You Don't Have to Be Weighed at the Doctor's Office

A registered dietitian explains how to decline stepping on the scale at your next visit.

February 10, 2022

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Photo by: PeopleImages/Getty

PeopleImages/Getty

Have you ever been to the doctor to seek care for something that has nothing to do with your weight and then somehow the visit becomes all about the number on the scale? It happens all too often, and there is research suggesting that many individuals, especially women, are less likely to see their doctor because of the discomfort associated with being weighed. This can result in delayed medical care, undiagnosed medical conditions and other health complications that are directly related to weight stigma. A 2017 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that fat shaming was linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

It may sound strange or even rebellious, but you have the right to not get weighed during medical visits. We’re all so accustomed to getting on the scale because that’s how it’s always been, but using weight as an indicator of health status is outdated and, often, ineffective. It’s absolutely possible to maintain good health at your current size, and research shows that restrictive dieting and intentional weight loss can have detrimental impacts on quality of life. It can increase your risk for disordered eating, slow down your metabolism, and research has shown that most people who try to lose weight ultimately end up gaining the weight back.

Some providers will honor your request to skip the weigh in without much questioning. However, there is the possibility that things will get weird or uncomfortable. Most providers are not trained in weight-inclusive care, and so it’s also possible that you’ll get pushback. Here are some helpful ways to communicate with your provider about skipping the scale.

Shift the conversation.

If your provider asks questions, you can respectfully communicate that you are no longer using weight as an indicator of health and ask that they focus on other ways to assess your health like current symptoms, medical history, mental health, labs, and medical testing. You can also share the negative impact weight stigma has had on you. Medical providers are people just like us, and being honest about how being weighed makes you feel can help provide them with more perspective. There are also some helpful resources you can share with your provider that are evidenced-based.

Be confident in your choice.

If you’re getting pushback from your provider, remember that you are the expert of your body. It is your choice not to be weighed and you are not obligated to provide an explanation to your provider about why you don’t want to get weighed. If you’re feeling ignored or disrespected, then it may be time to look for another provider that takes on a weight-inclusive approach. Seeking medical care should not be the source of stress and anxiety, and having a provider who treats you with empathy and understanding is extremely important.

Do a blind weigh-in.

There are instances where it may be medically advised to monitor weight (kidney conditions, dosing medication based on weight, treatment protocol for eating disorders, for example). In this case, you can ask your provider if recording weight is necessary for treatment, and if so, communicate that they can record the weight but that you don’t want to know what that weight is.

It may be helpful to roleplay with someone (or yourself) before going into the doctor to build confidence in your communication.You can also find helpful resources that provide phrases and tools for navigating weight conversations during medical visits like What to Say at the Doctor's Office virtual cards, a Health Sheet Library, and Don’t Weigh Me cards.

As a registered dietitian/nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, Wendy Lopez, MS, RDN, CDCES, is passionate about accessible and culturally relevant nutrition education. She is the co-host of the Food Heaven Podcast and the co-founder of Food Heaven, an online platform that provides resources on cooking, intuitive eating, wellness and inclusion. When not working on creative projects, Wendy also provides nutritional counseling and medication management to patients with diabetes.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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