Do I Need to be Weighed at the Doctor’s Office?

Do I have to be weighed at the doctor’s office?

Ahh, the doctor’s office. We’ve all been there. You get called back for your appointment, and before you can even utter a hello, you’re asked to remove your shoes and step on that harsh, metal scale. There is a huge stigma around weight and that is often amplified in the medical community. Talk about weight and the act of being weighed can be triggering for someone struggling with an eating disorder, and prevents many people from going to the doctor altogether. This is a huge issue that deserves to be addressed. Keep reading below to read about when and why you can refuse being weighed, communication tips, and ways to take care of yourself when being weighed can’t be avoided. 

When and why you can refuse…

As long as you are an adult and have not been declared legally unable to make medical decisions for yourself, you always have the right to refuse any specific medical test or procedure. The specific language may vary by state, but for example Minnesota law defines the patient’s right to refuse in statute 12.39 Individual Treatment; Notice, Refusal, Consequence.

That being said, in certain circumstances being weighed may be medically necessary. For example, weight may play a factor in determining the correct dosage for certain types of anesthesia or medications. Your doctor also then has the right to refuse to provide treatment if they believe that not being weighed will negatively impact the effectiveness of the care. 

What to say if you do not wish to be weighed…

There are several common approaches to refusing to be weighed, and the right choice for you will depend on your goals in the situation. 

  • Remember that “no” is a complete sentence. It is acceptable simply to state that you do not wish to be weighed. 
  • If confrontation is difficult, or if your provider is not accepting your initial refusal, there are cards available that contain pre-printed statements outlining your rights and reasons not to be weighed. Here is a link to receive a free set of “don’t weigh me” cards.
  • For those who have the energy, this can also be an opportunity to educate your medical provider about eating-disorder-informed care and the importance of care around the issue of weight.

Example statements:

“I do not wish to be weighed”

“I would like to be treated with a “Health at Every Size Approach” and therefore, do not wish to be weighed or discuss my weight unless it is medically necessary”

“I struggle with an eating disorder and being weighed may trigger anxiety and symptom use which is ultimately bad for my health.”

“I have an eating disorder treatment team that is monitoring my weight. I am here for a flu shot, so this information is not relevant to this visit”

“I already have medical support regarding my weight and do not need to include that for…(for example: a flu shot)

What to do if that’s not an option…

If refusing a weight is too daunting, or not medically possible, there are ways to minimize distressing effects. For example, you can step on the scale backwards to avoid seeing the number. Note: Your doctor may still enter your weight into your chart. Frequently, clinics will print off an after-visit summary and give it to you with that weight on it. It may be necessary to remind clinic staff to either tear off or cross out this information before handing you your paperwork. You can also try asking for your weight to be added into notes within your chart as opposed to the weight field itself, to prevent it from being printed on future documents. 

For further information about dealing with weight stigma at the doctor’s office, here are some excellent resources: 

How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health

What to Say at the Doctor’s Office