Fat Shaming

scalesSomething happened to a friend of mine today which pissed me off so much (sorry Mum) that I just had to write about it. I’d love to know if you think I’m over-reacting.

OK, so I have a lovely friend called Rachel. I’ve never met her in real life but we talk on Facebook a lot and she’s funny, very smiley and clever. She’s the kind of person who always has a kind word to say, some advice or a word or two to pep anyone up who’s having a hard time. Rachel has had a tough time of it herself for one reason and another and she’s been treated for depression.

So today she told me that she’d been to the doctor for a non-weight related issue, and the nurse insisted on weighing her. I’m sure Rach won’t mind me saying that yes, she is significantly overweight, big enough that it’s not going to be a huge shock to find she’s in the obese section on the BMI charts. Not that you have to be enormous to be in that section anyway. but she knows she’s big, like most fat people do. She didn’t want to weigh herself. Like a lot of people with weight problems, she struggles with low self-esteem and has been working really hard to be positive despite her feelings about her weight. The nurse wouldn’t take no for an answer. Of course, when she looked at the scales, the nurse proceeded to lecture her about doing something about her weight, and even though she wasn’t actually nasty, Rachel left the surgery feeling like crap.

Why did she need to do it? I don’t get it. If someone is clearly overweight, they already KNOW they are. They don’t need to be humiliated and lectured, that fat didn’t just appear overnight, most of us have been struggling for years with diet after diet. we’re constantly reminded that we’re fat and disgusting, unfit and unhealthy, so why do we need the numbers? Why do we have to be humiliated by medical professionals who continue to tell us that diets are the only way to lose weight (yeah right) and who suggest a diet sheet for people with eating disorders because they can’t be arsed to fork out for proper help?

Anyway. Rachel has been distraught all afternoon. She’s gone on that horrible downward spiral, getting very upset, weighing herself again on the wii, just to make herself feel even worse, and beating herself up with the “I’m fat and useless” stick. All because that nurse insisted on weighing her for no obvious reason. This is what Rachel wrote, and she’s given me permission to share it. I think lots of people will understand…and Rachy, you’re very talented.

They say you should be happy, you’re lovely as you are.
They say embrace your body and your mind will take you far.
They say that diets make you fat and so you shouldn’t try,
So why do I just want to cry?

They say that once you’re happy with yourself then you’ll be free
They say that when your head is straight, then comes the real ‘me’,
They say that if you want to change then what will be will be,
So why do I just feel so lost?

Perhaps the time has come when I should just give in,
Realise for once that I will never be thin,
Put all ideas of being gorgeous firmly in the bin,
So why does that make me feel so sad?

I need to make some changes to my life, but what are they?
I need to do something positive to help myself each day,
Until I do, these thoughts will never go away.
So why can’t I do this for me?

By Rachel Townsend.

Isn’t it brilliant? I just had to share it. Now I’m off to calm myself down – I’d really like your opinions on the whole bullying fat people thing though. Am I being sensitive? Should the nurse have respected Rachel’s wishes NOT to be weighed just for the sake of it?



Filed under Food and diets

23 responses to “Fat Shaming

  1. The nurse most definately should have respected her wishes! I have point blank told my Doctor that I will NOT be discussing my weight in any way, shape or form. I remind him of this fact whenever he brings it up and if he continues going on about it I threaten to leave the surgery. Every overweight person KNOWS they’re overweight. We do NOT need it pointing out to us by family members, friends, health care professionals and/or people we don’t even know! Unless we ask for your help or advice – please bleep off and leave us the bleep alone. Bleepers!!! (please replace bleeps with appropriate swear words – i didn’t want to upset Sarahs Mum – sorry Mum)

  2. I agree, unless the nurse could justify WHY she needed her on the scale I think she should have had the right to refuse stepping up. We all deserve to be able to make our own decisions.

  3. Hi
    You are not going to like this but I think the nurse was right. And I don’t think it is bullying. Obesity is not just about self esteem, it is also about health. And that is why the nurse was weighing your friend. I don’t underestimate the way your friend feels. But I have seen the health problems caused by obesity. The most common is type II diabetes and then cardiac and vascular problems. At best these affect everyday life and at worst they kill. Very obese mothers also present real risks to the unborn child both throughout the pregnancy and during birth. if an obese person needs surgery the risk from the aneasthetic is higher thsn for a non obese person, the surgery may be more tricky and healing and recovery delayed. These things matter and so that conversation with the nurse was warranted.
    However, I do think it would be better if some support were then available to help your friend with weight loss – both for her health and to make her feel better!!

    • You’re entitled to your opinion, but the point is, she KNOWS she’s overweight and she’s tried and tried to lose weight. She’s also been depressed, and feels terrible about her weight. Weighing her had no useful purpose because she wasn’t there about a weight-related issue, she hadn’t suddenly gained weight, she’s been big for a lot of years. And she even patronised her about drinking and smoking when she doesn’t smoke and hardly drinks. She pre-judged Rachel and wanted to *prove* she was unhealthy just by weighing her. It served no purpose whatsoever, didn’t tell Rachel anything she didn’t already know and she gave her no offers of advice or support. So what was the justification?

    • You can’t say what the nurse did was warranted because you don’t know the reason for Rachel being there in the first place. All the things you mentioned are weight related and it’s been stated that she went with a non weight related issue so how was the nurse right? Did weighing her help Rachel with her weight problem? Did the nurse need to see the result on the scale to know that Rachel was obese? No, she knew before weighing her because she has eyes. Most obese people are emotional eaters, myself included, so being made to feel like crap about your weight while at the doctors for a totally unrelated issue would not only NOT me help in any way, it would be the cause of me going home and eating everything I could find!
      All the risks you mention are already known to us fat people, same as we already know we’re fat and don’t need the scales to show us.
      So yes, the nurse was bullying her if she made it known she didn’t want to be weighed and ignored her wishes.

    • Obese people KNOW the risks with being obese. If diets worked then there would be no obesity problem. It would be as simple as going on a diet, losing the weight and staying there. Having suffered from both eating disorders AND depression I know all too well how a conversation like that can make you feel, especially if the way you feel about your body is one of the reasons you’re depressed. Suicide is common amongst people suffering from depression – the nurse should have respected Rachels wishes and told her that if she wanted help to lose weight that they would support her. She most certainly didn’t need a lecture.
      And actually overweight people can be just as healthy as slim people as long as they maintain an active lifestyle and their body is metabolically fit. Slim and healthy don’t go hand in hand, neither do fat and unhealthy.

      • Mara

        Tracy, it’s disgusting how many people assume it’s just a matter of, “Hey, get off the food, fatty. EXERCISE.” Science has proven that fatty foods are as addictive and can hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs.

        Add in emotional components (and stress/trauma) and you have an environment that makes it very difficult to lose weight and keep it off.

        I wish people would educate themselves on these issues instead of making knee-jerk reactions about being “lazy,” or “gluttonous” (which is where people usually go when they’re on the fat-shaming bandwagon. It’s ignorance, plain and simple. Or, it comes from people who suffer from such self-loathing themselves that no amount of scientific proof will persuade them to stop bullying others.

        What can you do? Besides seek out like-minded folks, offer support and love. xoxo 🙂

  4. I know Rachel through facebook and I am also a bigger person, I get the same thing everytime I go to the doctors, I went for a mole on my toe which was worrying me and the doctor then started lecturing me about my weight, I appreciate the health professional have a job to do but if you suffer with depression/low self esteem then this should be taken into account, this would normally show on your records. It also bugs me when I am out with my family minding my own business and trying to have a lovely time and you get some irritating idiot who decides to make a comment and if you are having a crappy day it can ruin it and I know you shouldnt take any notice but these feelings take over and it is very hard to ignore. If us fatties went around taking the piss out of skinny/black/disabled and anyone who was not the norm we would be strung up from a very strong tree. My outlook on this is to try and ignore the small minded, tell my doctor when its ok for him/her to discuss my weight and try to get on with my life. Im not a couch potato, I walk my dogs everyday, I swim. I know people who are half my weight and they are the most laziest people around and they eat crap diets. So Rachel, my advice to you is to take a deep breath and dont let these people get you down, the majority of people who pick fun are insecure about themselves. Big Hug to you xx

    • The thing is Tracey, it’s classed as acceptable behaviour to whisper about, poke fun of, or generally issue unwanted advice to fat people. There are more diets on the market than ever before, you can’t open a paper or magazine without seeing comments about how fat so and so has gotten (even when they’re not fat at all), they are teaching children of a younger and younger age how to read food labels and to watch what they eat, telling us repeatedly that to be overweight is ugly, unhealthy, unacceptable. Promoting positive body image is what’s needed. Overweight people need to feel as if they’re free to live their lives without ridicule or being told time and time again that they need to lose weight. If we felt accepted by society then we’d all be out living our lives, exercising and being happy. Food would no longer be an issue for us because we’d have so much more in our lives. (sorry to rant but I just don’t get why some people keep putting 2 & 2 together and coming up with a diet sheet! lol)

  5. The nurse was wrong, only if she had been there about her weight then that would be different. Those methods don’t help anyone. I was stuck on a diet at 13 and at 5’4″ I was 118. The only success I have had with those methods was weight gain and consquences from the diet itself. I eat healthy and I exercise. I will never be skinny but I am healthy. I was not the failure – the diet was.

  6. Mara

    Did she have surgery? They have to weigh you before surgery to make sure you get the right amount of anesthesia. Unpleasant for most, yes. 🙂 If she wasn’t going in for surgery, then forcing a patient on a scale then lecturing someone afterwards is extremely rude and unprofessional.

    A nurse/doctor has a right to bring up a person’s weight, but there is a tactful way to do it. When I was in my 20’s, I was nearly 300lb. I didn’t realize how much weight I’d gained. I had high blood pressure and was borderline diabetic. That, in and of itself, was horrifying to me.

    But, my doctor did not cluck her tongue and give me a lecture. She could tell I was upset by the number and she said, “It’s difficult to be at an unhealthy weight. Can I help you make some changes?”

    That’s all, and that was enough. She had me speak to the dietician on staff and I joined WW soon after. Each time I came in, I was weighed, but she never commented on my weight unless I brought it up. That’s called support.

    What this nurse did was not okay, and I’m surprised that people still think that sort of behavior is acceptable. It’s not and it’s that type of behavior that damages confidence and motivation. I’m sorry for your friend. Tell her she’s more than a number and tell her that there are folks out there who “get it” and hope for the best for her!


  7. Jane

    How do you know what the nurse has been trained or instructed to do / say / act on the appearance of an overweight patient? Her practice may have said to her there are certain things she has to do when seeing a patient and weighing her is one of them. I think the poor old nurse is copping it here!

    Being overweight cost the tax payer £5bn per year. Sorry, this is fact and society does have an issue with this. In the current economic times things that cost money are high on political agendas to be addressed and this is front and centre


    Yes, it an emotional issue for sure but sometimes people are ignorant to their weight and just hide away and need that bluntness to accept it, stand square in the face and take action. Look at the 50stone woman – she didn’t set out to be that way – you just get to a point and try and justify it away till it gets to an extremely bad situation. I’m not saying all over weight people are like that (myself included) but the nurse is a professional trying to do the best she can to make her “customers” as healthy as possible and if she has been told to weigh people that appear overweight to highlight this then she is just doing her job!

    • Rachel knows she is fat. She also told the nurse she didn’t want to be weighed. Her weight upsets her and she struggles with it. She also has depression. The nurse should have seen this, listened to Rachel and respected her wishes as the appointment was not Weight related and she didn’t need to know her weight. She offered no support or advice, just a lecture, and left Rachel feeling so crap that she wrote that poem. The fact is, the majority of obese people don’t need a do gooding nurse to bring attention to their weight. What good did it actually do? If she was going to be offered help, support or counselling, maybe, but she wasn’t.

    • Steph Train

      I think this is a poor time to bring up politics. Furthermore, it’s absolutely laughable to suggest that overweight people don’t know they are overweight and must be “reminded” of such a thing.

      • I totally agree. I didn’t object at all when I was weighed at the hospital the other day because they needed to know what dose of sedative to give me. (before anyone says ‘fate related’ – it was an endoscopy to see if there was a reason for my reflux. I’m fine.) The nurse dodn’t make any comment, or refer me to a diet club, she just calculated the dose and off we went. If I’d been weighed when I went to the doctor 18 months ago because I wrenched my back (exercising, no less) I would have been less happy.

    • Oh here we go, the old ‘obesity is costing the NHS millions line’! Are you aware that recent studies show that fat people can be just as fit and healthy as thin people? I am technically obese and aside from a throat infection over Christmas (where I was coughing up blood – but unless i managed to get my family sized bar of chocolate wedged in my throat I seriously doubt my obesity was the cause) I haven’t been to the doctors for 12 years! I started running last year and have a resting heart rate of 51!! People use the whole ‘obesity is costing the nation thing’ to justify their fat bashing. If fat people weren’t ridiculed, pointed at, made fun of and laughed at, then maybe more of us would be out there exercising and being just as fit and healthy as the slim ones among us!

  8. And even if the nurse had been trained or instructed to weigh an overweight person as the patient we are all entitled to refuse to have anything done to us that we are not comfortable with whether that’s tests, getting weighed, having our blood pressure taken, being put on medication……..it’s our basic human rights. Oh I’m sorry, I forgot, we’re fat, we don’t have any human rights. *sigh*

    • EXACTLY. Again, when I had my endoscopy (my only point of medical reference recently as I rarely trouble a doctor) I was told that I could refuse it at any time. Because it was recommended, I had it, but I didn’t have to. And that was USEFUL. Weighing Rachel serves no medical purpose and yes,she was well within her rights to say she didn’t want to be weighed, even if she IS fat.

  9. Kevin

    I feel compelled to reply, specifically to ‘Jane’ who feels the need to throw statistics at us to shame us into doing something about our weight. Being overweight cost the taxpayer £5bn/year. Alcohol costs the NHS £6bn/year, and results in over a million hospital admissions.


    How many of those in the obesity calculation are smokers? A new study suggests that smokers and the obese actually cost the taxpayer / NHS LESS in real terms over the course of their life.


    See, I can prove ANYTHING I want to to reinforce my opinion on a topic using the internet. Of course, that telegraph article doesnt account for many variables, the most obvious being that not every person who lives longer requires 24 hour care. This nurse was absolutely out of order to shame Rachel in this manner. Her wishes should have been respected. Nurses are supposed to be sensitive to patients wishes and balance needs with action required. Making someone who suffers from depression feel crap about themselves in a way that is no secret to them is NOT the way to do it. It’s not like she went to the doctors, got weighed and was like ‘oh shit, I’m overweight, when did that happen?’ Of course she knows exactly where she is at health wise, and is more than aware that she needs to take action. What she needs is genuine support and tact, not bully boy tactics to shame her and make her feel crap for the rest of the day. You wouldn’t shame an alcoholic who had slipped off the wagon and had a drink, or someone who was quitting smoking and had a cigarette. Maybe when people wake up and realise that food addiction is a genuine psychological condition as serious as cocaine, nicotine or alcohol addiction, they will be a bit more supportive and understanding of those of us considered to be overweight instead of poking fun at us and tarring us with the ‘sit on couch stuffing face all day’ brush.

  10. Kevin

    It’s a pity there are no statistics on how much ignorance costs this country. I bet it’s a hell of a lot more than obesity/alcohol/smoking combined!

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