“Nobody should have to make accommodations for me.”
That’s what I used to tell myself whenever I faced weight bias.
When I went to the doctor’s office and there wasn’t a scale that measured my weight or there were no chairs in which I could sit comfortably, I didn’t think about whether my medical provider was inadequately serving me. Instead, I thought about the pizza I ate the night before for dinner and thought to myself, “they shouldn’t have to make accommodations for me.”
When I boarded an airplane only to find myself in a center seat greeting row-mates visibly horrified to see me, I didn’t think about whether they were being unkind. Instead, my mind went straight to my failure to keep up with my gym membership and I thought, “nobody should have to make accommodations for me.”
When I went to the doctor for various medical problems – ranging from migraines to backaches to depression – all of which were attributed to my weight and the remedies for all, it seemed, were to lose weight, I thought this was right. I didn’t question whether my medical providers were being comprehensive enough. Of course all my ailments were because of my weight and of course there was no need for further tests or investigation. Nobody should have to make accommodations for me.
And even when I finally did get the opportunity to address my weight and health by having bariatric surgery – an evidence-based and effective treatment for the disease of obesity – and I was put through a battery of tests that had nothing to do with my ability to survive and recover from surgery and everything to do with my worthiness to have surgery, I did not question it. I didn’t ask whether obesity, the health condition I was dealing with, was being treated vastly different from any other kind of health condition. Of course I had to prove I was worthy of having this life-saving surgery. Nobody should have to make accommodations for me.
That’s the dangerous thing about weight bias. When you are told you – through words, imagery, policy and culture – that you are lazy, unmotivated and that absolutely every struggle in your life is caused by your weight…you tend to believe it.
And while many people think that’s a motivating factor to lose weight, research tells us this just isn’t true. All weight bias does is trap people in a spiral of shame and self-blame, neither of which works to address the very real, medical problem of obesity.
So for anyone out there struggling with their weight and health, I have a message for you. A world that respects your body isn’t an accommodation. The right to access safe, evidence-based care, delivered with dignity and respect, with the body you have right now, is not an accommodation. And the ability to think about your weight and health and what choice is right for you – that isn’t an accommodation either.
Weight bias is real. It’s pervasive. It’s everywhere. And it’s not helping. Join the Obesity Action Coalition in the bold mission to stop weight bias. Visit stopweightbias.org to learn how to get started.
Nikki Massie is a writer and marketer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland and underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2008 for the treatment of obesity. Ms. Massie is a member of the Obesity Action Coalition board of directors.