I’m fat. Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to make peace with the size of my body. I exist in a large body. At some point, I got sick of being constantly miserable, always striving for a thin body and feeling like a failure when I didn’t end up in one. I became unwilling to be miserable ever again, so I decided to give diet culture the middle finger and exist happily in my large body.
My fat body has served me well. I like living in it. I do what I want with it. I’ve got a good thing going in this bod.
Part of taking care of myself is ensuring that I seek adequate medical care when I need it. Bodies of every size need care from a doctor once in a while, but for fat folks, it can be tough. There is a lot of fat stigma and weight bias in the medical community. Finding a fat-friendly provider can be a challenge.
But they are out there. I have assembled my “dream team” of health care providers. I have a primary care provider, a gynecologist, and a dermatologist who address all of my specific health concerns without one ounce of body shame. It took me a few tries to find the right ones, but I did it.
One thing that takes the anxiety out of medical situations for me is addressing my body’s size before the provider has to bring it up. I like controlling the conversation about my body, because I can demonstrate how I prefer to discuss my size. I get to choose my own descriptors, and I get to watch the way the doctor reacts.
Everyone is more comfortable when there’s no elephant in the room. Here are a few tips for others looking to have a positive and health relationship with their health care providers.
Don’t apologize for your body.
One thing I never ever do? Apologize for being fat.
Let me be clear: There’s NO reason to say you’re sorry that you’re in a large body. You deserve to exist as you are in the body you have without apologizing to anyone. Anywhere. Ever.
It can be really tempting to make jokes about your body and apologize for taking up space. But it’s important to remember that you don’t owe your doctors anything but payment for their services. You don’t own them thinness.
Discussing your body in a matter-of-fact, unapologetic way is your right. But it can be new for a lot of fat people. We’ve been conditioned to say we are sorry just for living in our own bodies. Diet culture SUCKS.
You can totally talk about your completely acceptable, incredible fat body without saying you’re sorry about a single inch of it. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you owe them an apology for arriving in the only body you have.
Don’t be afraid to be the first one to bring it up.
I always start appointments with new providers with a quick conversation about my body. It’s important to me to be sure they know that I am not self-conscious about the size or shape of my body. I always let them know that I am happy to work together to make their job as easy as possible, whether that means moving into a different position, supporting part of my body to move it out of their way, or just being patient if the procedure takes extra time.
Acknowledging my size not only helps me feel at ease. It also signals to the provider that I know how the procedure is supposed to feel and what to expect. It’s kind of like saying, “If you are thinking of being impatient with a fat person today, I’m not the one, pal.”
Don’t feel obligated to act like you’re not healthy.
I talk about my body like I am healthy — because I am! It’s totally cool to let your doctor know that you do not accept the idea that your size alone is a death sentence. BMI is BS. It’s a stupid system that generalizes body weight without taking body composition into account. It literally can’t tell you a single thing about your actual health.
It’s a good idea to let your doctor take a look at all your body systems and make sure you’re in good running order, but there’s no reason to let anyone talk about your body like it’s a disaster simply because you’re fat. And there is no reason to be self-conscious if you have a few health concerns that need to be addressed. Bodies of all sizes run into snags. That’s why we have doctors.
Expect a respectful conversation.
Your providers owe you the courtesy of speaking to you with respect. They should be able to discuss your body honestly in a way that is devoid of any judgment. The minute your provider addresses your body in a disrespectful way, listen to Lizzo and “walk your fine ass out the door.” You deserve better.
The hardest part is getting comfortable with the idea of fatness as a morally neutral state of being. If your doctor simply states that you have a large body, that is not judgment. Tone of voice, facial expression, body language, and word choice all play a role in respectful communication.
But look, no matter how hard you try to have this conversation in a totally non-emotional way, you might still feel really weird about it. It’s okay for you to bristle a little when your doctor mentions your size at all. That’s exactly what diet culture has conditioned you to feel.
Getting comfortable with the discussion is a process. Give it a try, but give yourself some grace.