Reader Poll :: The "F" Word

by Ashley Solomon

Wow, this is a somewhat unusual week on this blog! Guest posting, my “regular” posts, and now a poll!

Quick and dirty reader polls are something I’ve considered doing on this blog, but haven’t put into action up to this point. However, a post came across the Academy of Eating Disorders listserv this morning, causing a lot of ruckus (AED members are a feisty bunch!), and I think you’ll see why. I knew it was the time to start the polling…

I’m posting here just the beginning of a longer article by Daniel Martin of the Britain’s The Daily Mail:

Doctors should stop mincing their words and tell the overweight they are fat, the public health minister has said.

Anne Milton called on the NHS to ban terms such as ‘obese’, because they do not have the same emotional impact.

The former nurse said larger people were less likely to bother to try to lose weight if they were told they were obese or overweight than if the doctor was blunt and said they were ‘fat’. But health experts argued against such plain speaking because they fear it could stigmatise overweight people.

You can read more here, but share you own opinion first!

Unlike my usual posts in which I offer to my readers my at times boisterous opinion,  in a Reader Poll I’d like to get your opinion (while I stealthily formulate mine in the background!). But don’t worry – you can count on me to offer mine as well! I would just like to hear your thoughts without my “loud” influence. Hopefully this will generate not just very unscientific survey results, but a discussion on some controversial issues.

So here’s the poll:

But don’t stop there! Make sure you leave your thoughts and reactions below in the comments section. I know that some of you have something to say on this!


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16 Responses to “Reader Poll :: The "F" Word”

  1. I voted I’m not sure because I don’t think it is that black and white. For some women, they aren’t bothered by the term fat but others are. I prefer to use the term overweight but that doesn’t make that the appropriate term for the general population.

    Very interesting topic indeed.

  2. What’s next, a cosmetic surgeon telling people they’re ugly.

  3. As a fat chick I can tell you if my doctor had told me I was fat I would have lost all respect for her. Using the word “fat” as an adjective is a fairly colloquial thing and coming from a medical service provider would seem that their focus was on how you look and not the effect that weight can have on health. I respect the way my primary care has handled my weight through the years. She has never been afraid to bring it up and tell me about the health dangers I was facing. She was open with the fact that most of my health issues were caused by my weight. She approached a desire to help me lose weight from a place where I think doctor’s should approach it- from the health aspect. There was no discussion of me being “fat”, and had there been I probably would have felt so uncomfortable I would have never gone back to see her.

    Like any addiction those who are overweight need to be supported to make healthy changes in their own time frame when they are ready. Having someone degrade you into wanting to lose weight is not going to result in a positive healthy lifestyle change. Living healthy should not be about negative connotations and restrictions, but instead should focus on positive changes, otherwise it is not sustainable.

    Just my two cents. I agree obesity is epidemic, but don’t think incorporating the negative slang word “fat” is the way to help treat it!

  4. I really wish he medical community wasn’t so ignorant about “weight” issues. I have had an eating disorder for as long as I can remember. My weight has been all over the place (129 to 290). When I’m on the heavier end, I dread going to the doctor. So many overweight people avoid going to the doctor, because they are so ashamed. I have a physical next week. I’ve rescheduled it 3x. Ridiculous. All because I dread getting on a scale. I’m trying to overcome my ED by listening to my body and not dieting. Throw the scale in the mix and it sets me off very easily. By the way….I’m 215 now. I was 129 just 2 summers ago. Sorry to go off on a tangent on your blog, but this issue drives me crazy. Doctors should take some time to ask the person “why” the believe they’re are overweight or yo-yoing around. It’s just not a black and white issue.

  5. As a person who has struggled with weight all my life I don’t see what the benefit would be. You know you are fat, you certainly don’t need your doctor to point it out. You probably also know the health issues that come with it. If my doctor ever told me I was ‘fat’ I agree with Jayna, I would lose all respect for her. She has always encouraged me along the weight loss path, never even mentioned my weight when I was heavy. The desire to lose weight comes from within, I don’t feel that what any person says is going to help. If you really don’t want to lose weight, someone calling you fat, won’t make a difference.

  6. While I do think body image can be a motivating factor in getting people to the gym, I think it is more important to avoid language like that and focus on health. There are always more constructive ways of motivation. Besides, a negative self image or unhealthy emotions affect a lot of people’s struggles with food and calling someone “fat” won’t help that at all.

  7. This is very interesting, thanks Ashley for posting. I agree with one of the comments on the original article, tall people are tall, short people are short, thin people are thin, and fat people are fat. However, that is not the word that medical professionals should be using. They should concentrate more on the health aspect, and say out loud “you are OVER or UNDER the healthy weight and let’s do something about it”. Fat and skinny are not medical descriptions of a human body. But they should not feel ashamed to tell their patient that their weight is not normal just because they are afraid of hurting their feelings.

  8. Hi Ashley! Found your blog through Christie and have really liked reading your posts!

    This is SUCH an interesting topic. For me it triggered a bunch of different reactions. At first I thought: “Yes, doctors should use hard-hitting words if they really want to make an impact.” My second thought was: “Actually, ‘FAT’ has completely different connotations that ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’, and as some other commenters have pointed out, the latter are medical, health-related terms while the former is primarily social/aesthetic. Then I thought: “Maybe really obese people *should* be stigmatized to the point that obesity is the rarity, rather than the norm (as it increasingly appears to be.” And finally, I thought: “Ultimately, people are responsible for themselves, and can (in general) do what they like.”

    I guess in conclusion, I say doctors should leave the fat talk out and focus on their specialty, which is health and not aestheticism.

  9. Darryn, to counter point your argument, I would say that while people can do all the want, as long as we are all in the same insurance pool, I’d rather not co-sponsor their diabetes, health and other treatment caused by their excessive weight. Also, I disagree that it’s a purely aesthetic issue. A heart specialist would be dammed to leave the weight problem out of the conversation if it’s causing or adding to their patient’s health problem. It’s about time doctors started talking more big picture and include proper diet and exercise into their treatment instead of just prescribing expensive drugs.

  10. As with Darryn, my initial thought was “yes, doctors should be blunt.” But then I thought about how I would feel should I go in and have my doctor say that to me. At my last physical, all my internal (blood pressure, cholestoral, etc) numbers were GREAT and my doctor told me so. But when I stepped on that scale, I got so depressed. Although I don’t consider myself “fat,” all the medical information was putting me in the obese category. I had to bring the subject up with my doctor. I have since scaled down and just FEEL much healthier, but I would have started to cry in the office had my doctor ever called me fat… and then gone home and drowned my sorrows with cookies or icecream 😦

  11. I have seen the word ” fat” motivate people and I have also seen it do the opposite. I chose not for sure because I am just that not for sure. In my career being placed on the “fat boy” program is motivation enough to keep my self physical fit and ready for operations. I have seen sailors put on the program and lose all hope and faith that they will get out of the program. I feel that each individual could take the word fat differently.

  12. Wow! I never would believe a health professional would consider this, but I guess someone has because here we are discussing it. As a women with a history with an eating disorder and constant struggle with body image and self perception , I cringe at the thought of having my doctor call me fat. Believe me, seeing your chart and hearing the description of ” morbidly obese” was devastating enough. If the purpose is to discuss the risks associated with a life of obesity and to councel patients on nutrition and exercise and elements of a healthy lifestyle, then by all means proceed. But, using the terminology of “fat” is not only unprofessional, it is crude and inappropriate. Has anyone ever adapted a healthier lifestyle after being called fat? I haven’t done any research but my personal thought is they probably left that doctor’s office and stopped at McDonalds on the way home, followed by a blizzard from the local Dairy Queen. If demeaning comments and labels would motivate someone to lose weight, then we would all be thin.

  13. I dont think using the word fat would be helpful for someone who is above the healthy weight range. The people who would be coined as “fat” by a doctor probably already know they are overweight or “fat” they dont need to be told that by someone who is suppose to help them become healthy. Fat is a word that is used to make fun of other people. It is the word that is used on the playground when you are 10 years old and people are trying to make you cry. Calling someone fat in a professional setting would just cause the patient’s defenses to go up, and then they wouldnt want to listen to anything else that is sad.
    If people want a “dramatic” way to get people to listen, maybe the should invest in those aging computer they used in the TLC show “you are killing your kids” (dont know if that is the exact title but its close enough. The computer showed the parents what the children would look like in 20 years if they didnt start changing their diet now…that could “shock” people into changing their ways more so than calling them fat.

  14. I think it’s safe to say that while being called fat might open some people’s eyes and shake them into a healthier lifestyle, it’s going to be deemed offensive by most.

  15. When I first read this post I was unsure which way to vote, however after reading the comments I am pretty sure I am against it. Having been overweight or fat my whole life I have come across many doctors and their approach to treating overweight patients. If, as a child, I was told I was fat, by a doctor I would have hated myself even more (which was already almost unbearable). The word “fat” is meant to hurt and demoralize. Turn on any reality show, which displays females fighting and arguing, and you will see the way to really get under someone’s skin is not to call them a b*tch but “fat.” That one word has the power to turn a person’s whole view of themselves around. It’s true that this may be motivating to some to get themselves healthy, but I know that lasting change NEVER comes from hating oneself, but from loving oneself. Calling someone fat is not a loving term, and to hear it come out of the mouth of a medical professional would be devastating.


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