Anti-fat bias is a very, very real thing and its prevalence can be found in all corners of life—fashion, the entertainment industry, the wellness industry, and, as model and mom Hunter McGrady points out, in the medical field as well. Big time.
In a new Instagram post, Hunter McGrady is calling attention to "fatphobia in the medical field" and not just how damaging that is, but how hypocritical and inconsistent that harmful messaging can be.
"T/W: fatphobia in the medical field," she begins her caption, accompanying a series of photos of the model at various points of her life and sizes. "Swipe through to see every version of myself that has experienced fatphobia in the medical field."
"I’ve always been told to lose weight," she continues. "I’ve always been told that any ailment I had was due to weight. Even at my thinnest, the BMI scale decided I was too large, even though every test, every vital was good to go it wasn’t good enough in their eyes."
Anti-fat and weight bias is pervasive in medicine, according to a 2019 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This type of bias stems from a lack of education on obesity in medical education, and even less education about weight bias and stigmas associated with obesity and the mental impact of that bias on those who have been diagnosed with obesity.
"Obesity is a complex disease that cannot be minimized to the 'calories in/calories out' mantra that has become commonplace," Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS, writes in the Harvard Health Blog. "Factors that can contribute to weight might include biological issues such as genetics and hormonal changes that come with aging; developmental issues such as parental obesity; psychological issues including depression or history of trauma; or environmental factors, such as large portion sizes. And these are just a few of a myriad of possible contributors."
Fat activist Aubrey Gordon, writer and co-host of the popular podcast Maintenance Phase, actually refuses to use the term "fatphobia," as it excuses the discriminatory attitude of anti-fatness as a mental condition—which it is not.
"People who hold anti-fat attitudes don’t think of themselves as being “afraid” of fatness or fat people," she writes for Self. "Fatphobia denotes a fear of fat people, but as the most proudly anti-fat people will tell you readily, they aren’t afraid of us. They just hate us."
Hunter McGrady says when she and her sister, Michaela, posted about anti-fatness in the medical field, they received "thousands of messages from women around the world of every shape and size" who shared their own discriminatory stories.
In her podcast, The Model Citizen, the McGrady sisters dive into the topic and share more of their own personal stories.
Though the burden of educating medical providers about anti-fat bias shouldn't fall on the patients' shoulders, one way we can be proactive about this is to carry things like "Don't Weigh Me" cards. These cards, created by More-Love.org, are a polite and respectful way to assert your preference at the doctor’s office for either yourself or your child.
And as long as we have people like Hunter McGrady using their platform for this conversation, mamas everywhere will feel seen and heard.