When I first got sick with my chronic illness, I was about 14 years old. From one day to another, I started gaining weight like crazy. As my mum always lovingly put it: “It was like watching a yeats dough rise.” I went to see a doctor about it, and they told me that I just needed to lose weight and everything would be okay again. They did not ask about my diet, how I exercised my body or whether anything else had changed recently that could have possibly caused my weight gain. They did not ask any questions at all. They just saw I was overweight and assumed that the weight was the cause of my problems and not a symptom of something bigger.
Fast forward seven years, I had gained more weight, no diet or exercise was helping, I was losing weight, constantly felt tired, and had just accepted that I would feel like this until I was losing weight, which somehow I couldn’t. When I suddenly started losing hair, and not just a few pieces here and there but strains of hair just falling off my head, I decided to see a doctor again. By this time, I had moved away and started seeing another doctor. When I told them about my hair, they immediately asked all the right questions. They asked about my diet, my sleeping habits, my overall health. They did blood tests, sent me to get an MRT done, and ran many more tests. Eventually, it turned out that I had Hashimoto’s, a chronic autoimmune disease that had already pretty much destroyed my thyroid by the time it was diagnosed.
The weight gain had not been the cause of my problems but an early symptom of my illness. But because fat people are often considered lazy, undisciplined, and at fault for their health problems, doctors often don’t even consider running tests that could lead to another diagnosis.
Fat-shaming in the medical field is one qof the most dangerous aspects of fat-shaming. Often, doctors only focus on BMI, a number that today has widely been dismissed as inaccurate and not expressive about people’s actual health. BMI was created based on statistics, including only white European men. It does not consider bone mass, water retention, muscles, gender, race, age, etc. It’s an arbitrary number created based on a nonrepresentative statistic.
What people need are doctors that take their health seriously. Doctors that don’t take the easy. Doctors who don’t dismiss people because of their physical appearance. Finding such a doctor can be a process. If you feel like your doctor is not taking you seriously, get a second opinion. See another doctor, contact a specialist, don’t give up. You know your body best and are the only person who can tell that something is wrong. Even if it is something with no immediate cure, a diagnosis will help you get the treatments you need.