This crucial moment in the early days of the fat acceptance movement often garners scant mention in the historical record.
By Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD & Rachel Sterry, ND
You have a right to refuse to be weighed.
This surprises people. And to some, it feels like a bold stance to take. But it is your right. And we believe it is an act of radical self-care.
By stating your needs around the weighing process you are taking a very real and potentially vulnerable step towards true self-care.
There may be times when it is medically necessary for you to be weighed- preoperatively, when ascertaining certain medication doses, or in the tracking of life threatening conditions like kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Most of the time, you are weighed because it is part of the “rooming” process for the medical assistant to collect some basic information before you see the doctor.
Many medical professionals are unaware of the potentially disastrous ripple effects that putting focus on your weight can cause. Because of this, you may find that your request to stand backward on the scale, or skip the weighing process all together comes as a surprise. You may even find that you are met with a little push back, but this doesn’t make your request wrong!
There is no need to justify or explain the emotions behind the scale. The fact is that you are in the doctor’s office to be cared for. It is the responsibility of those within the practice to ensure your experience does not trigger or cause any unnecessary harm.
We’ve had clients ask to step on the scale backwards and not to be told their weight, only to be given paperwork at the end of the visit that has their weight on it. When they see the number, it triggers thoughts about restriction, weight loss, and eating disordered behaviors like purging or compulsive exercise. Being told their weight has the potential to disrupt months, if not years, of progress to reclaim body trust and practice weight-neutral self-care.
Worksite health screenings are another place where people might experience body shame by a helping professional that just doesn’t know any better. We’ve had a few clients well into their recovery from an eating disorder be told at a one of these worksite events that they were slightly overweight according to their BMI and that they should “lose a few”. The people giving this feedback have very little health information about you (other than the stuff they can collect while you are there). Their feedback could be more harmful than helpful. Unfortunately, employees might be “dinged” for not participating. Talking to your supervisor or someone in human resources might help.
We have found that, however it happens, when a person becomes aware of their weight (or BMI), it sets them back in their efforts to practice radical, weight-neutral self-care. If you work in a medical office, we encourage you to talk to staff in your clinic about the reasons why someone may refuse to be weighed. If this is a larger bodied individual, they are often viewed as someone who wants to be in denial about their weight and are given their number as a “wake up” call. Assuming that people in larger bodies should feel concerned about their weight is an example of inherent bias and is a part of an iatrogenic practice that inappropriately reinforces body shame as somehow “motivating”. People of all shapes and sizes struggle with disordered eating, and part of healing their relationship with food and body means letting go of body checking behaviors, like monitoring weight. It is important to respect their request and do EVERYTHING we can to keep them from seeing their weight. This means making sure the information doesn’t end up in the paperwork they are given at the end of the visit.
People have a right to refuse to be weighed.
And by stating your needs around the weighing process you are taking a very real and potentially vulnerable step towards true self-care.
Only you know how you feel in your body, how your clothes fit, your joints move, your energy levels and vitality – none of which can be measured by a scale.