Healthcare, Low-Income Disadvantage & Fat Phobia

This month, I’ve been doing more for my health that I have in a long time – I’m taking advantage of preventative healthcare. When I left my corporate job, one of the questions we asked ourselves and nearly every single person asked us was, “what about healthcare?”

This is when I realized I hadn’t been doing a good job of using a service I’d been paying for. I sent my kids to annual physicals, but I personally hadn’t been in years. I’d seen so many specialists for my back, and other specific health issues, that I’d neglected my general health checks.

So in the months of May and June I scheduled well and pre-screen checks for:

  • Mammogram
  • Annual GYN
  • Dentist
  • Dermatologist
  • Annual physical
  • Blood tests

I also took BRCA testing and am doing other detailed medical tests beyond my primary care doctor’s expertise with Everlywell and 23 & me – like testing for Vitamin D & Inflammation levels. Tests like these empower you at home – but they don’t replace healthcare.

A significant contributor to health is access to healthcare.

We don’t want to take too much time rehashing the issues with healthcare in this country. Healthcare costs are outrageously expensive and only escalating. The economic incentives are all on the side of increased cost, as drug companies, healthcare providers, insurance providers and even medical schools have no economic pressure to put the brakes on rising costs. Even consumers with insurance have had their incentive to look for lower prices taken away.

And the situation is even worse for low income families. Many low-income jobs do not include benefits, and affordable access to health insurance outside of employment tends to be of poor quality, featuring high deductibles, no out-of-pocket limits, and small lists of in network providers.

Even with insurance, we’ve all heard horror stories of huge bills arriving after treatment, and denied or dropped coverage. There’s an issue with this system. When I quit corporate America I was able to “extend” that healthcare through COBRA. I am limited to coverage for 18 months, and the cost is nearly $2000/mo. This is prohibitive to nearly anyone who would need it.

But this is well-trodden ground. I’d like to talk about a second, underreported healthcare crisis in America. We need to talk about prejudice and bias that can lead to poor healthcare outcomes.

There is a healthcare crisis in America.

The crisis isn’t just cost, it’s treatment. Our nation is plagued with fat phobia. Discrimination because of weight is one of the few remaining legally-valid discriminations. Being overweight is associated with laziness, lack of ambition, lack of self-control, you name it. As a result, overweight people make less money than their same-sex, same-educated, same-experienced counterparts.

Worse, a huge percentage of overweight people receive the wrong medical diagnosis.

This poll showed 83% of people have received a WRONG medical diagnosis, BECAUSE of weight discrimination.

I’m going to repeat that. EIGHTY THREE PERCENT of people responded that health conditions they sought medical attention for, were misdiagnosed because of their weight.

Don’t believe me. Check out this article about fat shaming by doctors.

Or this one about a sister’s lack of proper Cancer diagnosis.

Not to mention, what about underlying health issues that may be the actual cause of increased body fat? Unfortunately, many medical professionals often don’t look beyond the weight of their patient when diagnosing health issues.

This study found that obese individuals are 65% more likely to have an undiagnosed significant medical condition.

I experienced this just this month.

One of the reasons I’ve been seeing doctors is because of a pain in my flanks. I originally thought it was kidney pain, but didn’t have any symptoms associated with kidney disease or stones. Plus, the pain moved – sometimes even on both sides, sometimes both front and back. This happened several times over a couple months, so I went to a doctor.

The doctor first took time to berate me for not having been in a long time (unlike my dentist who praised me for bravely coming in despite not having been in a while).

When I shared the pain I was having, which also included nausea and loose stools, after being cleared of kidney issues (for the 2nd time in 1 week I underwent the same tests), I was presumed to have a health condition common in obese people who eat nutrient-poor “junk” food, drink alcohol often, and live generally unhealthy lives.

No blood was drawn for further tests, no questions about my activity or lifestyle or diet were asked.

In fact, 3 days later when the pain returned and I had a slight fever, I was sent to the ER for a CT scan so the doctor could confirm the disease that he already “knew” I had.

Wait for the shocker here…

I did not, in fact, have the medical condition the doctor presumed. In fact, the ER doctor was “stumped.”

The real cause?

I believe I’ve figured it out myself. During an upcoming podcast where Sarah goes into the science on chlorine, swimming in public pools, and dry saunas – alarms started going off for me. The pain began after I’d started water aerobics. It would spike after I would go, maybe a day later. In fact at one point I wondered if I’d pulled a muscle on my side – but then the pain moved.

Turns out the water in and of itself can be dehydrating. And then I would go into the dry sauna after to detox the chlorine.

After receiving an IV in the ER, my pain went away. I then got sick from the Iodine-solution I took for the CT scan – but once that passed, I’ve been totally fine and symptom-free.

I had dehydration. From exercise.

All of my symptoms are associated with dehydration. And according to this study, one in 8.7 people in the ER being treated for abdominal pain have dehydration. Yet it wasn’t even considered by any of the three doctors I saw.

Do you think the doctor would have given a thin person the same diagnosis and made the same assumptions?

I’ve seen this countless times – from when I was told I was too fat to birth my baby, because “he would suffocate and get stuck in my vaginal canal” to every single time someone acts surprised when my blood pressure is spot-on.

We all deserve equal, fair, quality treatment. Don’t accept anything less.


If this topic resonates with you, check out our Disordered Eating and Fat Phobia posts.

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