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Going To The Doctor When You Are Plus Size – What You Need To Know

Going to the doctor when you are plus size can be a stressful experience. Physician Assistant Stacy Landers joins the show to have a heartfelt conversation about patient advocacy.

We share tips and tricks to help plus size people navigate the healthcare system and feel empowered!  

plus size woman going to the doctor

Going To The Doctor When You Are Plus Size – 9 Helpful Tips

Have you ever had a provider look at their computer for longer than they ever looked at you or examined your body?

Physicians have a healthcare algorithm running through their heads at all times.

This algorithm isn’t just all the knowledge and statistics they need to know, but it’s also all the documentation requirements.

Beyond all the numbers, there’s a decline in empathy correlated to the length of time a provider is in medical school.

So if you feel like you’re nothing more than numbers on a page – there’s a reason!

Stacy proposes the question, “How do we work with our providers to access their empathy and their humanity in regards to ourselves as patients?”

Below are nine tips to help you advocate for yourself at doctor visits when you’re plus size.

1. Look Into Different Models Of Healthcare

If you desire a more personalized healthcare experience, you might want to look into healthcare models that are more holistic and look at your overall wellness.

For example, when searching for a general practitioner, you might consider a DO (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine).

According to osteopathic.org, “Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well.”

You can also look into Naturopathic healthcare.

For maternity care, consider looking at the midwifery model of care vs. the obstetric care model that tends to be more medicalized.

2. Look For Care Providers Who Practice Health At Every Size  

Be on the lookout for people who support Health At Every Size. This isn’t just the case for doctors, but any support you need from therapists, nutritionists, massage therapists, and beyond!

If they have anything on their website or social media that indicates that they support Health At Every Size, that’s a good indicator they are a provider who looks at the whole person and not just their weight.

3. Communicate In Advance Anything Important  

If there’s something critical you want to communicate for your healthcare or concerns about how you’re treated – let your provider know in advance.

For example, if you don’t want to talk about weight loss surgery, find a way to communicate in advance.

Providers handle intake information differently, from in-person or online.

If you can find a place on your forms to give a little bit of background history, this can help you establish a boundary.

You can reach out to their office in advance. Ask how you can send a message to your provider and ensure they’ve read it before your appointment.

Or you can hand the medical assistant taking your vitals a note, and ask them to make sure your doctor read it in advance.

Lastly, when your provider walks into the room, you can hand them a note or tell them you need to address something before starting your exam.

It’s perfectly okay to set boundaries and speak up for what’s important to you.

You also might consider writing down your goals for your visit.  

If everything is related back to your weight and not your specific concerns, ask, “Can you point me to some research that will support that idea?”

Part of writing things down in advance is doing your research.

While you shouldn’t have to defend your healthcare choices, being armed with information backing your decision-making process can be helpful when meeting with a care provider who is recommending something you’re not comfortable doing.

4. Talk To A New Care Provider Before Getting Undressed For An Exam

You might experience anxiety going to the doctor when you are plus size and have a history of being mistreated.

It can also be hard to communicate important things when you’re naked beneath an ill-fitting robe and paper drape.

If you’re seeing a provider for the first time, you can request to meet with them before getting undressed.

Yes, the time allotted for medical exams are minimal, yet this request is not unreasonable.

The same goes for once your exam is over. If your provider wants to go over additional information, you can ask to get dressed before continuing the conversation.

Please note, if you are provided with a drape that doesn’t fully cover your body, speak up, and ask for another one. You can also consider bringing your own robe to future visits if that makes you more comfortable.

If you aren’t fully covered, you can feel stripped of your dignity.  

5. Bring A Support Person 

Bringing a support person with you to your doctor visits can make a big difference.

A support person doesn’t have to be a partner or a family member, you can bring a friend or doula.

Your support person can come in person or via FaceTime or another video app on your phone. You don’t need to go to these visits alone!

6. Know Your Blood Pressure Cuff Size

Your blood pressure must be taken with the correct size blood pressure cuff. Otherwise, you’ll get an inaccurate reading.

If you have a larger arm, you’ll want to speak up and ask for the larger size cuff. 

Beyond being on the lookout for the correct size cuff, you want to ensure that your provider is appropriately taking your blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is different from what you’re used to, advocate for yourself, and have it taken again. 

7.  You’re In Control Of How You’re Weighed 

While you might feel pressured to stand on the scale, you have options.  

You can ask for the number to not be said out loud.

Standing backward on the scale might feel silly, but it’s genuinely useful, so you don’t feel tempted to look at a number that can be triggering.

You can ask to be weighed in a private location if the scale is out in a central area.

Advocate for yourself if you want time to take off heavy clothing or shoes.

You can weigh yourself at home and provide the number when asked.

And lastly, you do not have to consent to be weighed. You can simply say, “No, thanks, I’m not going to be weighted today.”  

If you get any pushback, you can say that you’ll consider having your weight taken if it’s medically necessary after speaking to your care provider.

8. Use The BRAIN Acronym

When you need to make big healthcare decisions, you can use the BRAIN Acronym.

This tool helps to slow down the conversation and allows you to understand the medical recommendation fully before giving your consent to proceed.

You can ask your care provider each of the questions below or whatever feels important.  

BRAIN Acronym

9. You Can Fire Your Care Provider 

If you felt mistreated following your doctor’s visit, speak up, and share that feedback with your provider and the medical office.  

You can also leave reviews online so other plus size people know who they should and shouldn’t connect with for their healthcare.

Know that you have every right to fire your care provider if they aren’t the right fit for you.

You are worthy of evidence-based compassionate healthcare!

Going to the doctor when you are plus size means you need to be on the lookout for your healthcare needs. Don’t be afraid to use your voice, and stand up for what’s important to you.

We hope these tips were helpful, and you’re able to connect with a size-friendly healthcare provider.

Listen to episode 119 of the Plus Mommy Podcast, where we’ll cover the tips above in even more depth.

Recording & Show Notes: Plus Mommy Podcast Episode 119

Resources Mentioned On The Show:

Thank You To Our Sponsor:

This week’s podcast episode is sponsored by The Myriad Prequel Prenatal Screen, a noninvasive prenatal screen that demonstrates highly accurate results for all patient types, regardless of BMI. Learn more by asking your care provider about Myriad’s Prequel Prenatal Screen or go to myriadwomenshealth.com. 

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Dida

Friday 2nd of April 2021

Hi...what if the doctors or even hospital don't have a large enough cuff size to check blood pressure? I feel this happens wherever I go. Should I just buy my own?

plusmommy

Thursday 22nd of April 2021

That's so frustrating! I'd encourage you to address this with your care provider. A doctor's office shouldn't be supporting patients of all sizes if they don't have the proper equipment to do so. By you speaking up you'll not only make a difference for yourself but others.