We Hate Fat People

What more do I love to do at 9am than make fun of fat people? Make fun of fat people in front of an entire medical school class, that’s what! Oh wait, no, that’s not me, that would be my professor. 

Obesity is an important topic, especially as it relates to diabetes, and the medical complications it causes are necessary for us to know – no argument there. There is a clear link between obesity and diabetes – again, no argument.

Now, I have a sense of humor and have been known to say and do completely inappropriate things in the company of friends, but he showed a satirical video clip essentially making fun of the number of fat people in America. Seeing this in a professional setting and hearing the class erupt in laughter was disturbing to me.

The prof augmented it with a few other comments poking fun of fat folk. It was subtle enough, but definitely there.  This is certainly not the first time I’ve heard distain about obesity from physicians and professors.  My upper year friend told me her resident once said of a patient who had lost 40lbs, “wow, she must have been really fat before!” 

Personally, I’m very torn between the sentiments that people should love their bodies no matter their size and the knowledge that obesity takes a toll on one’s body.  I’ve also struggled with weight myself and have been able to lose about 40lbs*.  I recognize the systematic problems that lead to obesity: so-called “food deserts,” poverty, parents working multiple jobs, lack of education, lack of time, living in a time-pressured culture that doesn’t value savoring food, and so on. I also recognize the choices one makes and the need for personal responsibility. But even if we view obesity just like smoking (which I don’t), we don’t make fun of smokers as much as we make fun of fat people.  We counsel them to stop smoking, we have to use motivational interviewing and meet people where they are.  Repeating, “eat well and exercise” and “stop smoking” is like beating our head against a wall – it’s condescending and unhelpful. We need to take it a step further.

Anyway – back to this professor. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and assumed he just didn’t give much thought to that part of the presentation (still unprofessional though).  But then, in another lecture, he poked fun at women with hirsutism, and said, “if you have a mustache ladies, please shave them.” Now I just think he’s an ass.

*mostly because I’m a privileged white kid: I was able to love my body at a bigger size, I’m surrounded by healthy people in med school, and I have time and money


  1. Fat people aren't fun patients. I think most doctors see obesity as a weakness and lack of self-care.

    But he would also not be the first med school lecturer who simply is a prick.

  2. Yes, it's become very clear to me that most doctors dislike fat patients and see it as a weakness, which is my whole problem. I think we have to be aware of and acknowledge the bigger picture issues that influence obesity's prevalence in the U.S. Looking down on our patients will not help their health at all. If anything, it will cause us to reprimand them, make them feel more stressed and ashamed and we know how stress negatively affects health.

  3. "If you have a mustache ladies, please shave them"? GOOD GRIEF.

    What a pompous jerk. (And the obesity-related comments were bad, too, but... man, that's just awful.)

  4. Please please please read Gary Taubes' Why We Get Fat or Good Calories, Bad Calories. It gives a 360 view of the whole issue so you will have all sides.

    Not one single doctor ever ever explained to me the effects of prednisone on insulin or that it would increase appetite. 15 years of prednisone and the insulin resistance is a major problem for me. It has very little to do with self control.

    Case in point, yesterday I was dragging my sorry a$$ on the track walking even though I'm going through ridiculous steroid withdrawal right now.

    On my own I've learned how to avoid prednisone weight gain and lose weight, but the insulin resistance is an absolute beyotch and I have had very little help/support from the medical side, which is a shame.


  5. Ugh! I hate arrogant professors. I've also been surprised by the number of healthcare professionals who have a problem with "fat people." Why? I guess your reasoning is right--they think it's related to laziness and lack of personal responsibility, maybe.