Weight Neutral Medical Care and Overcoming Weight Stigma with Dr. Michelle Tubman

by | Apr 3, 2024

If you’ve ever been told you have to lose weight for health reasons, or if your medical problems always get blamed on your weight, or you fear going to the doctor because they might comment on your weight – this is the episode for you!

Our guest today is Dr. Michelle Tubman a Canadian physician who operates from a health at every size approach.

In our conversation Michelle set the record straight on what really contributes to poor health outcomes, and spoiler alert – it’s not the number on the scale.  She shared her opinion on the theory that “obesity” is a disease and discussed the very real health risks of repeated weight loss attempts.

You’ll leave this interview with a very clear plan on how to handle the conversation and advocate for yourself if you’re told that your weight is to blame for your health problems and are told that losing weight is the answer

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Episode Summary

In this  deeply riveting episode of the Power in Motion podcast, host Kim Hagle had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Michelle Tubman, a physician triple board-certified in emergency medicine, obesity medicine, and lifestyle medicine. This conversation wasn’t just an interview; it was a revelation, a profound exploration of Health at Every Size advocacy, overcoming weight stigma, and the importance of weight neutral medical care. Dr. Michelle took us through her personal and professional journey, providing insights that challenge the conventional narratives around health, weight, and self-advocacy in healthcare.

From Weight Loss Coach to Health at Every Size Advocate

Dr. Michelle Tubman’s story begins with her own struggles with weight, which significantly impacted her personal and professional identity. Initially embarking on a path to become a weight loss coach amid the pandemic, Dr. Michelle soon confronted the discomforting realization that her efforts might be more harmful than beneficial. Despite being immersed in the diet culture both personally and through medical training, she instinctively felt that promoting weight loss was not the key to genuine health or happiness.

Her quest for understanding led her to the Health at Every Size (HAES) and intuitive eating principles. These not only transformed her personal outlook but radically altered her professional trajectory. Dr. Michelle now champions a journey towards feeling comfortable in one’s own body, healing relationships with food, and challenging the pervasive diet culture and stigma associated with living in a larger body.

Unpacking the Weight-Centric Paradigm and Its Harms

The conversation with Dr. Michelle drew attention to the significant harm perpetuated by the weight-centric health paradigm. This model pathologizes bodies, simplifies complex health concerns to a matter of weight loss, and ultimately, may lead to physical and psychological distress. Dr. Michelle pointed out the flawed logic in associating health exclusively with weight, illustrating how the short-term success of diets does not translate to long-term health benefits. Instead, evidence suggests that weight fluctuation, rather than the weight itself, contributes significantly to so-called obesity-related diseases.

Delving deeper, Dr. Michelle criticized the reliance on Body Mass Index (BMI) as a health indicator, proposing that it is an outdated and inaccurate measure of health. This led to a broader discussion on the need for a shift from a weight-focused paradigm to a Weight Neutral Medical Care approach, which considers a spectrum of factors in determining an individual’s health.

Challenging the ‘Obesity as a Disease’ Narrative

A sensitive topic broached during the discussion was the classification of obesity as a disease and its implications. Dr. Michelle expressed her initial receptiveness to the idea, considering its potential to destigmatize people’s bodies. However, she quickly recognized that such a classification could be more damaging than beneficial. It not only pathologizes but also oversimplifies a complex interplay of factors contributing to a person’s body size and overall health. The conversation highlighted the essentiality of recognizing health beyond the scale, advocating for a model that respects bodily diversity and focuses on holistic wellbeing.

Empowering Patients: Advocating for Weight Neutral Medical Care

A significant part of the podcast focused on practical tips for patients navigating a healthcare system still entrenched in weight-centric biases. Dr. Michelle emphasized the importance of being prepared, questioning the received advice, and seeking informed consent and shared decision-making in medical care. She encouraged patients to ask critical questions like, “If I were thinner, what treatment would you recommend?” This approach promotes a more inclusive and empathetic healthcare experience, acknowledging that health cannot be measured solely by weight.

Dr. Michelle shared her perspective on weight loss prescriptions within medical practice. She debunked common misconceptions, urging for a critical examination of medication and surgery solutions that seem appealing but lack long-term effectiveness. The conversation shifted towards the need for comprehensive healthcare, where patients are seen and treated beyond their physical appearance.

Closing Thoughts: Embracing Health Beyond the Scale

To conclude, Dr. Michelle and Kim reflected on their personal and professional journeys towards embracing a Health at Every Size philosophy. They discussed the liberation and challenges that come with advocating for a paradigm shift in health and wellness.

This conversation with Dr. Michelle Tubman urges us to critically evaluate our own biases and the systemic issues within healthcare and society at large. It challenges us to support and engage in Health at Every Size Advocacy, work towards Overcoming Weight Stigma, and advocate for Weight Neutral Medical Care. By sharing her story and expertise, Dr. Michelle is not just advocating for a more inclusive and compassionate healthcare system — she’s leading by example.

Listeners and readers alike are invited to follow Dr. Michelle’s work, engage with her insights on social media, and consider how they can contribute to a healthier, more inclusive world. The journey toward health, self-acceptance, and advocacy is ongoing, but with leaders like Dr. Michelle Tubman guiding the way, a more compassionate and understanding future is within reach.

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