I hate getting on the scale.
September 21, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I've have boycotted getting on scales for a while now. However, I hate going to the doctor because I hate getting on a scale. This started when I was a child (I'm female) and has gotten worse throughout the years. For the past couple years, I've boycotted seeing the doctor, but I can't do that forever. What should I do? I'm a pretty healthy, female, late twenties. No major health concerns, but I do need to see a doctor again. But nonetheless, I am literally phobic of getting a scale. More inside.

I have suffered from eating disorders/body dysmorphic stuff in the past. Right now I'm seeing a therapist and working on it. I haven't been on a scale in a couple years. It's fine with me, I have always hated weighing myself because although I don't look overweight, I've always been at the upper range of my weight range because I have bigger bones and a lot of muscle mass. However, just knowing that I've put on any weight has left me completely scared to see a doctor because I do not want to get on a scale, period. I'm OK with the way I look most of the time, and I've been exercising regularly, and just trying to be more accepting of my body. But truly, I can not bring myself to see a doctor for a physical or a couple other things I need check on because fear of getting on a scale. What should I do? Can I tell a doctor I do not want to get on a scale? Should I tell the nurse? I haven't had a regular doctor as an adult, so it's not like I have a doctor I really trust or feel comfortable talking to right off the bat about this. I've just gone to community clinics, planned parenthood, school doctors in my 20s. I feel like as long as I don't weigh myself, I'm dealing OK with this, but because of childhood stuff, and the way I was made to get on scales a lot (crazy mother), it's just a bad idea for me right now. Has anyone ever gone to a doctor and requested this? I haven't seen a doctor for about 2 years. My weight has fluctuated since then, although I know from feedback I'm more or less at a healthy weight right now, but still.... it's really causing anxiety.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you not want to get on a scale or do you not want to know what you weigh? The reaons I ask is because for many doctors the "I don't want to know what I weigh" issue is a fairly normal one. You can get on a scale, not look at the numbers, tell the nurse or doctor "Please do not tell me what I weigh" and then you'll be all set.

If it's really the scale thing, I still think this is an okay route to take. Tell them on the phone when you make the appointment: "I'm dealing with anxiety and body dysmophia issues. I do not want to get on the scale at this appointment, will that be okay." Generally speaking, helping people work out their health issues takes a front seat and going to the doctor even if they don't take your weight is better than not going at all.
posted by jessamyn at 9:47 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is actually sort of a common question/concern in some of the ED-recovery/fat-acceptance/HAES/body-acceptance communities I frequent.

The most common advice:
* Tell the intake nurse, "I do not want to be weighed."
* If the nurse insists and you feel comfortable enough, ask the nurse NOT to tell you the weight and face away from the scale. Otherwise, just continue to refuse.

Most doctor's offices are absolutely willing to work around this. And it's better to know right up front what sort of office you'll be working with.
posted by muddgirl at 9:51 AM on September 21, 2009

I think if you request not to be weighed, they can't really weigh you, BUT they really like to have this kind of information in your chart. I really dislike being weighed, too, so I just ask to either face backwards if it's a "balance beam" type scale or don't look if it's a digital scale - my doctor's office has both. At my doctor's office they don't tell you the weight unless you ask anyway. They just write it down and move on. If you're uncomfortable telling them the whole story now, just kind of jokingly say, "Oh, hey, I just had a big lunch, do you mind if I don't look?", and they'll usually just laugh and let you do whatever you want.
posted by fresh-rn at 9:53 AM on September 21, 2009

I feel like as long as I don't weigh myself, I'm dealing OK with this, but because of childhood stuff, and the way I was made to get on scales a lot (crazy mother), it's just a bad idea for me right now.

That totally makes sense given your past history, and you're working on these issues in therapy, so don't feel bad about not wanting to get on a scale until you get those issues resolved.

What should I do? Can I tell a doctor I do not want to get on a scale? Should I tell the nurse? I haven't had a regular doctor as an adult, so it's not like I have a doctor I really trust or feel comfortable talking to right off the bat about this.

Just call up and ask while you are scheduling your first appointment. If they can't accommodate your relatively simple and straightforward request in this case, that's probably not the kind of doctor's office you want to be dealing with in general.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:57 AM on September 21, 2009

I'm a normal weight for my height, no eating disorder issues, and I can't remember a doctor's appointment where they TOLD me my weight without me having to ask. They always weighed me and just wrote it down without saying anything to me. So I don't think "btw, I don't want to know" will be any sort of a problem, because it seems to be their default IME.
posted by desjardins at 10:08 AM on September 21, 2009

Just wanted to emphasize that they can't make you get on the scale. Don't let that stop you from getting a physical or anything else. Just tell them that you have serious issues with it and you don't want to do it.
posted by callmejay at 10:12 AM on September 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

You absolutely do not have to consent to anything you do not want to do or have done to you at your doctor. Your body belongs to you and you are in charge of what happens to it.
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:23 AM on September 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

I know a lot of people in the body/fat acceptance movement that refuse to be weighed. It's generally not a big deal. When you get taken back and they start to lead you to the scale just say "No thank you, I don't want to be weighed today." It's none of their damn business why you don't want it. If they press the issue, tell them you're recovering from an eating disorder and they SHOULD leave it at that. If they don't find a new doctor.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2009

If your doctor is a douchebag about it, change doctors.

This is *excellent* advice. I just dropped my GP and am looking for a new one over a similar, but unrelated issue.

Any doctor you see should be willing to adapt to your psychological needs and concerns without argument, especially once informed that you are seeing a therapist to address them. If he or she won't, then you should absolutely find a different practitioner.
posted by zarq at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to be weighed, don't let them weigh you. It's far from necessary. If they persist, inform them that you will not be stepping on a scale. Explain why, if you care to. If they still persist, inform them you'll be taking your business elsewhere.

I've never been given any grief about it, and there are reasons for them to want to know, within a general range, what I weigh. My answer is typically "too damn much", and they accept that :P
posted by Rendus at 10:33 AM on September 21, 2009

Every single time I got to the doctor (a couple of times a year, average), when the nurse tells me to get on the scale, I just say (with no further explanation)

"I'm not comfortable with that part, I don't do scales well."

I haven't ever gotten so much as a strange look.

If you don't want to do something, you don't have to, doctor's office or no.
posted by KAS at 10:45 AM on September 21, 2009

If you're not comfortable telling the nurse you don't want to get on the scale, you can write a letter. If you google Hanne Blank letter to doctor you'll find a good template.

You have every right not to get on the scale. Since i've started using the letter method --I just bring in a copy for my file and one for the doctor at my first appointment -- I have never had a problem.

Good luck!
posted by sugarfish at 10:49 AM on September 21, 2009

Nthing everyone above. You are not required to be weighed in order to get a physical. If you do want the doctor to know your weight (or there's some specific reason that they need to know it, such as trying to get dosing right for medication that is sensitive to changes in body weight), you can request that they not tell you the number. You can even tell them over the phone when you make your appointment that you're in treatment for an eating disorder and do not want your weight mentioned or discussed at your appointment. And if your doctor's office balks at any of your requests, find a new doctor.
posted by decathecting at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2009

When you are taken in to the dr's office, tell them politely that you REFUSE to be weighed. Don't waste time telling the "nurse" (which in the majority of doctors offices they are NOT nurses but medical assistants!) why you won't get on. They don't have the education to understand and in my experience it just complicates things. I would let the physician know why, though, and that it is being worked on. All it will show on your record, usually, is REFUSED will be put under the column for Weight under vitals.

FWIW--I am a RN, and I've had patients refuse to be weighed. Never an issue. Please don't let this get in the way of taking care of YOU! Best of luck!
posted by 6:1 at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is what I do.

I take off my shoes, put down my purse, and step onto the scale backwards. I tell the nurse that I would not like to know my weight, please do not say it aloud.

If pressed ("You don't have to worry about that!" "Oh, you're perfectly fine!" "What are you worried about?"), I say that I have had an eating disorder and it's better for me not to know.

I have done this at doctor's offices and once for a physical at work, and no one's given me grief after I put it out there like that. It takes some nerve, sure, but think of it as a step you're taking to take care of yourself.

Best wishes to you and strength for the years ahead.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2009

Nthing everyone here. I have been in treatment for an eating disorder and for the last 2 or 3 years have not been weighed at all at drs. appts.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2009

All of the above is good. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Most doctors should be able to do a good enough job helping you maintain your health without referring to a number.

As far as the thing itself, you probably should work with your therapist in trying to detach the number on the scale from what you believe about yourself. I don't know much about the inner workings of the mind or of eating disorders. But I do know that finding ways to deflect the core problem rather than fighting it head on does not lead to success. It is a great tool when you have to continue living in society while you work on the problem, but it isn't a good solution. Whenever you successfully deflect something, you reinforce the idea that you can adequately live your life without dealing with it.

Only you can determine the root cause of why you have body concept issues. You have to figure out what you have the ability to change, whether it is a good idea to try to change that, and whether you are going to do it or not. And then accept what your decision is- trust yourself that you are making the right decisions for yourself at the time you are making it. And determine what you don't have the ability to change, and accept that too.

Good luck! It isn't always easy to change our perceptions for the better, but it always ends up working out.
posted by gjc at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2009

Not arguing, just wondering - aren't medication doses based on bodyweight? Is that only for some specific medication, and the majority are just child vs adult?

So, while I agree with all the sentiments posted above, I am wondering: Is there any case where the doctor HAS to know your weight, even if you don't want to be weighed and/or don't want to know what the number is?
posted by CathyG at 11:45 AM on September 21, 2009

Nthing that you can decline being weighed. I recall once when the tech said something like "Why not? You don't have to worry about anything..." (like fierce mentioned above) and I replied "I've just joined a new church and they teach us that scales are the anti-Christ" with a very serious face. Her eyes widened for a second then she sort of stifled a laugh and let the issue drop. I still don't relish being weighed, especially since Mr. Adams and I see the same doctor and she gives us a discounted office visit rate if we come to see her together in a "dual" appointment. That means he's in the room with me for the weighing and the blood pressure taking. I always tell the tech as I step onto the scale: "Do not say any numbers out loud, do not utter any noises of surprise or disbelief, and remember to deduct at least eight pounds for my shoes." During our most recent appointment, they were very busy and there was still a man in the room getting his blood pressure taken while we were getting weighed, so I added "You!" (pointing at stranger) "Avert your eyes!" Over the top, perhaps, but this is no time to be a Shrinking Violet. You're paying for the visit, make your preferences known.

Seriously, tell the personnel in whatever way works best for you what you want and what you do not want. It may feel awkward, but they've heard and seen it all and they won't judge you or think any differently of you. Best wishes to you!!
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:47 AM on September 21, 2009

CathyG: Yes, there are some medications for which doses are based on body weight. I believe that some chemotherapy drugs fall into this category, for example. But for most drugs, there's a standard adult dose (for example, take one pill of this antibiotic every day for two weeks), or the dose is changed based on factors other than weight (for example, many antidepressants are started at a low dose and then the dose is increased until the patient feels better).

If you're about to be prescribed a drug for which it matters, your doctor can revisit the issue with you at that time. You can still refuse to be weighed, and you can refuse any treatment that requires you to be weighed if you want to.

But for the overwhelming majority of patients, the reasons for recording weight have more to do with demographic and statistical information (e.g., what category of height/weight ratio does this patient fall into) or with attempting to track a single patient's weight over time (e.g., has this patient gained or lost weight in a manner that might indicate a medical issue).
posted by decathecting at 12:31 PM on September 21, 2009

I work in a doctor's office. The doctors weigh patients for obvious reasons like knowing whether or not the patient is at a healthy weight and whether the weight is changing which might indicate another problem.

That being written, it is your medical care. You can decline any treatment or measurement you want, even if that treatment or measurement is beneficial to you. It's your body, you are in control of what happens.

In most cases on of the most important reasons doctors weigh you is because they must take something like 3 certain measurements in order to bill your insurance. These measurements can be blood pressure, height, temperature, pulse, or respiration rate. It's dictated by the insurance company. If they don't have three of those measurements the insurance company can decline payment. So, just tell the person taking you back that you refuse to be weighed, but that you'd be happy to have your temperature taken or have them measure your height instead.
posted by battlecj at 12:55 PM on September 21, 2009

Seconding everyone who says to say you would rather not be weighed.

Whatever you do end up saying, be polite (of course), state your opinion and be firm.
posted by variella at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2009

Tell your doctor that you have a history of eating disorders and do not wish to be weighed.

If you ever absolutely do need to be weighed for some valid medical reason (medication based on dosage, medical issue like congestive heart failure where small shifts in weight could indicate dangerous levels of water retention), you can stand on the scale backwards and insist that your weight not be disclosed to you.

"To see if you're at a healthy weight" is not a valid medical reason, especially in light of the risk of triggering an eating disorder. As others have said, a doctor who insists on that will not be a good doctor for you (or for anyone with a history of eating disorders).
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:50 PM on September 21, 2009

I also have an ED history and I always plan to tell the doctor to weigh me backwards. However, I always chicken out at the last minute, because as much as I hate knowing how much I weigh, that number is just so seductive...

All this is to say that if you can address this issue BEFORE you have your appointment, it might be easier than speaking up in the moment.
posted by chelseagirl at 5:55 PM on September 21, 2009

If you are planning on being pregnant, ever, I suggest you learn how to get on the scale at the doctor's office at a normal visit. Nthing the ask them not to tell you approach. I would practice this a few times until you get used to it.

It sucks very hard to step on a scale every one, two, or four weeks at the behest of a medical professional when you know you're gaining weight and you feel like a cow. I had a hard enough time with that even though I did not have a phobia of scales. I can't imagine dealing with both a scale phobia and my creeping weight gain at once. However, there are lots of great reasons to weigh pregnant women, eg preventing death by pre-eclampsia. It might be worth working on your phobia before you have to confront it in a situation where you will be even more concerned with the body image issues.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:07 PM on September 21, 2009

As another data point from a declines-to-be-weighed person---- I'm pregnant and I have had no problems with refusing the scale throughout my pregnancy. There are more sensitive indicators of preeclampsia than weight gain and once I let my doctor know that I knew those signs, she backed right down.

Otherwise, I told her that I would gain or lose what I gained or lost, and that I would deal with it at the end, because right now, I was concentrating on growing a healthy baby.
posted by marmot at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2009

I always refuse to be weighed. Never a problem. Just be polite, but firm.
posted by Ouisch at 12:18 PM on September 23, 2009

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