To be a sick fat woman in this world is a curse I wouldn’t wish on my enemy too. Why do I say this? Well, as if being a woman wasn’t enough already, being chronically ill with an invisible disease is the worst thing you can ask for. Because you look healthy on the outside without any visible scars or bruises, so convincing someone, at times even doctors, about your symptoms is an uphill task. Women are seldom taken seriously for their aches and pains as it is. Add to all this a fat body and voila- that suddenly becomes the reason for all your problems. As if thin people never fall sick?
I was recently diagnosed with my pain as being obese. And what did it turn or to be? A viral infection. Yes. Well, being diagnosed as fat for my symptoms is not new. I have been a victim of medical fatphobia for years. It took me years to get a diagnosis and a treatment plan for my fibromyalgia from doctors. What can you expect anyway from a disease that cannot be seen or detected through various medical tests? Conclusion- must be her weight. Also, after childbirth, women do experience backaches and joint pains, right? Wrong!
Being fat is a condition. It is not a disease. There are practically zero diseases that affect only and only overweight people, though risk factors may be higher for them. But there is no disease that affects only fat people. However, the most annoying thing here is when the doctors immediately jump to a conclusion seeing the body size as the root cause of everything before asking or taking into account the lifestyle, medical conditions, and history of the patient. So basic, right? Oh, how many times has this been overlooked? Health and weight are two different things. A fat person can be healthy and a thin person can be sick and vice versa.
Fat people already know that they are fat
Not everyone is overweight because of a sedentary lifestyle or overeating. Chances are that medical conditions like PCOD, insulin resistance, thyroid, pregnancy, and even side effects of certain medicines can lead to weight gain. While many find it easy to shed weight for many others it is not an easy thing and they may have spent years trying to lose weight through diets and exercises without much result. But the whole point is, when you go to a doctor for a problem, they have to treat you, provide relief and find the cause of your complaint regardless of your size.
“I was wrongly diagnosed by several doctors for years until in 2019 we found that I had grade 3 spondylolisthesis. Medical Fatphobia is one of the biggest problems in the world where doctors assume that everything wrong in a fat patient’s body is because of their weight. I couldn’t even get up from my bed for about 2 months in 2014 but yet not a single doctor asked me to get an MRI and just blamed the situation on a pinched nerve because of my weight. Had the issue been diagnosed properly back then itself I probably wouldn’t be suffering as much now.”
It wasn’t until last year when she met a few top spine surgeons of the country who thankfully did not focus on her weight. “In fact, one doctor in Mumbai told me that any other person with the grade 3 spondylolisthesis would have been on a stretcher by now but because I am a dancer, my core muscles are quite strong and are able to hold my body and spine. Doctors cannot generalize and treat someone on the basis of weight alone”, says Tanvi Ravishankar, a model & social media influencer who goes by the name The Chubby Twirler.
Doctors cannot dismiss a patient in excruciating pain saying “Your pain is because of obesity, lose 10 kgs and you will be fine”. This is exactly what was told to me. The red rashes on my legs were dismissed as varicose veins when they were due to some virus. And if you thought that how can doctors be like this, well here are a few more instances to tell you how deep-rooted medical fatphobia is.
Fatphobia has no place in medical industry
Your size shouldn’t decide the care you deserve. Everybody has an equal right to a fair diagnosis and healthcare and medical professionals need to drop this bias and stop pushing obesity as the cause for everything. Of course, not all doctors fat-shame or are fatphobic. It is for some truly wonderful doctors that I can say am living a good quality of life despite my many medical problems. But fear of being judged for your size should not be the reason anyone should have to refrain from seeking medical care for themselves or go around doctor shopping just to find someone who will treat them for beyond their size.