Belly Aches, a.k.a. Fat-Shaming Has Made Me Afraid to Go to The Doctor

There is a sharp pain in my right side and I refuse to go to the doctor about it.

Here is why:

When I was 7, I went to my first fat doctor.

I remember sitting there naked with my father who had brought me in and having these two older men of power judge my young, female body in a way that felt like such a violation of my whole being.

The doctor talked to my father, around me, asking why one of my nipples was different than the other. I remember my father embarrassingly telling the doctor that I played with the bigger one constantly.

Then the doctor wrote down a diet plan, handed it to my father, and told me that if I ever wanted a boyfriend when I grew up, I needed to lose weight.

He then also told me I’d never be able to breast feed my future children if I didn’t stop playing with my nipple. After that, a nurse took my blood and gave me a lollipop for being good.

My mother never seemed to be in any photos, just taking them.

Me, at 7. I’m the chubby exhibitionist in the back.

When I was 13, I got an ovarian cyst.

It was my second time having one, so I knew what I was feeling. It hurt when I walked, it was halfway through my menstrual cycle and the pain was almost unbearable when I pressed against my side.

Still, the young male doctor who pushed his fingers far inside me without a warning and pressed firmly right on the spot where it hurt most of all, didn’t believe me. He made me out to be a hypochondriac, blamed the pain on period cramps (even though I was mid-cycle), and said one cyst was rare enough at my age, the chances are I didn’t have another one.

“I can’t feel one,” he said, “not that I could with your belly in the way.”

He then offered me a prescription for the diet pill Fen/Phen and pointing out my abnormal nipple and pubescent breast growth to a student nurse in the room.


I was definitely chubby as a kid. And gay. Oh so gay.

When I was 18, I got another ovarian cyst.

And it felt like a repeat of the same nightmare. Again, the young male doctor couldn’t feel anything through my belly and his frustration was taken out by literally yelling at me to lose weight. I yelled back that I wanted an ultrasound and, sure enough, there it was, a massive inflamed cyst.

He still refused to do anything about it and I stayed in bed for two weeks in pain.

When I was 26, my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer and blamed it on her love of ice cream.

Because weight is a factor her doctor listed on reasons why women get breast cancer. She’s also blamed her hesitation to go out in the sun, because lack of Vitamin D is also one of the listed reasons.

When I was 28, I went into Planned Parenthood for an STI screening and got a lecture about my weight.

“You’re doing something about that whole weight thing, right?” the female doctor said, looking at my chart, not at me. “Getting exercise?”

“I ride my bike everywhere and walk for at least an hour a day,” I said, which was true. I had just found out my (thin, considered healthy until he got cancer) brother was going to have his jaw removed, so I was constantly moving my body to keep away the tears.

“Well, make sure you get some cardio in there,” she said, closing my file and dismissing me.

When I was 29, my brother died, and I lost weight, and everyone congratulated me on it.

When I gained it back months later, my aunt warned me about eating my feelings. Then handed me a dozen cupcakes she had brought by for my family.

Just last week, my perfectly healthy friend died of a heart attack.

She was thin and athletic her whole life, the daughter of two physical education teachers. Every doctor I go to warns me that I will die young if I don’t lose weight, but I’ve been to three funerals in two years of people under age 30, all of which were thin.

And yet here I am, still alive.

Photo from my daily walk along the beach, which I do to decompress and keep my body in motion.

Photo from my daily walk along the beach, which I do to decompress and keep my body in motion.


There has been a persistent pain in my side for 36-hours and yet because it is in my belly, in my fat, I am afraid to go to a doctor. I am afraid of the poking and prodding into my self-consciousness, afraid that I will waste my time only to hear my issue being blamed on my belly’s size.

At some point, if this pain doesn’t go away, I’ll have to brave a doctor, but for now, I’d rather deal with an unknown pain in my side than step into the nightmare of the doctor’s office.

Photo by J.Robert Williams.

Photo by J.Robert Williams.


P.S. Here’s the great conversation that happened when I tweeted out “I hate how much I hesitate to go to the doctor for my stomach issues because I know they’ll just fat shame me.”


Having a bad day? We’re giving out free hugs!

Also check out my past post on the #NotYourGoodFatty movement on Twitter.

About Queerie Bradshaw

Lauren Marie Fleming is a writer, speaker and motivator known for her intimate, informative and often hilarious look at sex, relationships and body-image. Lauren runs the critically-acclaimed blog, writes for major news sources including VICE, Nerve, Huffington Post and Curve, and is the author of her memoir Losing It: My Life as a Sex Blogger. In 2013, Lauren founded Frisky Feminist Press ( as a way to enhance conversations about sexuality through educational guides, online classes and entertaining publications. A law school graduate, Lauren has spoken all over the United States and is internationally recognized for her dynamic, engaging style. In everything she does, Lauren’s goal is to educate, remove stigmas and encourage people to achieve their desires.
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7 Responses to Belly Aches, a.k.a. Fat-Shaming Has Made Me Afraid to Go to The Doctor

  1. jedimarri says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I gained weight originally because I was really sick and was put on Prednisone (a steroid) for three years. It causes mood swings and makes you very hungry, a bad combination. I haven’t managed to lose the weight because I still have a lot of health problems, and there’s a lot of emotions wrapped up in it all (isn’t it for most of us?). I have fibromyalgia, and it’s flaired to the point where I can barely leave the house, and I’m in constant pain. Their number one suggestion for curing the pain? Lose weight. When I can barely walk…and preparing food is really hard. Real constructive suggestion doc.

  2. I feel the same way when I get sick. 🙁 You aren’t alone.

  3. Lilly says:

    I get this all the time. For years I was getting treated for fibromyalgia and yet nothing was working. I finally asked the ONE doctor who didn’t fat shame me to help me, that I think it’s something else. She sends me to a specialist. “Lose weight”. It’s always, always been all about the weight. DESPITE me telling them that the plantar fasciitis that kills me after only 90 minutes on myfeet has been with me since high school when I weighed 135. Explain THAT. JUST TRY to tell me my fibro is weight related when I’ve brought with me my too-thin mother who also has fibro.

    Yet still….it’s all about the weight. so i quit going. Have tried twice since to lose “this weight”. I lose some, gain it back. still won’t go to the doctor unless i have to. and every time I go I have to step on this giant digital scale, and it always tells me a weight much higher than I expect.

  4. joanpriceauthor says:

    I was truly moved, shocked, and sickened by this. You deserved better. I wish I knew how to get this in front of every doctor’s eyes. Thank you for being willing to share your vulnerability.

  5. mrwillshot says:

    I didn’t really chime in on this when I saw the twitter convo because well… I haven’t had a doctor in probably… 15 years?

    I do remember getting lectured then though. And getting lectured when I hurt my back at work about how it would hurt less if I lost weight.

    Indeed, the fat shaming in society and even in the medical field are horrendous. Fat hugs??

  6. Missy May says:

    Gah! This makes me sick. You are beautiful and if you are healthy in every other way, who is to say that your weight isn’t just your body type. And I am going on three years of straight breastfeeding and have played with my nipples all the time. Hell! My kids like to pull the one not in use out as far as possible and laugh as it bounces back. They still work!! It sounds like you need a doctor who has some better bedside manner. Before I decide on a doctor I usually interview a few in my area and one or two far enough to travel but close enough not to waste too much gas and time. I pray the pain in your side is nothing, but I think you need to see a doctor if it’s still hurting. Much love and prayers headed your way.

  7. Pingback: On Bodily Limitations: Listen and Accept — Everyday Feminism

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