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Fat Chicks Get No Respect

Evidently Dr. Terry Bennett of New Hampshire believes dating tips are the same thing as medical advice. Dr. Bennett is at the center of the fat news story of the day in which an obese patient of his lodged a complaint against him. He told her she was so obese that she was going to outlive her husband and would then be unable to get a new man because no one would find her attractive.

Now, I have no problem with doctors telling patients they need to lose weight. Obesity kills and I’m sure doctors see lots of patients over the years who develop problems that could have been prevented by better diet and more exercise. It must be very frustrating knowing so many people could avoid sickness if they could only lose weight. My mother’s physician in particular has been aggressive about preventing my mother from developing diabetes by making her monitor her blood sugar carefully and lose some weight.

However, not once did my mother’s doctor say Mom needed to lose weight because she was unfuckable.

Most of the articles on this story have spun it as though the woman was mad that Dr. Bennett told her she needed to lose weight. No. ERRR! Wrong answer. Thank you for playing. The problem here is that the doctor overstepped his bounds and started giving non-medical opinions.

There are a couple things offensive about his comments. First off, he implies that as soon as this woman’s husband dies she will have to find a new husband. Too bad he didn’t tell her the wake would be a great place to start picking up guys. People always dress so nicely when they’re going to funerals and they’re super sweet to widows. It’s pick-up central! It’s not like she might have a period of grief here or that it is not necessary to be married to have a happy, full life. The doctor appears to be in his 60’s or 70’s, so perhaps he is still keyed into a 1950’s view of women’s roles in the world.

Second, whether you believe that fat women can’t get dates or not, the doctor needs to keep his opinion about what is attractive to himself. A person’s beauty has nothing to do with medicine unless you’re a plastic surgeon. He’s her general practitioner, not her fashion consultant. I would agree that in general it is more difficult for fat women to get dates. However if you’re self-confident and put yourself out there enough, even the most hideous person can find someone to score with. Even if you don’t believe that anyone would date a fat person, I will remind you that there are also fat men in the world who might be having trouble getting dates as well. Perhaps the two groups could hook up? Personally I think fat people are just as capable as getting a date as anyone, though they might have to try a little harder than a Cindy Crawford clone. My mother works at David’s Bridal and I assure you they stock dresses up to size 28. So yes, fat people do in fact mate and get married.

And finally, the doctor’s comments irk me because they underscore the gender bias that exists towards fat people. Essentially, it is okay to be a fat man if you are wealthy or have a good career, however if you are fat woman you are screwed because your worth in society is more likely based on how attractive you are. The doctor didn’t take into account this woman’s intelligence, sense of humor, friendliness or lack of any of these traits when he judged her dating prospects, he just considered her weight. He didn’t tell her being overweight would make her subject to discrimination in her career, just the effects it would have on her ability to attract the other sex. I doubt he would have said the same thing to a man.

Dr. Bennett most likely meant well, he just took the wrong approach with his patient. I saw his interview on the “Today” show and it seems he’s just too arrogant to admit his error. He could have made the whole mess go away by agreeing to take some education courses, but he won’t sign the paper admitting he was a disruptive physician. It’s too bad. If he could see his mistake he could probably better communicate with his obese patients in the future which would most likely lead to more success for both doctor and patient.

This event is representative of the major problem physicians have when talking to obese patients. They ultimately want to help the person, but it is difficult to address the problem without being cruel or abrasive. Many obese people feel so berated or embarrassed by their doctor that they won’t return to them when they have other health problems. They can feel so intimidated by the position of authority the doctor holds that they are too scared to address their complaints directly. Also, if the doctor is fat, they can be viewed as a hypocrite. If they are thin, they can be seen as unsympathetic to the patient. And if they are insensitive, they can be seen as an asshole, as Dr. Bennett has clearly shown.

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5 Comments

Jester • February 24, 2006 at 4:38 pm

Just taking a stroll through your archives and happened upon this entry (very well done, by the way), so I just had to throw in my “stupid PA” story.

A few years back I visited the Dr., which means I spent 30 seconds with the Dr. and 15 minutes with the Physician’s Assistant. After admitting that I’m a yo-yo dieter, the sweet young thing very gently asked, “Do you realize that what you eat could be affecting your weight.” I think I looked at her like she was an idiot, thinking, “Gee, no, the times I’ve gained and lost and gained again, I wasn’t eating then. Couldn’t be that!” Yes, I embrace the mental religion of Sarcasm.

Jester

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Inny • August 29, 2008 at 9:41 am

I realise I’m 3 years late but I couldn’t help but comment. I’m overweight and I have the greatest boyfriend in the world! He tells me I look good every day and I think he seriously believes it. His weight’s pretty average, and he looks beautiful too. Sometimes I feel like I’m committing a horrible dating crime, dating this smart nice guy while I read in the papers how models, actresses, pop starts and various other sex symbol date men that 1.) f*ck them and leave, 2.) are only there for their money, or 3.)are domestic abusers. Your weight’s got nothing to do with how good your love life is.

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Leia • November 16, 2008 at 7:41 pm

OMG… read your book and loved it, now I’m catching up on the blogs. My jaw nearly dropped when I read this entry… because this totally happened to me! At 23 years old and 250 pounds I was at the Drs Office and she told me that if I wanted to loose weight I had to have a goal in mind… preparing myself to hear the you don’t want diabetes or a heart attack message or die an early death message I got ready for my gracious thank you for your concern smile I so love to give drs. Then the bitch said that if my goal was to get married I had to loose weight because men don’t like fat women… unless they are fat themselves or just like that sort of thing. WTF???!!! When was marriage a goal and who the hell asked her to declare me fat and unmarriagable? Unless of course I’m lucky enough to find a chubby chaser! Oh the medical industry!

Thanks so much for all that you have done to keep the truth in the forefront! You are so brave!

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Le`Bleu • April 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm

When I was in high school I was very athletic. I was in karate from age 10 to 19 and while I was doing that I was in gymnastics, field hockey, volleyball, soccar, and survivalist games. I was not a little girl, I was a big, strong, solid girl. At 5’1.5″ and 16 I went to visit a new doctor and the nurse ran me through all the scales and wrote down my information. I weighed around 154 lbs, I think. The doctor came in while I was waiting with the chart, sat down reading it, didn’t look at me once before she began telling me that I needed to start a serious diet before my weight started adversely affecting my cholesterol and health.

… I was a size 8.

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Libby • April 13, 2010 at 4:14 am

It’s not even true, I have a super morbidly obese aunt and she’s been married twice and had several boyfriends. I’m fat and have a fabulous husband.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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