I Was Shamed by My Doctor for Being Overweight

August 14, 2015
One woman opens up about why she's too afraid to visit another M.D.

We live in an age of shaming—shamed for how we look, what we say, who we are. It's so relentless, especially online, you might even say we've become desensitized to it. And yet, when the judgment comes straight from an M.D.—the one person you trust implicitly with your well-being—it shocks you to your core. The health consequences can be devastating, even deadly. Enough! With the help of women brave enough to share their stories and be photographed, WH urges you to speak up and join in as we rally for change.

Kristin Bulzomi, 28, had just had the best weekend of her life: For two days in January, she had danced (and danced!) with friends at a local weekend retreat. When, on Monday, colleagues asked her for help rearranging the office, she readily agreed, more than up to the task. Despite being around 20 pounds over her normal weight, she ate well, exercised regularly, and felt great. Except, the next day, she could barely move.

Guessing that, between the dancing and box lifting, she'd thrown out her back, Kristin hightailed it to a nearby clinic, where a doctor cut her off mid-explanation. "Low back pain is common in heavier people," he said. "You just need to lose weight."

Kristin argued, then pleaded, for immediate help. She finally got a pain pill prescription, but the long-term advice remained cold and dismissive: You'd feel better if you weren't overweight.

Seven months later, Kristin is still in pain—her backaches have nearly canceled out her active lifestyle, but she's too afraid to see another M.D. Ironically, she says, being judged for her weight—when she wasn't even dangerously heavy—has contributed to her gaining even more.

RELATED: I Was Shamed by My Doctor For Being Transgender

If you feel you've been unfairly judged, you've got options—and silently cringing in shame doesn't have to be one of them. Most hospitals and health practices have patient grievance processes in place. Ask an office manager how to file a complaint or open a formal investigation. If that doesn't work, you can lodge a complaint with your state's medical board; or you could always consult a lawyer.

RELATED: I Was Shamed by My Doctor For Being Black

For more on the dangers of doctor-shaming and other stories from women who've been through it, pick up the September issue of Women's Health, on newsstands now. Plus, take a stand against doctor-shaming by sharing your own experiences on social media using the hashtag #StoptheShame.

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