Today’s post comes from Melissa Bernaldez, BSc Student in Human Ecology. 

Our personal health is exactly that—something personal. We need to be able to trust our healthcare providers in order to manage our health effectively. For many people, in a bigger body or not, it may be difficult to open up or feel comfortable when talking about weight-related issues with a healthcare professional. As a person in a larger body, it can be especially hard to voice your health concerns when it is evident that your healthcare provider treats
bigger patients differently.

I collaborated with other students in the Youth Weight Bias Working Group at the University of Alberta to discuss what our experiences with healthcare providers had been like throughout our childhood and adolescence. After reflecting on these experiences, we developed 5 key messages for healthcare professionals.

1. Put yourself in our shoes

– When entering a clinic, we often worry that you will criticize our larger bodies

2. Reflect on your assumptions about people in larger bodies

– Remember that eating disorders affect people in bodies of all shapes and sizes

3. Give us space to talk and listen to us

– Do not assume that every health concern is weight-related

4. Think about the language you use

– Ask for our permission to talk about weight, and ask us what words we prefer to talk about weight

– Avoid black-and-white, moralistic language like “healthy” and “unhealthy,” or “good” and “bad” foods

5. Consider whether we need to be weighed this visit

– If we are weighed, avoid focusing on this number when talking to us

– Unless we ask, we don’t need to know our weight

I myself have seen my fair share of healthcare providers. I changed my family physician multiple times to find someone that would listen to my concerns and not just tell me that all of my health concerns are because of my weight. The infographics that we created were meant to voice the concerns of larger youth that are usually kept silent. We hope these infographics can raise healthcare workers’ awareness of weight bias, so that what I and others in this group have
gone through, stops.

Check Your Weight Bias Blind Spots