Tag Archives: insurance companies

New Electronic Food Police can Cyber Bully You About Eating Habits

Ahhh, gone are the days where you could simply count on your Uncle George or your Mother to track every morsel of food you put in your mouth.  And past are the days where you simply penciled your sins into a small tracker page in your purse so you could pore over the results every week in your “Fat Bashers”(TM) meeting.  Now you can count on a digital plate to track how much you’ve eaten and a little wristwatch to track how fast you’re putting the food into your face.

The Bite Counter watch subtly clocks the movements between your wrist and your mouth, and is being developed by researchers at South Carolina’s Clemson University.  Here’s how they determined the effectiveness of this puppy.  They tracked 77 people for a week and determined that the average calories per bite were 17 for men and 11 for women.  (I presume, during the study that the women were either taking “petite”  bites or had teeny tiny forks.)  They multiplied that times 100 (a suspiciously round number if ever I heard one) and said that since 1100 calories and 1700 calories represented low calorie diets, 100 bites is the optimal number of bites for people trying to lose weight.

They also noted that those who counted their bites ate fewer calories than those who didn’t.  (At least during the short-term study).  And the researchers suggest that the bite meter could be used to measure the rate of speed at which the food was consumed–suggesting that eating more slowly leads to weight loss.

Another device used to measure how fast somebody eats is the new talking plate.  FANTASTIC.  Now I can have a battery operated widget to ask me if, “I really need to eat that?” and ask me why I haven’t finished my broccoli.  It’s like a digital gateway to disordered and non-intuitive eating.  YAY!  (Not.)  The plate also claims to measure my fullness (how I can’t imagine.)

Except all of this is based on some notably faulty assumptions.  Low calorie diets have not been proven to lead to long-term weight loss–ever–for all but a tiny fraction of participants.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that these gadgets wouldn’t fall into the familiar pattern of lose some weight in the short term, gain it all back in the long term, and then a little more.

But the thing that absolutely terrifies me about these new measuring devices is the probability that fat people will ultimately be shackled to them by insurance companies and corporate wellness programs in the name of cost cutting and discrimination–oops I mean better health.  The research behind them is shaky and has been called out by other scientists in the community, the reasoning behind them is flawed in a way that seems obvious even to the most casual observer.  But I predict, that in short order, we’ll have fat people on food oriented house arrest in order to keep their corporate insurance policy.

Big Brother is here and he’s watching you–eat.

Want to learn new ways to fight against injustice for fat folks?  There’s still time to register for the Fat Activism Conference!


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

First Do No Harm: Are Doctors Who Discriminate Hurting Us?

Hippocrates: “First, do no harm.”

There’s been a fairly hot story in the news this week about a Shrewsbury, MA doctor who has publicly stated that she will not treat patients who are over 200 pounds.  Dr. Helen Carter claims that several of her medical staff were injured treating larger patients and that she doesn’t want to see anyone who weighs more.

The story broke after one patient, who had actually come in for her second appointment had been sent home.  Ida Davidson was very surprised when she came in for her follow-up appointment and was told, that she would no longer be accepted as a patient since she weighed over 200 lbs.  Dr. Carter said she did not feel equipped to deal with Ida’s needs.  She stated, “There’s an obesity center over at UMass that is much better staffed and has more resources than I do.”

Now first, let me state for the record, Dr. Carter’s decision is not illegal.  Doctors can choose to take on patients or not take on patients as they see fit.  But is it ethical?  Is her response even logical?  She refuses to provide any detail about the injuries to her staff workers from working with patients over 250 pounds.  And really, it seems the vast majority of medical offices out there routinely handle patients of that size and much larger without any injuries to medical staff.  One might question what these med techs were doing in a traditional doctor’s office to cause such problems.  And to be frank, me thinks the doc doth protest too much.  I’ve talked to a number of med techs who point out that the sort of routine care offered in a typical doctor’s office should not result in injuries to the staff of any kind, if the med techs were properly trained and following reasonable procedures.

While Dr. Carter may state that she is looking after her staff with this decision, I can’t help thinking that there are other motivations at work.  Maybe Dr. Carter just doesn’t like fat people.  Ida Davidson makes it clear that she felt outraged and humiliated about the way the whole thing was handled.  She felt the doctor had engaged neither tact nor compassion, and I quote, “She didn’t care about my health that day.  I think she just cared that I was a liability to her, maybe, and that I was too much work.”

But I also have to wonder if greed plays a part in Dr. Carter’s decision as well.  Increasingly, doctors are seeing financial bonuses from insurance companies and medical groups for keeping their patients within certain metrics.  In many cases, those metrics include BMI.  So I have to wonder, is this decision really about protecting her staff or filling her bank account?  And I also wonder, where will this end?  Will doctors ultimately decide we are too expensive to treat?  Will they stop seeing average-size or larger people at all?  Will they only agree to treat people who they deem healthy and avoid those with expensive problems?

But perhaps most alarming to me is the question of whether or not fat people will be so humiliated and stigmatized by their doctors that they will stop going altogether.  I’m far more frightened about the patients that Dr. Carter has turned away who are not brave enough to talk to CNN.  What about the patients who simply internalize the shame, and don’t go to see the doctor at all any more.  The Rudd Center has done a lot of work in documenting weight bias among medical professionals.  It is real, and it has a profound effect on the health and well being of people of size.  As the Rudd Center points out: people who are the victims of weight bias by medical professionals “are reluctant to seek medical care, cancel or delay medical appointments, and put off important preventative medical services.”

My dear Chicklettes.  I have experienced weight bias from doctors in the past, and I have allowed it to keep me from going to the doctor. I have allowed myself to feel sad and worthless by men and women in white coats.  I have suffered needlessly with medical conditions that would have been far less severe if I had gone to the doctor sooner.  So learn from my mistakes.  Make sure to find a doctor who treats you well.  You deserve to be treated with respect.  You deserve to receive competent, compassionate health care no matter what your size or shape or age or ability.   Please remember you are not a liability.  You are a unique and amazing person.


The Fat Chick