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Do doctors listen to patients who happen to be overweight?

In an ideal world, doctors would treat all their patients fairly and respectfully. No matter your gender, background, race or weight, your doctor would listen to your concerns and take them seriously.

Unfortunately, this world is not ideal, and doctors frequently shrug off concerns from many groups. For example, sexism against women can play a large role in misdiagnosis and delayed treatment, and so can being overweight, especially if you are female as well. Here is a look at some common reactions from doctors when they interact with patients who are overweight:

“You will get better if you lose the weight”

Many doctors fixate on the weight and do not practice good listening skills when the patient tells them about symptoms. In the end, the doctor basically shrugs and tells the patient to lose weight, then she will feel better. Meanwhile, a normal-weight patient who came in with these symptoms would be taken seriously and prescribed medications.

Continued wrong or ill-fitting equipment

Doctors and nurses may also have equipment that is inappropriate for the person’s weight or lacking altogether. There may be scales that cannot weigh those who are more than 350 pounds, so a doctor or nurse might skip this step or just guess the weight. However, a large weight gain or weight loss in a patient could indicate a serious health problem. Similarly, imaging machines might not accommodate an overweight person, so critical tests are skipped. Also, medicines might be prescribed in incorrect dosages.

Rather than take their cues from these patients, the doctors and medical offices often just go on their way and do not make changes.

Refusal to see and treat

Some doctors simply refuse to take on people who are overweight. For example, one poll among 105 obstetricians and gynecologists in Florida indicated that women weighing more than 200 pounds would not be taken on by 15 percent of these doctors.

One unfortunate outcome of doctors’ dismissive attitude is that patients who are overweight may agonize over visiting the doctor and delay seeking medical help for an issue.

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