcare providers on board with the cards – 200 providers have ordered anywhere from 100 to 500 cards for their offices, Jones said – but the responses she has received from individuals have been the most encouraging.
“The best feedback I hear from patients is, ‘I made my first appointment in years!'” Jones said. “I’m shocked to hear in person from so many people who put off healthcare because they hate stepping on the scales. I love that these cards give them the confidence to go back to a healthcare provider’s office.”
“I can by no means know my weight. If it’s more than I expect, I’m amplifying my eating disorder behavior. If it’s less, it’s going to be a weird game where I decide to see how much lower I can go. ”
– Gregory Walters, an educator who was diagnosed with anorexia in the 50s
Gregory Walters, a writer and educator from Vancouver, British Columbia who was diagnosed with anorexia in the ’50s, sees the map as a simple yet effective tool for enabling patients to speak for themselves.
Being weighed triggers Walters, but in the past he struggled to discuss it with healthcare providers.
“I can by no means know my weight,” he told the HuffPost. “If it’s more than I expect, I’m amplifying my eating disorder behavior. If it’s less, it’s going to be a weird game where I decide to see how much lower I can go.”
Walters has not weighed himself for more than 10 years. When he spent six weeks in the hospital in 2019 treating treatment for eating disorders, the blind weighed in at around 6 p.m. 06.00 every Monday.
“We always stood on the scales and turned away from it, which as a method of weighing me was affirmative,” he said. “It told me that doctors and staff understood how traumatic a number related to one’s weight can be.”
Before that, he just closed his eyes when he stepped on a scale in a doctor’s office and said emphatically, “I do not want to know. “
These days, Walters’ family doctor has learned about his triggers, but he knows how difficult it can be to speak for himself.
‘It can be challenging too anyone to talk to doctors, ”he said. “Their time can feel limited. As a patient, you can feel intimidated due to a perceived imbalance in terms of education and knowledge.”
The card “allows a patient to quickly get a message across without having to stumble and stumble through an extremely unpleasant conversation,” he said.
In an ideal world, a conversation would not be so unpleasant. Asking not to be weighed should be as simple as saying, “I would rather not be weighed today.”
Unfortunately, it is not always that easy, according to Gaudiani.
If you say you do not want to be weighed and are being challenged, Gaudiani said to tell the nurse, “Thank you for telling me it’s standard, but this is my body and I choose not to be weighed. “You can write ‘rejected’ on my note for insurance. I would like to discuss it further with my doctor.”
If the doctor challenges you, address the medical issue that brought you into their office in the first place.
“It might sound like, ‘I have a short time with you, and I really need to discuss my back pain, my constipation, and my asthma today. Let’s focus on that, thank you, “Gaudiani said.
How the cards could also help combat widespread fat phobia in the medical community
Since they went viral, the cards have received a lot of criticism from people online who believe that the cards enable or will harm public health given the obesity epidemic in America.
Shana Spence, a registered New York-based dietitian, said she believes weight gain and a greater tendency to fat phobia in the medical field does more damage to the quality of health care and health outcomes than anything short could ever do.
“Fat phobia in the medical field often translates into lack of diagnosis for disorders, ”she said. “When someone is suffering from pain or any other disorder, it is extremely discouraging to be told to just lose weight or simply be completely ignored. What do they get in thinner bodies to know for the same ailments?”
Spence said there are many instances where people in larger bodies are congratulated on weight loss, no matter how unnatural or unhealthy it is.
“Even a thin or straight-sized person is to be congratulated on weight loss because we as a society are very weight-centered,” Spence said.
ONE 2012 survey of nearly 2,500 American women found that 69% reported feeling stigmatized for their weight by their doctors, and 52% endured recurrent fat disorders.
As Spence pointed out, diagnoses are often missed because providers are fixated on the number on the scale rather than the full picture of health.
A review of studies published in the journal Obesity Reviews in 2015 showed that health professionals’ negative feelings about. fat bodies can lead to misdiagnosis and late or missing diagnoses, which has a negative impact on the patient course. Studies have also shown that this bias makes women and people in larger bodies less likely to seek health care in the first place.
The good news is that more weight and body neutral doctors seem to be entering the profession.
Some doctors have adopted a Health at Every Size, or HAES, approach to public health. HAES-adapted healthcare providers seek to emphasize weight loss as a health goal, while reducing stigma towards larger bodies in the medical field. Most HAES healthcare providers believe that the current practice of linking weight with health using body mass index standards is not only biased but also inappropriate when it comes to weight loss.
(If you are looking for a HAES-informed health nurse in your area, there is an online database which you can search by area or specialty.)
A 2017 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that when people feel ashamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress.
Spence noted that healthy solutions include encouraging patients to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods into their diets, working on strategies to quit smoking, and focusing on mental health as Stress can contribute to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
“There’s no need to concentrate on numbers constantly,” she said.
At the very least, doctors should start asking patients if they want to be told their weight. When Gaudiani consults with other doctors who are not fully involved in the radically reduced weight check, she asks them to at least consider asking for consent.
“A doctor or staff could say, ‘Will you be willing for me to check your weight today? I was worried last month when you said you had low energy and had a harder time getting in your meals and I want to follow up, ”Gaudiani said. “So much of medicine requires permission to act on patients’ bodies, while we actually have to honor the body’s autonomy and seek consent much more.”