By: Sarah Bramblette, MSHL
Biscayne Park, Florida
We are often quicker to complain than we are to give compliments. When it comes to experiences with weight bias, I can quickly tell you stories and give you examples from many areas of my life. They stand out in memory because they had such a profound impact on me. However, I recently witnessed an exchange that stood out because it wasn’t just free of weight bias. A healthcare provider went above and beyond in having a positive, realistic and appropriate conversation about weight.
A couple weeks ago, my mom had to have emergency surgery. I was worried about her and the possible judgement that would be made about our weight (A few months ago we had a negative experience with a home health nurse).
There is always anxiety when seeing a new physician. Even more so in an emergency because the patient doesn’t have the opportunity to select their physician, and the physician doesn’t have a full picture of the patient’s medical/personal history. When asked what brought her to the ER, my mom replied that she had abdominal pain. She then stated, “I don’t eat right and I haven’t been active since my dog died.” I cringed at the blame she was placing on herself. The ER physicians and staff were respectful, as I would expect them to be as a basis level for every patient. They checked to make sure the CT machine would accommodate my mom and all went smoothly.
When they told us she needed surgery, the situation became more serious. The topic of weight was discussed further. I’ve had the same surgery in the past so I knew the procedure and risks. I was immediately impressed by how thoroughly the surgeon explained the problem, surgical procedure and risks. He stated facts about how excess weight and other health issues put my mom at greater risk for complications, but also explained what he would do to ensure the best outcome. Even when my mom tried to place blame on herself, the surgeon refocused the conversation on the present situation. There was no judgement about how or why she got there. He only said that he was going to care for her and make it better. After surgery, he came to tell me how the surgery went and again he was thorough! He had an overall level of compassion and respect.
At my mom’s follow-up appointment one week later, she mentioned how she thought her weight was slowing her recovery. The surgeon said that even if she could lose ten pounds, she would feel better.
My mom then asked when she could get back in the pool. He stated that she would need to wait a few weeks, but also pointed out that exercise may not be the best means of weight-loss because it takes a lot of activity (which she was limited in doing) to burn a certain number of calories. He instead recommended she look for ways to cut calories each day and used the example of a sugary beverage to cut “X” amount of calories in a week, etc.
In my head I was thinking, “YES! Exactly.” I also realized he never mentioned an expectation on how quickly she should lose 10 pounds. He then gave my mom positive encouragement: “You are otherwise in good health!”
My mom’s physician tackled an important but difficult topic so well that it really impressed me – to the point where I realized it shouldn’t impress me, but rather be a normal experience. Not just free of bias, but full of tangible advice, realistic expectations and encouragement.
Are you looking for a healthcare provider to help you manage your weight and health? To find providers in your area, visit the OAC’s new Obesity Care Provider Locator at: ObesityCareProviders.com.