My mission is to love people "from the inside out" and inspire others to do the same.

What Doctors Can Do About Weight Bias in Health Care

As you know if you've read recent posts, I've talked about weight bias (AKA "size prejudice") in health care before. For example, Size Prejudice Is Alive and Well, Part 2 is about how prevalent weight bias is among doctors and other health care professionals. What I didn't talk about was what doctors could do about it...probably because I didn't know.

Well this week I discovered this video, which was created by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. It lists many things that doctors--and other health care professionals--can do to reduce weight bias in their own practices and thereby improve their patients' care and quality of life. (P.S. I plan to write more about the Rudd Center very soon.) If you're in a hurry, fast forward to 9:14 for the actual action items.

Have you experienced weight bias in a health care setting? Do you know any health care professionals that might benefit from seeing this video? Share your story in the comments.


  1. It is encouraging to see research urging medical professionals to examine and remedy their weight bias. And of course it's lovely to see Emme involved - how wonderful that she's continuing her career in this way. However, the video makes some assumptions that are questionable: 1. That the "obesity epidemic" in fact exists. Many critics have pointed out that obesity has not risen as dramatically as common wisdom would have one believe. We may well have a prevalence of bad nutrition and lack of exercise, but that is not the same thing. And in any case, it is a misuse of the term "epidemic" to apply it to a non-contagious condition. 2. That fat people do not in fact engage in healthy behaviors. If you believe that fat is not necessarily the result of poor nutrition and lack of exercise, why would you single out fat people for interrogation about these behaviors? The fat person in your exam room could easily be an athlete who grows all her own food. The thin person may well be a sedentary person who eats only fast food. 3. The lack of exploration of other causes of fatness, beyond genetics. Hormone disruption? Pollution? Stress caused by discrimination and inequality? We simply don't know, and it would be best if physicians could emphasize this to their patients.

    This video is a start, but even anti-obesity bias researchers need some refreshers. One can't expect health care providers to depart from the language of their profession, but anti-bias researchers might consider using the language of the fat acceptance movement: we are not "overweight" or "obese" or "morbidly obese" - we are FAT. That is a perfectly good descriptive word that does not imply pathology as the medical terminology does.

    1. Thanks for the input. Honestly, I'm still learning about all of this myself, so I don't feel qualified to speak to your first 2 points, and I don't know where the Yale Rudd Center got their numbers. But I do know the Center recognizes other causes besides genetics; I think they're just not as focused on in this video. I encourage you to check out their website; there's tons of information on what they do and on their actual research:

      As to the language we should all use about it AND whether there are medical aspects (it's probably not possible to separate the two): As the survivor of one whose autopsy listed the cause of death as "morbid obesity leading to sudden heart failure," I have a hard time believing that obesity is not a medical condition and that it doesn't impact health, at least past a certain point. I mean, they weighed Ron's body in the autopsy, and it was FIVE HUNDRED and SEVENTY-FIVE pounds. I just can't believe that that had nothing to do with his overall health and his heart health in particular.

      Now, if I'm wrong, maybe medical bias played into the cause of death determination; I don't know. Frankly, I don't wish to dig up the autopsy report or try to talk to the medical examiner who wrote it. That's an emotional minefield I prefer to avoid.

      In the meantime, I will continue to advocate for the respectful treatment of all. I think we can all agree on that.

  2. Connie, thank you for replying. As someone who is new to your blog, I really should have started out by saying how sorry I am for your loss. What a brave and kind venture you have taken on, to honor Ron's memory.

    I don't dispute that fatness can be the cause (or result) of medical problems, and I can absolutely understand how painful it would be for you to speculate on such matters on a personal level. The issue, really, is the assumptions that are made by health care professionals about fat people and their health, and the lack of respect given to us as patients, clients, and fellow human beings. As I said, I am encouraged that the Rudd Center is addressing this issue; I just wish they had addressed it better in some of the ways I listed above.

    So, yes, I'm with you on the respectful treatment of all! And I will eagerly follow your blog, now that I've discovered it. Thanks for doing what you do.


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