Bias and Stigma: Weight Discrimination in Today’s Healthcare And What You Can Do About it

What if you had a serious health condition that is common and treatable, but every healthcare provider you saw blamed you for having it?

And what if your condition put you at risk for serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, but your insurance wouldn’t cover the medical appointments, medications, or surgery needed to get it under control?

That’s what it’s like for millions of Americans with obesity when they visit their healthcare professionals seeking help.

Healthcare professionals don’t blame people for having cancer, or for recurrences, yet those with obesity are often blamed for their diagnosis and failed treatments.

As a medical weight loss specialist, I see how this discrimination hurts people in tragic ways. I want to share the facts about why it happens. And close with a few simple—but powerful—steps you can take to stop the discrimination and improve access to effective obesity treatment.

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5 Steps to Stick to Your Healthy Diet in Someone Else’s Home

Jill was afraid to discuss her new dietary needs with her family for the first time.

Actually…she was terrified.

Jill has struggled with her weight all her life, a fact that her family reminds her of every time she sees them. Her slender sister—a self-appointed weight loss expert—lectures Jill endlessly about what she should be doing to lose weight. Then her mother chimes in, expressing “concern” about her weight, while her dad remains silent. Jill sits there frozen, waiting for it to end.

And when it does, her mother plops a carby treat on Jill’s plate and responds with hurt if she doesn’t eat it.

It’s a mixed message—one that she’s been getting her whole life.

And now…in just a week…she will travel with her sister to Atlanta for Thanksgiving with their parents.

As she thinks about it, her brain whirls with worst-case scenarios. But after all the progress she’s made with healthy eating…and feeling in control…she doesn’t want to stop now!

She asks herself, “What if I fall into bad habits again? What if I start eating carbs and can’t stop? What if I start feeling the way I used to? I don’t want that.”

And neither do you.

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The 5 Antidotes to Weight-Related Shame

Developed in collaboration with Cynthia Benge, psychotherapist and shame resiliency trainer.

(Don’t miss the two resources I created for you – The Weight Blueprint, Build Your Support Team – you can get below!)

Have you ever held back or said no to an opportunity, experience, or even a simple joy of life because of your weight?

If so, I’d like to give you the five antidotes to weight-related shame, so you can get your life back on track!


View the full infographic at the end of this post!


If you’ve struggled with weight, you’ve probably felt that tangled mix of emotions that can often come with it—embarassment, fear, inadequacy, failure, shame.

It comes from the people around us. It comes from the media, our doctors, our culture, and sometimes even from within…

It should be easy, right? Eat less, exercise more. We wonder what is wrong with us and think, “Why can’t I be like them?”

Let me reassure you:  It’s not your fault.

It’s time to stop letting yourself or anyone else shame you or define who you are based on your weight. There are 5 key antidotes to weight-related shame and I’m going to share each one with you.

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Finding Freedom from the Grip of Weight and Shame


Sally thought the shame and embarrassment she felt about her weight would never let her go to Hawaii or enjoy the oceanside sun and surf.

But then things changed…

The Grip of Shame

It is not unusual for those carrying extra pounds to carry something that feels even heavier than the weight they want to lose.

This something is not visible, yet it takes up more space than anything or anyone else in the room. It can be suffocating. And it can hold us back, even from simple joys.

What is this monstrous beast?

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Shamed and Ignored – Their Brave Stories Bring Light to the Darkness

Article - Weight and Shame Stories - Cover-01Imagine what it would be like to have a medical condition that is common and treatable, yet every time you see a medical provider you are blamed and shamed for having it.

On top of that, your condition is cited as the cause for every other health issue you have, even if they are unrelated. At nearly every visit the medical provider brings it up, even if you are there for something else, perhaps something urgent.

Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? Can this really be happening in our modern healthcare system?

Yes, it’s bizarre. And yes, it’s happening.

It is the stark reality for far too many of the 110 million Americans who have the medical condition called obesity.

I have something special to announce for therapists and medical professionals at the end of this post, so don’t miss it »

The Darkness

Article - Weight and Shame Stories - ambush-01“I was ambushed!” she told me, incredulous and still steaming. “I just barely kept my head up when I left.”

Tears of frustration spilled from her fiery eyes as she told her story.

It started off as an urgent care appointment for a cough. She hadn’t been feeling well for nearly a week. Her cough was getting worse and she had no energy.

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Upcoming Engagements:
  • American Association of Physicians Assistants National Conference, May 18-22, 2019, Denver, CO
    How to Talk to Patients About Weight, co-presenting with Amy Ingersoll, PA-C
    The Art & Science of Prescribing Anti-Obesity Medications, co-presenting with Amy Ingersoll, PA-C
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners National Conference, June 18-23, Indianapolis, IN
    How to Talk to Patients About Weight
    The Art & Science of Prescribing Anti-Obesity Medications
  • Alaska Nurse Practitioner Conference, Anchorage, Alaska, September 19-21
    How to Talk to Patients About Weight
    The Art & Science of Prescribing Anti-Obesity Medications
  • Association for Counseling Education & Supervision 2019 Conference,Seattle, WA, October 10-13
    Co-presenting with Katie Christensen, MA, LPCA, NCC
    Recognizing & Reducing Weight Bias in Counselor Education & Supervision
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