Scared of the Scale

March 1, 2008 at 2:07 am 1 comment

I hated being weighed at the doctor’s office, so much so that for a long time I would avoid medical visits unless absolutely necessary. Once I learned that I could refuse being weighed, I was more comfortable making appointments. And, now I’m fine with it, although, as I have blogged previously, residual fear remains.

The fear of the doctor’s scale is apparently pervasive among women. According to research reported in the the NY Times’ article The Dreaded Weigh-In, “…women experienced high degrees of discomfort at the prospect of being weighed in the presence of others.”

” ‘Weighing concern may make these women, particularly those who are overweight and already at risk for certain ailments, less likely to visit a doctor,’ ” said lead author Andrew B. Geier, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences.”

Mr. Geier suggests putting the scale in a private place, so that the numbers aren’t visible to every patient at the doctor’s office. That’s a good idea, but it doesn’t go far enough. I wasn’t just worried about other people seeing my weight; I was worried about seeing it myself. I didn’t want to be weighed at all. I felt I would be judged by the nurse weighing me and then by the doctor when she reviewed my chart.

Considering my lifestyle change, it’s clear that I now fully appreciate the benefits of maintaining a lower weight. But, I believe that in addition to scale privacy, giving patients the option to refuse being weighed is a better way to go. My recommendation is that patients are first asked if they’d like to be weighed. Then, if they say yes, they are taken to a private location to do it.

It’s more important that women go to the doctor than it is to record their weight. Docs can generally tell if a person’s too heavy by looking at them, so the conversation about health concerns related to weight can happen regardless of whether there’s a specific number to discuss.

Even more important, not focusing on a number opens the door to a broader conversation, covering topics such as exercise habits, work/home issues, and the actual food choices –fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. – the person is making. After all, good health goes well beyond a person’s weight; it’s about the lifestyle practices that usually lead to the weight. Talking about those practices is much more likely to lead to a healthy patient than fixating on a number will ever be.

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Entry filed under: doctors, health, science, self image. Tags: , , , .

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  • […] sassysexyshapely wrote this today. I think it is worth reading. Here is a little snippet:I hated being weighed at the doctor’s office, so much so that for a long time I would avoid medical visits unless absolutely necessary. Once I learned that I could refuse being weighed, I was more comfortable making appointments. … […]

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