Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at [email protected]

    Do you thnk medical providers are biased against the obese?
    Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP posted:
    Hi everyone. A new study has just come out noting that a significant number of medical care providers (especially doctors) harbor some bias against those who are obese. As a physician I have heard some of my patients complain about how they have been treated.

    How widespread is this? What has your experience been?
    For that matter, if your experience has been mostly positive, please share your story as well.

    This is such an important issue, as we forge ahead to help people live a healthier lifestyle.

    Share! Dr. Peeke
    feduptwice responded:
    yes i had a doctor telling me once that he wouldn't bother if he was me with any bloodwork untill i lost weight. What was even more upseting that he himself was about 80 lbs overweight!
    Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
    My mother is obese. (but losing weight at a nice pace under my care) Her doctors have been sort of mixed about it. The pulmonologist that she loves but I don't, basically told her that her oxygen levels were all her fault because of her weight. Yes, likely true-but not helpful.

    She was in the hospital last summer after a small stroke and there was a TON of griping by nursing staff about having to find a bigger cuff, having to help her with the bed pan, etc. That was the worst. She felt bad anyway, is elderly, was confused from the stroke and all the staff seemed to have attitudes at the same time she was meeting a lot of new doctors, getting tests, etc.
    momavlad responded:
    I do believe that doctors are biased against obese people. At six feet and female, I am in that category myself. I went to the doctor concerned about strange weight gain and he didn't even take me seriously. I only eat one meal a day and am an active person. I feel that going to the doctors office for little things is less important because they will judge me on looks and my charts.
    deg1254 responded:
    I am overweight and have been for much of my adult life. My current doctor attributes everything to my weight. While a lot of my problems may be related to it, not everything is. For example, I went to see him for a bad sore throat and a fever, and got a lecture about my weight. I hate to even go to see him now. In the first place, my mother's side of the family are all large women, so some it is hereditary. I do not have a lot of health problems and the only medications I take are Zegerid and Elavil. I was put on Elavil (an anti-depressant) to treat chest pains about a year ago, and immediately gained weight, about 20 lbs. It takes care of the chest pain, though, and I"d rather be fat than in pain. I do not eat any more or any differently than any of the healthy folks I know, and I exercise 4x a week. I do not have rolls of flab everywhere, and I do not dress to emphasize my weight, nor to conceal it. I am a business professional and I take great pains with my appearance, both in the office and out. I should not be offensive to anyone. It is just a given that some people are offended by overweight people, so I guess it's not surprising that some doctors are too. I think it's a downright shame, but maybe someday we will have doctors who specialize in "plus size people", and then we won't need to worry about the rest of them.
    girlwithflaxenhair replied to feduptwice's response:
    First, I think it's ridiculous for a doctor, nurse, or teacher (especially a PE teacher) to be overweight. If they can't follow their own advice and be a good example, they need to find another profession. However, it must get to be very frustrating for doctors to advise their heavy patients on what to eat and how to exercise, only to have their advice totally ignored. Then the patient is back expecting a magic bullet. I can't count the number of people I know who have had open heart surgeries and are still stuffing themselves with bacon and french fries, and refuse to even go for a walk. My insurance rates keep going up because of people in my group who have all sorts of medical conditions caused solely by their weight. I work out every day, eat nothing but healthy food, teach yoga and kickboxing (after teaching elementary school all day), and I am almost 58 years old. I read constantly about the best health practices. People need to take responsibility for their health. When caregivers throw their back out from trying to lift the obese, something needs to change.
    An_201943 replied to girlwithflaxenhair's response:
    >>First, I think it's ridiculous for a doctor, nurse, or teacher (especially a PE teacher) to be overweight<<

    So doctors and nurses can't have medical conditions that can cause weight gain and can't take medications that can increase weight? Good to know. I guess they're not allowed to get sick or die either, right? That would make them such poor role models to their patients.

    I am a nurse. I have a medical condition that causes weight gain despite healthy lifestyles and I also have to be on several medications for another health issue, two of which cause weight gain. With no change in my activity level, I gained over 100lb after starting those two medications. Increasing activity did cause a bit of weight loss, but not as quickly as what would normally be expected.

    My medical condition cannot be cured. My medications cannot be changed. There other medications available for my condition that may not cause weight gain, but I've tried every one of them without success. I'll take being obese over being unable to function in life or being dead.
    Imala responded:
    Yes, some medical providers are biased against the obese.

    Yes, some patients do ignore their doctor's advice.

    Yes, there are obese people who are diligently trying to lose weight without the assistance of drugs or surgery and are having a hard time for a variety of reasons that never seem to get discussed in the doctor's office, when they are being lambasted for not losing weight.

    It is ridiculous to ask a person to go someplace they've never been without a map. Yet that is exactly what many medical professionals do. They assume you know the facts consume fewer calories and exercise more. That should do it. It won't. In most cases, you are dealing with a lifestyle/culture change. That doesn't happen overnight. It is a learning process, much like learning to speak another language after you've turned 30 -- it's an uphill battle that requires a level of determination and effort that frequently doesn't get recognized.

    Most obese people simply don't have the werewithal to have a personal trainer around monitoring them all the time. Oprah did, and still couldn't keep the weight off. If obese people were drug addicts they would get more sympathy and that's sad, because we aren't doing anything illegal in the first place.
    barbara4u responded:
    Dr. Peeke,

    I feel that a medical person who is biased against obese people is in the WRONG occupation.

    This is like saying I won't be compassionate to cancer victims. But to say it doesn't exist would not acknowledge the problem.

    No matter the medical condition, you deserve to be treated in a dignified and sincere manner.

    Some of the best medical care I received was when the medical provider was thinking outside "the box". Example: went in for knee injections, mentiontioned pain form wrist going to shoulder area. A x-ray was taken and revealed a tumor the size of a lemon in armpit region. This could have been breast cancer, it wasn't. I could not feel a lump. Had to be surgically removed.

    I hope medical personnel will see the person NOT the exterior.

    An_201944 responded:
    Most definitely there are a number of providers who harbor bias - and it's not just the obese in my experience. It's anyone the least bit overweight per the charts or BMI even if their body fat is OK.

    I developed what I know now were signs (OBVIOUS signs) of PCOS during college. What did I get as "help" from docs? "Admit your eating problem, eat less, eat better foods, exercise more." HELLO, but I ate vegetarian, didn't overeat and DID exercise. I should NOT have been overweight and (at least when the weight gain started) wasn't over-fat.

    Years later, I went on medications that can cause weight gain when already overweight (with PCOS if insulin resistance is present, weight loss can be darn near impossible). I got the weight gain. BOY did I get the weight gain. I tried EVERYTHING on my own to stop it. I couldn't even SLOW it. What did doc say? "Shut up, admit your eating problem, admit you're 'fat', eat less, exercise more, etc." We went round and round with that argument till I'd gained 100 pounds despite cutting back to about 500 calories per day and exercising 2 hours per day. It would have CONTINUED but I drug my ex in (who's twice my size) and the doc tried to pull the argument AGAIN and my ex had a cow including "but doc, she actually eats LESS than she's telling you, not more like you're claiming". That's when my med was finally changed. But it wasn't till I MOVED that someone finally admitted the medication might have messed with my PCOS and/or metabolism (it had done both) and sent me to an endocrinologist for evaluation and treatment.

    Had someone at ANY point between when symptoms started showing and right before that horrid medication decided to take my weight seriously, my PCOS could have been treated. Had it been treated, I may have delayed or even avoided type 2 diabetes (something that can occur with PCOS if left untreated or improperly treated). Instead, I ended up fatter, diabetic, with uncontrolled PCOS, badly controlled diabetes, out of control blood lipids from the medication and the eating habits of an anorexic...all of which had to be treated.
    forgiveme replied to girlwithflaxenhair's response:
    jis4judy responded:
    Hi Doctor Peeke
    I have had some bad experiences with doctors and some good experiences too // it is like anything else we are not going to get along with everyone no matter how much we would like to ..
    I have been a severe cronic asthmatic since i was 5 years old
    was treated for it all my life and I was seeing a new doctor for the first time when I was about 35 I had gained a few pounds maybe 30 over my proper weight .. well this doctor told me I didn;t have asthma I was just nervous he wrote it in my chart
    and when I needed care the next time I went in another doctor was there and made me wait an hour to be seen when I was wheezing
    by the time I saw the doc i was turning blue he took one look at me and called an ambulance he read the chart that I was a nervous person not asthmatic ... this is the harm that can happen when a doctor feels he know more about my body than I do ...
    My chart read a moderatly obese woman that thinks she has asthma she is just nervous not asthmatic..writes crazy stuff in your record I was called a hypocondriac too.
    I also had heros in the medical proffesion that saved my life a few times when I wasn;t breatheing well.. I was 27 and at my correct body weight then ..
    I know I get more respect when I am at my best weight for me ..

    at the time I was mislabeled I thought it was because I was female but it may have been the 30 pounds I was over weight

    Hugs Judy:).
    brandi31275 replied to girlwithflaxenhair's response:
    WOW!!!!! 58 and still going stong. Keep it up. You are where I want to be when I am your age (even now at 35)
    Maloyo responded:
    I once had a doctor who's answer to every problem I had was, "but you know you're 100 lbs overweight." I used to joke that I could go into her office with a bullet hole in my head, gray matter dribbling down my face and she'd say, "but you know you're 100 lbs overweight."

    Well, something not quite so dramatic, but similar did happen and I was furious. I didn't expect her to ignore my weight, but in that instance, I'd just been in her office about 3 weeks prior for a check up. I went back because I fell while jogging--tripped in a pothole and slammed my hand on the curb--my injured hand was in the brace the emergency room had put on it.

    She asked me why I was there. I showed her my hand. She never even looked at it (BTW, the injury I had eventually took a year to fully heal); never even touched it or me. At her instruction, I followed her into her office where she proceeded to tell me about a new diet she had for diabetes patients' weight loss (I am not and was not diabetic).

    I had a fit and told her that it wasn't appropriate for her to bring that up at that time. I'd just been there for an annual; she should have read her own notes in the chart that was in front of her stupid face. I had an accident; it had nothing to do with my weight. She was wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I had to beg her for a xray (the emergency room doctors told me to follow up with my own doctor; they thought their xray looked odd). She waffled and I had to ask her what the heck was I supposed to do. She finally ordered an xray and after prompting told me to keep wearing the cast.

    Called me about a few days later and said that it was negative; that my hand was not broken. Hung up.

    I was so angry I wrote a letter to my HMO reporting her rude and callous treatment. They did follow up, but eventually told me some b-s answer (they fixated on the poor service I got from the office staff; they didn't want to give me an appointment at all). They did say if they enough complaints about her, they'd drop her from their system. I wasn't looking for that; she is actually a good doctor. But every problem a fat person has is not necessarily connected to their weight. She was blind to this.

    Obviously, I changed PCPs. My new one immediately referred me to an othropedic surgeon who is a hand specialist. He diagnosed the injury and it was treated.

    A few months later I found out I had a thyroid problem that eventually needed surgery. Had Dr. One-Track-Mind still been my PCP, she never would have made the referral that set the chain in motion. I got a severe sinus infection when my office was reopened after the terror attacks of 9/11--it is a few blocks south of the WTC site; I went back in November 2001; was sick by January 2002.

    Heck, Dr. O-T-M probably would have told me that I was breathing in all that soot because I was 100 lbs overweight.


    Helpful Tips

    Olive oil versus Canola oilExpert
    Both oils contain healthy monounsaturated fats but canola actually has less saturated fat than olive oil. Canola is more versatile for ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    239 of 284 found this helpful

    Expert Blog

    Everyday Fitness - Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

    Achieve a better mind-body balance and live a healthier life with tips from wellness expert Dr. Pamela Peeke...Read More

    Related Drug Reviews

    • Drug Name User Reviews

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.