"No. I'd prefer to tell you how much I weigh. I weighed myself at home this morning."
The nurse stares at me. Did she hear me? I tell her how much I weigh. She continues to stare.
Finally, she says: "I think it would be better to weigh yourself on this scale, so we have an accurate benchmark"
I reply with a firm "no."
I have a feeling this is the first time she's heard someone say no to the scale.
Before I was a teen and before I started worrying about getting fat or perceiving myself as fat, I didn't mind stepping on the scale. It was fun, a sign that I was growing up. However, somewhere along the line, as puberty hit and my swim coaches started to monitor my weight, that changed. Stepping on the scale is now stressful and not something I want to do in public.
To be honest, I hadn't thought of the weight bias in health care, and I've only been touched by it a couple of times. But then I read an eye-opening Weighty Matters post on the topic (watch the video - it's good) and thought about the scale at my doctor's office.
Some weight bias is obvious such as a doctor ignoring a patient's request for help or condescending, rude and appalling remarks from a doctor (see Munchberry's comment). Some bias is more subtle, such as how a patient's weight is taken and recorded. Of course, there is nothing wrong with tracking a patient's weight, but the manner in that a person is weighed can be done in either a sensitive or an inconsiderate way. Placing the scale in an public area does not take the patient's feeling or need for privacy into consideration.
At my doctor's office, patients are called from the waiting room to the second floor where examination rooms, doctors' offices and a procedure room are connected by a long hallway. The last time I saw a doctor (earlier in the year) the big physician's scale was located at the beginning of the hallway so anyone moving about the second floor can see how much the person on the scale weighs. So, this year, instead of stepping on the scale in the hallway, I decided to weigh myself at home and tell the nurse my weight.
When you think about it, why is it absolutely necessary to be weighed by the nurse in the first place? Why can't I decline? Why is it frowned upon to tell the nurse my weight rather than stepping on the scale? The nurse accepts my word when I tell her that I'm 5'7". Why can't she accept my word when I tell her what the scale said at home? Plus, is the result between the scale at home and the scale at the office that different? Is a couple of pounds either way going to make a difference in my health or impede my doctor's ability to do her job?
Furthermore, how can an accurate benchmark be established when weight fluctuates up and down throughout the day and over a week. With more than a year between annual check-ups, I'll be wearing different clothes, I could have eaten a smaller/bigger meal before the appointment or I may or may not have food sitting in the digestive system (you know what I mean). The only way to get a good benchmark is to weigh yourself in the morning, sans clothing, before eating breakfast, but after the morning pee.
In any case, have some fun the next time you are at your doctor's office. See what happens when you say "no thank you" to the scale.
Interesting to note: a patient must have complained about the location of the scale. The scale is now located at the end of the hall. Which is better, but why not offer complete privacy for patients and place scales in the individual examination rooms?