This is Thin Privilege

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paper gowns

Thin privilege is being able to fit into those paper gowns at a doctor’s office. My doctor herself is incredible, a wonderful person who has never questioned my weight (other than an initial “You’re over the weight the chart says is healthy, but it’s not affecting your health at all. If you have any questions about weight just ask”). However, when going to her recently for a physical and pap smear, I couldn’t cover myself with the paper gown I was given. It left my back and butt exposed, and the plastic tie that was supposed to keep it closed couldn’t even reach around me. I’m so glad I’m comfortable with my doctor because I can’t imagine having half of myself exposed in a medical situation if I wasn’t. Physicals are stressful enough.

To start, I’ve been reading your blog on and off for a while. I wanted to say that it disgusts me how many stories I’ve read that talk about doctors focusing on weight as the major problem for most/all medical problems. As someone who plans to go into Physical Therapy, I wish I wasn’t almost done so I could change my major to become a GP. So then, I’d have a chance to be able to help diagnosis medical problems. I hope that eventually our medical system can be overhauled so that we actually focus on fixing problems, rather than trying to just promote unnecessary weight loss with little explanation or advice.

No One’s Judging Me When They Probably Should

TW: eating disorders, weight loss, medical bias

I am thin. I never really realized what sort of privileges my weight gave me until I came across this blog. Thank you for opening my eyes.

I have struggled with EDs for nearly a decade now, mostly bulimia. I can go to the grocery store and buy 6000 calories worth of junk food and no one bats an eye. They SHOULD, because I am going to stuff myself and make myself sick, which is WRONG. But since I’m thin, I must be healthy, right? (sigh). I was recovered from my EDs until a few months ago, when I developed an unknown illness that causes chronic (unintentional) vomiting, forcing me on what is literally a starvation diet (saltines, bland soup, gatorade…yeah, that’s pretty much it), which triggered the bulimia relapse. Because if you starve yourself long enough, you’ll end up binging, especially with my history. Anyway, I lost 16 pounds in a month, vomiting every day at least once.

I expected concern, which I did get. But what I wasn’t expecting was the compliments. Even the backhanded “eat something” comments, I could tell were thinly veiled jealousy. And when I called my prospective boss to tell him I could not accept the job offer (too sick to work…or stand for more than a minute), when I explained my symptoms he commented that it was “quite the diet.”

I’ve been reading this blog for the past two days and I can’t help but shudder at the stories, particularly the ones involving doctors. My husband is pre-med and just turned in his application. I plan on sharing these stories with him in the hope that there will be one more doctor who treats patients as people. (He plans on becoming an osteopathic doctor. I’m not sure if anyone has had experience with these but they take a more holistic approach to health and I believe have a few more courses in nutrition. Maybe this might help? They have a D.O after their name but take the same tests as an M.D. to get their license.) I can’t help but be horrified at the idea of my eating disorder not being taken seriously or my illness and subsequent weight loss being encouraged if my BMI was higher.

I hope I’m not out of place submitting (though I know by default I kind of am). I just hope you know that, despite the flood of hate you all must get, you are slowly but surely helping people by spreading awareness. I plan on sending this blog to a wonderful former professor of mine in my teacher education program. She teaches Gender and Education, but the class covers sexuality, class, and many other issues that affect students. I hope she might carve out a spot in the class to discuss thin privilege and fat discrimination.

For a while I’ve been having knee problems, so naturally I went to the doctors to see if there was anything wrong. Well after a couple of fat shaming questions such as, “How long have you been obese?” and “Have you experienced any other health problems linked to your obesity?” He finally got to his “diagnosis” without performing any other tests and he told me that my knee pains are due to the pressure put on my knees by my excessive weight. 

First of all, it’s clear this doctor has never heard of health at every size. But I calmly explain to him that at my job, I’m on my feet 4 hours a day and also explain to him the concept of me being comfortable with my body and also explain to him health at every size. Then this fucker has the audacity to laugh and say, “Health at every size isn’t true, and if you keep believing it you will eventually get fatter and suffer a heart attack at a young age.” At this point I had had enough and politely told him to “Fuck off.” I immediately walked out of the office and cried in my car for half an hour.

Thin privilege is having doctors take the proper steps in diagnosing your knee pains.

I have to get surgery soon, so today I met with the surgeon for my pre-op assessment. I’m thin, and as soon as he walked into the room, he told me how happy he was that I’m “not a fatty”, and that it’s really not that much harder or dangerous to operate on fat people, he just hates them because his first love was a fat girl and she rejected him. I explained to him that this was not okay and directed him to this blog. Just goes to show how prevalent and dangerous thin privilege is! 

Even blood tests don’t matter

Three months ago, I went to the doctor for an infected sweat gland. I had never been to this doctor before because I had only recently moved. When I arrived, we spent most of our time discussing my weight. I am a small fat, but, according to BMI tables, I’m liable to drop dead at any minute.

My body pressure was very slightly elevated, so I figured the reason we spent so much time on my weight was that the doctor, who had never seen me before, was concerned even though she also said that a single blood pressure reading was rather meaningless. She had me draw blood, too, as I hadn’t had a full physical in a few years.

It upset me that all I wanted was antibiotics for an infection, and most of the visit was about my weight. Moreover, my previous doctor, who I had seen since I was a child, had never harassed me about my weight. In fact, the one time she mentioned my weight was when I had lost 20 lbs, and she wanted to make sure that I was still healthy. Moreover, I figured if everything came back fine with my blood work, the new doctor would just accept that I was healthy, just fat.

Three months pass, and today I go back to check out my blood work. Blood pressure, great. Blood sugar, beautiful. Blood cholesterol, fantastic. Liver and kidney function, perfect. I have no dizziness or fatigue. My lungs and heart sound good. I’m reporting no abnormalities. All wonderful, right? I figure, well, I’m fat, but I’m healthy, so the doctor should be happy.

Nope. When I report running most days, she tells me to start restricting calories. No guidance on how to do so. No guidance on what my caloric intake should be. No question on what I actually eat. Just, eat fewer calories. I gave up on pushing back when she points out that my mother has high cholesterol (and has had no matter her weight), and my father has high blood pressure (which is no so well controlled, he doesn’t have to be on medication, despite still being fat).

No actual problems. No question about my current diet or weight history (I had lost about 40 lbs a couple years before, and gained it all back when I stopped strict calorie restriction). No real question my health. Just fat.

Thin privilege is doctor’s assuming your healthy unless actual tests tell them otherwise. Thin privilege is not having to convince a doctor that you are active and eating well. Thin privilege is not having a doctor assume your unhealthy despite actual tests telling them otherwise.

tw: menstruation, blood, weight loss talk

When I was in 4th grade I started going through puberty. My body started maturing and I gained a lot of weight and was, by clinical standards, overweight. In 5th grade I started my period and it was dreadful. My period would last me 18-24 days and the flow was very heavy. I was constantly sick, dangerously anemic, and always at risk of passing out. My cramps were so awful that I would often keel over and start bawling from the pain. The nurse had to keep an extra set of clothes for me in her closet because of how often I would bleed through my pants. In short, my period was not even close to normal.

When I went to my primary care physician he told my mom and I that my “mature body” (code for overweight) was the reason that my period came so early and was irregular. That there are studies that say that children who are overweight  get their periods sooner than thin children. I was distressed. His only advice to me was to lose weight and hope that my period would regulate itself. In the meantime, he recommended I take midol for the cramps and iron pills to supplement the ghastly amount of blood I was losing almost everyday. As an elementary schooler, it was extremely traumatizing for me. 

Luckily in later years my period became somewhat regular. They no longer lasted the majority of the month but would still decommission me.

A few months ago, I was getting laser hair removal on my underarms but no matter how many treatments I did they wouldn’t take. The nurse doing the treatments told me that if my hormones were irregular that the treatment wouldn’t work because irregular hormones would mess with my hair growth pattern. She recommended I talk to my primary care physician about getting my hormones checked out to make sure that there was nothing that could be disrupting them. 

Now, ten years after the first visit with the same doctor, I’m significantly smaller at around a size 6/8. When I told him what the nurse had said he agreed, with no argument, that I should get my hormones checked out and SURPRISE, I have PCOS. 

He immediately put me on an oral contraceptive with a high amount of estrogen and, magically, when properly treated every awful and debilitating symptom that usually comes with my period has disappeared. 

I’m sure this has been said before, but thin privilege is having your illness treated and not your body. 

More info on thyroid disorders

I just wanted to point out a few things, submitting so that I can include links.

First, it’s important to find out what laboratory range the doctor is using to determine thyroid status of a patient.  There is an older range that some doctors and laboratories are still using, and a newer range that has been adopted and more accurately reflects disorders of thyroid function.  http://thyroid.about.com/od/gettestedanddiagnosed/ss/normaltsh_3.htm

(Also, if your doctor doesn’t know enough on their own about thyroid function and is depending solely on the laboratory’s interpretation of the values, I would RUN to get a second opinion if I were you.)

Secondly, if the doctor is basing their diagnosis on a TSH reading alone, I would get a second opinion because TSH does not provide an accurate or even overall picture of thyroid function.  Especially for an initial diagnosis, a full thyroid panel should be done that includes:

TSH

T3

T4

Thyroid antibody test (not as essential, but if the thyroid problems are because of an autoimmune response such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Disease, this test will show that.) http://www.thyroid.org/blood-test-for-thyroid/

The reason that it’s important to also test T3 and T4 levels is because of conditions called tertiary and secondary hypothyroidism.  In these conditions TSH can be in the normal/low-normal range and T3/T4 can be low.  See the following links for further information:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3169862/

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/433874_3

http://www.thyroidmanager.org/question/low-t4-and-t3-but-normal-tsh/

It’s also important to check for vitamin deficiencies, particularly vitamins D and B12.  Deficiencies in these vitamins seem to go hand in hand with thyroid disorders, and Vitamin D itself is crucial to the body’s ability to use thyroid hormones properly/efficiently.

http://thyroid.about.com/b/2010/09/30/vitamin-d-important-thyroid.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921055/

http://thyroid.about.com/cs/newsinfo/l/blb12anemia.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18655403

I have had Graves’ Disease/hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism since puberty, which is why I know as much as I do about the thyroid and thyroid disorders.  Personally, when my current endo decided to test my Vitamin D level, it was practically non-existent.  I’m on a high-level dose of it to this day to address that deficiency.

How do I get my doctor to stop fatshaming me?

I have hypothyroidism. I read about it online and I have all the symptoms, including weight gain, fatigue, and constipation, but the doctor says all my test results came back normal. He then told me I should eat healthier and exercise more, which will also miraculously help my depression. I already eat healthier and exercise more than almost anyone I know, but I’m still fat. How do I make him treat me correctly and give me the pills I need for my condition?

Mod response:

Alas, you probably can’t. I recommend finding a new doctor. Before you settle on one, make sure they actually listen to you and your symptoms, the way a doctor is supposed to. But there isn’t much you can do to convince a bigoted person their bigotry is wrong, and frankly, you shouldn’t have to spend time doing that with someone YOU are paying to HELP YOU. Fire him and get a new one.

-MG

Thin privilege is not having an injury disregarded because of your weight. 

I have a serious back disorder - discs that push into my spine thanks to a fall years ago, and while I’ve been through one back surgery before, I’ve aggravated the disorder recently because of school. While I have an amazing specialist who understands that my weight plays no part in the pain that I suffer through (this is a problem that even the thinnest of people can have), I am currently having to see my general practitioner for pain management until I can get an appointment with the specialist. My GP doesn’t want to give me any pain medicine because he believes if I exercise that I can lose weight and my pain will magically disappear, despite no amount of exercise having the ability to move my discs away from my spine or the fact that I can barely stand or walk without collapsing from the pain.

Thin privilege is getting help from your doctor when you need it the most and not being prescribed exercise.

I do have questions

I have considered myself fat before. My height is 5’2 and about 3 year before I was 165 lbs (although some of you could consider it not fat enough) and was really sad about my self image. I had hyperglycemia and my doctor told me that I MUST lost weight because the body couldn’t handle the extra fat (with my body not producing enough insulin to metabolize all the carbohydrates I was eating) and I could develop diabetes II. So I lost it. With the help of a nutritionist and exercise but I did it. Now, three years later, my weight is around 115-120 lbs and I study medicine and I know what I have been doing with my own body and no longer have hyperglycemia. I am not telling you “I am harassing you until you fit standards”, I have been in that situation and it is not pleasant and in my country being fat is not something to be punished for (is only one characteristic of someone). What I am saying is that I want to understand what are you promoting with all this because, as a medicine student, I can’t understand (and if you say your job is not to educate me please then send me links with information [that belongs in a science magazine, not anything like pop magazines [hate those]])

Mod response:

"Promoting"? Fuck off.

We are declaring that fat people are PEOPLE, and deserve to be treated as such. We are stating that our health — anyone’s health — IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS, UNLESS WE ASK YOUR OPINION. We are telling you that YOU DO NOT KNOW SHIT ABOUT OUR BODIES, so shut the fuck up.

You are demanding that we educated you — and yes, demanding that we send you articles after you acknowledge that it’s not our job is still insisting that we educate you — is still demanding our time and work. This blog is full of links to studies — actual fucking studies, as well as articles in other places — and there’s a whole fucking internet out there. Go educate yourself, you lazy shit.

You are displaying ignorant and bigoted attitudes. Go correct them. Don’t ask us to do it for you. We owe you exactly nothing.

-MG

I am livid right now.

On my way to an appointment and while I was eating before it, I saw several fat women like me out and about and I felt happy even though there’s no way to know whether they are my allies or not. Just seeing that I’m not alone makes me feel comfortable.

On my way back from the appointment I saw a billboard:

"Friends don’t let friends muffintop" with a picture of two muffins in pants by the Bariatric Surgery Center in the area.

I was so angry that I ranted about it to my mom who was driving who, while fat herself, is NOT my ally or any fatty’s ally. She believes all the bullshit society spreads about us including a lifetime of listening to her lament about how she “eats too much” even though her eating is normal.

I am pissed off that I live in a world where thin people are allowed to do this. I am pissed that these fuckers are making bank selling scam surgery off MY BACK AND THE BACKS OF OTHER FAT PEOPLE. I am pissed that I live in a world where people can lie about me to my face and tell thin people lies about me, so that I have spent a lifetime minding my own business only to have thin people butt in and say how dare you think you get to exist. I am pissed as a poor disabled person, unable to work because this country doesn’t give a shit about coming up with jobs that people with my illnesses can do w/ living wages, that these people are raking in money selling hatred and fear of my body.

I’m angry taht this shit gets to exist. They have no proof that eating “too much” makes you fat. They have no proof fat people even do, and thin people get to be “hollow legs” with no more than a chuckle.They have no proof that our stomachs are different than thin people’s stomachs. But let’s run with it anyway!

This billboard plays on something every fatty has experience with: the concern trolling over our “health”. FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS BE FAT. How many messages has this blog and other fatty’s blog gotten from “concerned friends” who just NEED to tell the fatty in their life that they are JUST TOO FAT TO BE ALLOWED. Yes “friends” go tell your fat friends to mutilate their stomach you know just because you ~care~ so much. I mean really they’re great but you just can’t stand to look at them and somehow that’s their problem.

This scam, this fatphobia scam that the weight loss industry in all forms is running, should go down in history as the biggest and most successful scam in history. They taught thin people to hate us and they taught fat people to hate ourselves. After that they didn’t need to do anything but expoit the stereotypes they spread and provide product. Eat these certain foods in certain amounts, do this certain exercise in certain amounts all the way up to “hey cut and band your stomach cause we told you over and over you eat too much. Never you mind the proof! Fat is wrong and you don’t want to be wrong!”

A world that allows this to happen. I can’t believe it after all these years I still can’t believe it.

Thin privilege is building a world made for you, promoting you, promoting your body as some virtue you’ve achieved off the backs of the body you promote as a sign of wrong, worthlessness and shame. Thin privilege is selling hatred of me for money, selling scams to thin people scared to death of being fat because of your lies and to fat people who have been convinced they are wrong and need to be righted by your glorious solution. Thin privilege is getting to pretend that billboard has nothing to do with eating disorders, that anti-fat doesn’t also mean pro-thin, that restricting and reducing the food you eat is nothing like restricting and reducing the food you eat, that their hatred and fear of your body is justified and natural that it had nothing to do with a lifetime of immersion in this shit.

I’m far along enough on the path out of fat hate that seeing that or anything like it never makes me feel shitty about my own body. There is nothing wrong with my body, there is only thin people who have a problem with my body. But it does make me never want to go out again. And it does make me worry for fatties who aren’t where I’m at, who might be bullied into doing it. It’s not as if this shit isn’t all over online too. I have adblock so I wouldn’t see ads for it but as we all know there are tons of thin people talking their usual shit in all corners of the internet. Seeing this billboard comes on the heels of yesterday reading a thread on a forum and seeing a thin person casually use fat people as their metaphor for consumption as they so love to do. Somehow, it’s not the screaming ones that bother me most, but people like that who calmly casually use us as props, to whom we are just objects for them to use how they want.

And the ones who leave their festering bullshit up like that billboard for me to glance at when I was having an ok day up to that point. The disdain I have for thin people who let this shit happen who feel like they are good people even as they look at us as failed versions of them as opposed to variant human beings right now is palpable. I blame every thin person who says nothing who upholds this shit, this is your fault. Every thin person whose self esteem is built on my back every thin person who needs that billboard or they can’t feel good about themselves. I am sick to death of people needing to be “better” than other people. This is dysfunctional on every axis of oppression, it is sick and wrong.  I just want to go to bed and wake up in another world where people aren’t fighting against me every moment of my life. I have only been awake several hours and I feel like this day is already a lost cause.

I've been struggling with chronic back painI saw a doctor she told me to loose weight. I have an eating disorder.I can't work out because of the pain so I've restricted to loose and it's been working and my doctor is pleased.What am I supposed to do?

Asked by
dance-hall-dyke

My suggestion is that if you aren’t happy with the service you’re getting — because your doctor is providing you with a service that you’re paying for — go to another doctor or seek another opinion. A regime that would include stronger painkillers that would then give you the ability to work out and increase the needed muscle mass in your core to support your back and reduce your pain might be better. Your doctor isn’t doing much by throwing some extra-strength Tylenol at you and ordering you to lose weight. And if that’s exacerbating your eating disorder your doctor shouldn’t have suggested that in the first place. The Hippocratic Oath is “First, do no harm.”

-ATL