Scores of studies have shown that medical providers typically regard fat patients as lazy, self-indulgent and noncompliant. As a result, heavy patients don’t always receive the health care they deserve....So there may be mistakes in treating fat people. That's plainly wrong and easy to condemn. It's harder to know how to react to criticisms like this:
Many heavy women told me that doctors routinely blamed any ailment, from a fall to a sore throat, on their weight....
One woman I talked to visited a new gynecologist, who, during her annual exam, began lecturing her about her weight. When the patient said she did not want to discuss weight loss, the doctor backed off. She resumed her lecture, however, during the pelvic exam, when the patient had her feet in stirrups and a speculum inside her. She told me she felt as if she were mentally “going somewhere else” — not unlike how many women feel while being sexually abused.This is close to an etiquette consideration: What can you say to a woman while penetrating her vagina? From the patient's perspective, it's hard to know how tolerant or outraged to be. I think some doctors are obtuse about what they can say while they're probing a woman's intimate parts. They might think it's a good time for casual conversation, precisely to demonstrate how nonsexual what they are doing is. The woman might endure the situation, then feel bad about it afterwards. But I don't see much connection to that problem and the fact that one of the casual conversation topics the doctor might introduce is the way you need to lose weight. It's not a good time to try to take advantage of your close connection to the patient!
Finally, there's the health issue of stress, which can grow out of the problem of being overweight. Prof. Saguy seems to say that any message to fat people about the problem of fatness might only make matters worse. Elsewhere, I've seen commentary suggesting that it's the other way around. Lessening the social pressure leads more people to get and stay fat. Who knows where the greatest health risks lie? And should our decisions about how to talk to fat people be based on what's best for their health? Maybe not!