Weight Bias Stories
This space is meant to share stories of people who have experienced weight bias, how it has affected them and what they have done to become part of the solution. We encourage you to scroll, read and share these stories to learn more about weight bias and why we need to stop it.
My maiden name was Katzman and my journey with obesity started at age 2 1/2. When I started kindergarten school, it took the “mean” kids all of about 10 seconds to change my name to Melinda FATzman. I lived with this throughout grammar school and not one teacher or administrator ever told those kids to stop. It was just good clean fun to make fun of the “fat” girl. As far as I can remember, this was my first experience with bullying, which led to a lifelong belief there was more just around the corner.
This picture was taken in the summer of my freshmen year in college. I had just lost over 100 pounds, fueled by all the bullying and teasing that followed me from childhood into high school. I was taught to be ashamed of my body, remembering how kids would make whale sounds in the classroom or mimic the way they *thought* I ate food. My family members also made stigmatizing comments, telling me that I could never (and should never) be happy in my larger body. The truth was, weight gain was a side effect of antidepressants that I had been taking for years to process trauma that I had gone through as a kid. As it turned out, I ended up graduating high school feeling trapped in both my body AND my brain.
So I lost the weight. Then more weight. Then more. I never overcame my struggles with mental health, but people praised my “success” as I shed weight and eventually got really sick. I was underweight and bulimic. I wasn’t eating more than a couple hundred calories a day and was finding creative ways to get food “out” of me. I thought that the thinner I got, the more I would be accepted and free from tantalizing comments about my size.
I only came to my senses toward the end of college, when I couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs on my way to class because I was so weak from lacking nutrients. My blood work showed that I was deficient in literally everything. So I began my journey (albeit a slow one) to reconcile with my body and seek overall health, not a number on the scale.
I’ve learned a lot since then, and yes – I gained weight back. I’ve actually been on a roller coaster with my weight, and I can’t help but think how different my journey would have been without the persistent effects of weight bias in my life. I still feel pain when I think about my body. It finds me randomly, like when I’m getting dressed in the morning or decide to eat something as small as just a cookie. If I’m being honest, I think I’ll aways feel “less than” because of my weight unless something really shifts in our society – a complete overhaul in the way society talks about and addresses weight.
The first time I remember feeling inherently guilty about my weight was after an instance of weight bias. I was in elementary school and student nurses visited our school. They lined us up, then weighed us in front of one another. After they weighed me, in front of my peers, they pulled me aside into a plain, beige room and sat me down. I remember staring at my shoes and folding my clammy hands together as the nurses told me that if I didn’t start taking my weight seriously that I would be putting myself at risk for serious health issues. In that moment, they made a blanket assumption based on my body, and I carried the weight of those assumptions and guilt for many years.
What they couldn’t have known was that my parents were going to great lengths to help me manage my weight, but they were working with limited information. When my mother tried to bring up concerns about my weight at doctor’s visits and asked for evidence-based approaches, she was met with another instance of weight bias: the physician simply told her not to feed me cookies for dinner.
Weight bias is extremely harmful, especially to children and adolescents who are at formative times in their lives in terms of creating and maintaining healthy habits. We owe them by stopping weight bias in every aspect ranging from health care to societal standards. Please join me and the OAC and #StopWeightBias
No motivation, lazy,slacker, and couch potato. If you are over weight someone might have said these names either behind your back or maybe even boldly to your face. These words hurt more often times than physical abuse. Being obese brings many challenges and weight bias is one of them. You might say how can you prove weight bias, well its definitely hard to prove but it truly exists.
My experience was through a job opportunity. A majority of the interview process was done virtually. Being told I was clearly the top choice throughout the process I felt I was in line for a new opportunity. Then came the in person portion of the process. I was met with what looked like shock on the person’s face. You know the kind of look that could stop traffic.
I didn’t get that opportunity and I am fairly certain although hard to prove it was weight bias. The stigma that because you are overweight you are a not a hard worker is real. Again it’s very hard to prove because no one is going to come out and say “Well you didn’t get the job because you’re fat and lazy.” I think in fact obese people work harder to prove themselves and dispel those stigmas. Its a sad but true story anyone who is obese may have dealt with or deal with.
This was my graduation photo taken in 2009. I was at my heaviest weight about 420. The other is a recent photo. I have struggled with weight my entire life. It will be a struggle for the rest of my life. I am winning the battle but It has not been an easy journey. I too have experienced weight bias along the way.
In 2009, I noticed that edema (swelling) had developed in my legs especially my right leg. I went to several physicians and they kept telling me it was due to my obesity and I needed to lose weight. One doctor finally sent me to a specialist. because he thought my veins were damages. After several tests, the specialist explained to me that I had developed Lymphedema. Lymphedema is a chronic swelling due to damaged lymph nodes. He did not blame it on my weight because various factors can cause the damage. He explained that thin individuals also suffer from this disorder. He told me with therapy and compression garments I could slow or even stop the progression. Finally, a doctor listened to me and diagnosed my situation instead of just blaming it on my weight.
I have been the victim of weight bias many times but the one that stands out to me the most came from a health care professional when I was being seen in the Emergency Department of my local hospital. He was extremely disrespectful to me by talking around me to my husband and professing to him that I was a large woman. This had nothing to do with why I was in the ED. He treated me like I was non-existent and didn’t feel he needed to have the courtesy to speak to me directly. This was a particularly humiliating situation for me.
My husband at one point weighed 460 lbs. I hated how people stared at him as if he was not a human being. I especially cringed when we got on a plane and the passengers would look in horror praying that he didn’t sit next them. I get it. They didn’t want to be uncomfortable. However. It not only made him feel bad but being his wife I too felt his pain. We both suffered in silence.
I have been weight biased my whole life. I was made fun of and picked on throughout my middle school and high school years. It continued through my adult life when I was a volunteer firefighter and an EMT. I was made fun of by a coworker’s name-calling because of my weight. I was also way biased by my old primary care doctor when I was seeking help about my weight. Her staff and she will leave voicemails saying, you’re fat, lose weight go to the gym. I was seeking help from my primary care doctor, and she did not know anything about people living with obesity. She would always call me lazy and fat when I would see her in her office. So many times that I would walk out of her office in tears. This is somebody that I was seeking help for, and she did not understand anything. It was so hurtful for her and her staff to name called me. All I wanted to do was crawl in my bed and cry.
I asked what skills I needed to advance in the company and was told to “dress for the part”. I was stunned that a promotion would be based on appearance and not experience and job performance. It was not the first time I had experienced weight bias in the workplace but it was the first time it was so bluntly stated. As upsetting as the experience was, it opened my eyes to the values of the company, values I did not support, and a company not worthy of my talents.
In September of 2012 my husband, Alan, and I traveled to Reno, Nevada to watch his cousin play college football. We had a great flight, a wonderful time at the game, and two full days of sightseeing and adventures. When we got to the Reno Airport for our return flight, we checked our bags and went through security just like before. However, when we went to our gate to ask about possibly sitting together on the flight, the gate attendant looked at me, made a quick judgement and told me I would have to buy another ticket for an additional seat. I am sure the look on my face was hurt mixed with absolute shock, disbelief, and tears. I asked her what she meant, and she said that because of my size I would need to buy an additional ticket for another seat, and she was puzzled about how I got to Reno without buying two seats for myself. Pure mortification set in and I began to get defensive. I let her know that I sat in the middle seat at the back of the plane b etween two male strangers and made it to Reno from Houston just fine in that seat. She was still going on about how I would need to buy a second ticket for a second seat. She even looked over at her colleague with a confused look on her face that said she could not believe I had not bought the second ticket on our trip from Houston to Reno. After many exchanges and judgements, they began to back down based on how upset I was. I told her that I was not going to buy another ticket and that we would just sit in the seats we had been assigned. As it turned out, Alan and I sat together with an empty middle seat between us. What a sad display of customer service and a cruel example of weight bias.
January is such an incredibly significant month for me. It brings the beginning of a New Year, it brings my Birthday on the 4th – I have been on this Earth for 54 years now, and today, January 12, is my 12 year surgeversary – the anniversary of the day that I received life changing bariatric surgery in 2009. 12 years post-surgery and I have maintained a loss of 135 pounds. It has NOT been easy. I am no longer 505 pounds, but I am still hated.
375 pounds… what an achievement! So many victories during a life journey where obesity has plagued me for 42 plus years. So much has changed for me. What hasn’t changed though is the weight bias, the fat-shaming, the bullying, the name calling, the incredible insensitivity that has been hurled at me again and again over those last 42 years of my life. Hurled at me, and those who live with the chronic disease of obesity – for no other reason than that we carry extra weight.
Each day that I breathe, each day that I am given another day, I fight to change how the world sees those who live with obesity. We are people. We have feelings – we laugh, we cry. Obesity affects every single family in the world – even those who are hurling the hurtful, biased words or comments. We all know someone who lives with obesity… a mother, a father, a sibling, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a cousin, a best friend, a co-worker… they are hurting.
For the last 42 years of my life, shaming, bias, bullying, hating… HAS NOT WORKED!!! Let’s try understanding… let’s try compassion… let’s try kindness… let’s try dignity and respect.
On this, the 12th anniversary of my bariatric surgery, 130 pounds lighter, feeling AMAZING, I am still considered to be morbidly obese… and I still regularly endure weight bias and hate.
Let’s make the world a better place people, for every single person who inhabits it.
I was always chubby as a kid. I never thought anything of it until I started school. Even though there were bigger kids than me, I was always the one picked on (it didn’t help that I was also a know it all but that’s another story). The kids would call me heifer and moo whenever I walked by. They would tell me that they didn’t want me at their table during lunch so I would end up eating alone. I was never invited to play with the kids either. Middle school was a living hell. I had no friends until the end of 7th grade, and the kids picked on me mercilessly. I would wear pretty clothes and makeup and they would make fun of me anyway. The bullying got worse – to the point that one girl would tell me she was my friend and then tell everyone everything I told her. Her friends tried to burn my hair off IN CLASS and I was the one who got in trouble for it. Eventually it culminated in my ENTIRE class (and I mean that literally) sexually harassing me and laughing about it. That was when I learned that the only thing I could do was wear my weight like armor. By that time, I wasn’t even what you could consider more than slightly overweight.
After high school, I got married to someone who would turn out to be an abusive asshole. His whole family changed my way of eating and I went from 150 lbs to 180 lbs, and I, having internalized the idea that fat = bad, started feeling depressed. Metabolically I was perfectly healthy but I didn’t see that as worth anything.
Once I had my first child, I got my baby and myself away from my abusive partner and enrolled in nursing school. I was on Medicaid since I had only given birth a few months before, so at my Mom’s urging, I went to a doctor about my thyroid. Thyroid problems run in my family.
The doctor took one look at me and said that my problem wasn’t my thyroid. I asked him to run the test anyway.
“Well, when the test comes back normal, will you admit that you’re just a fat ass?”
Yes, a DOCTOR said that to me. Little did I know that he would be arrested and sent to prison for running a pill mill operation. I feel a little justice for that, anyway.
Nothing ever worked for me, and working 3rd shift didn’t help either. I ended up at nearly 300 lbs and just ready to give up on everything. But I didn’t.
I got remarried, had another baby, and had a lap band placed. Lost 110 lbs…and when insurance ran out, I was unable to see my surgeon and they didn’t bother to help me in any way. No counseling, no checkups. NOTHING. I gained all my weight back and more.
I am a community theatre actress and I tried out for a role I would have loved, only to be told that I’m not “leading lady material” that I’m “more of a funny sidekick” – aka, you’re too fat to be sexy, you should only be the comic relief.
So I settled into the idea that I would never be worth anything.
I ended up being able to have my band removed, a sleeve done, and a hernia fixed. I don’t see that surgeon any more either and Medicaid wouldn’t pay for counseling sessions anyway.
Long story short: doctors dismissed me routinely, people have bullied me, I was passed over for theatre roles, and I have suffered from depression most of my life.
When I was 18 I went to a gynecologist appointment, something that is never the most pleasant experience. I was called back to the exam room, the nurse asked me some intake questions, handed me a gown, and left the room. The gown wasn’t large enough. I called to the nurse from the exam room and asked her if she had a larger gown. She audibly sighed, said nothing, and walked away. A few moments later she returned and tossed me another gown and said “Here.” When I tried it on I discovered it was the same size. I motioned for her again and told her that it was the same size as the first gown. She said with a disgusted tone “just put one on the front and one on the back. We don’t have gowns for big girls like you.” I didn’t go back to a gynecologist again for 9 years.
I wish I could say that was a one-off experience but similar negative experiences and treatment by health care professionals kept me from going to any doctor unless it was a dire emergency for years. I know my health conditions worsened because I avoided care, follow-ups, and preventative screenings.
The doctor’s office should be a safe zone, free from weight bias, our lives and the lives of our loved ones depend on it.
Help #BePartoftheSolution to #STOPWeightBias!
My boyfriend was told that he didn’t have the “look” that they wanted to maintain at their front desk at a food retail place of employment. He was told that he looked “sloppy” and “unprofessional.” A hint was made about his employment security as a result.
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