Should healthcare providers be excused for weight stigma in medicine?

“They don’t know any better.”

When I talk about weight stigma/weight bias and fatphobia in healthcare, that’s often the excuse that people make to me on behalf of healthcare providers. “That’s how they were taught.”

In 2022, that excuse just isn’t good enough any more. Not only do we have a half-century of evidence that intentional weight loss doesn’t fix health issues — and in fact, it doesn’t even make people smaller in the long term — but we’re not talking about a minor whoopsie, a one-time error made in good faith.

Doctors (and other healthcare providers) spend less time with fat people.

Doctors don’t want to touch fat people.

Doctors don’t listen to us.

Doctors refuse to consider using evidence-based treatments for us.

Doctors hurt and kill fat people every single day by denying us the healthcare they provide to thin and average-sized people.

“That’s just what they know” doesn’t wash. No one is disgusted by half the population (in the United States — as always, I speak from a U.S.-centric view) to the point of not wanting to touch them or provide them care without realizing it.

Imagine this: 

A healthcare provider prescribes weight loss to treat a fat person’s illness. But not only does the illness not get better, the person can’t seem to lose any weight.

Well, that provider thinks, maybe the patient didn’t really take it seriously. And maybe they’re fibbing about what they’ve been eating.

So the provider prescribes weight loss to the next fat person, and the next, and the next, following what they’ve been taught.

And none of it works.

So the provider decides not to re-examine what they’ve been taught about medicine, but to believe that half the U.S. population is made up of lazy, dishonest, gluttonous, inherently unhealthy liars — just as the provider’s always been taught by the culture in which they live.

That, my friend? Is a failure of medical ethics. It’s a failure of an entire profession. And it’s a failure of the heart.

Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources on body liberation, weight stigma, body image and more. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.

Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at