Here's the bottom line: You really can decline to be weighed. You do NOT have to submit to being weighed at every appointment.
I decline being weighed all the time. Sometimes I get hassled for it, but most of the time I don't anymore. I make it clear that this is NOT negotiable. I do keep track of my own weight, informally, at home, but I don't agree to weigh-ins at the doctor's office unless there is a clear, pressing need for it.
Some people don't have a problem being weighed routinely at the doctor; some do. Some people weigh themselves regularly at home if they don't at the doctor; some don't. I'm not telling you what you should or should not do; I'm just reminding people that they have a right to decline being weighed at the doctor's if they prefer to avoid it. This is something that some people of size don't realize.
Your Right To Informed Refusal
As a patient, you have the RIGHT TO DECLINE ANY MEDICAL TEST OR PROCEDURE at any time. It's your body, and you have the final say.
We don't think of weighing as a medical test, but it is a form of one. And you always have the right to informed refusal of a test or medical procedure. So no, you do NOT need to be weighed every time you go to the doctor. It is a test or procedure that you can refuse.
If you do plan to refuse weigh-ins, use strong, clear language when declining; don't be unpleasant, just polite and firm. I usually say something along the way of, "I don't do weigh-ins, thanks" if I'm not anticipating trouble.
If you meet resistance, use stronger language than "I'd rather not" or "I'd prefer not to." That leaves arguing room and sooner or later you'll get arguments. Just state clearly and categorically "I decline to be weighed" or something similar.
If they press it or claim it's necessary, remind them that you have the right to decline any test or procedure at any time and you are declining this one. If they really push (I've had it happen), use legal language, like "I DO NOT CONSENT." Any medical person worth their salt knows that this carries legal heft and that carrying out a procedure on someone after a phrase like this could potentially be construed as assault.
If it gets unpleasant, ask to speak to the office manager, the care provider, or just leave. A letter of complaint afterwards, reminding them of your legal right to informed refusal of any test or procedure, can also help change their tune.
The Power of Complaint
Complaining can be powerful. As I've mentioned before, I once visited an urgent care facility whose large blood pressure cuff was "out for repair." I declined to have my BP taken with a too-small cuff (which can strongly elevate BP readings). Long story short, they manipulated/badgered me into agreeing, the numbers were very high, and I was furious that those inaccurate numbers were now in my medical record.
So I wrote a letter of complaint to the clinic, to my insurance company, and to the head of medicine. I reminded them that I had the right to refuse any medical test or procedure, I included research that showed how much BP can be altered with a too-small cuff, and I quoted the American Heart Association's policy on cuff size. I demanded that they get a working large cuff, that they train their staff on the importance of its use, and that they remind staff of the right of patients to decline testing. Boy, did THAT get results.
So I'm just saying, if this is an important issue to you, feel free to resist being badgered into it. Start by politely refusing to be weighed. Try to keep things low-key whenever possible.....but if pushed it can be very effective to complain verbally, to ask to see a superior, or even to write a letter afterwards and remind them of your LEGAL RIGHT to informed refusal.
I've had a couple of tussles with med techs who insisted I had to get weighed routinely. One tried the excuse that the insurance companies were really cracking down and everyone had to be weighed now at every visit. I noted that they might be trying to encourage that, but it was still my right to decline it. She kept arguing, so I asked whether I was going to need to talk to the office manager. At that point she backed down, and my nurse-practitioner noted wryly afterwards that no one could ever accuse me of not being able to stand up for myself. No one in that office bugs me about it now. We do a little dance out of formality; they take me to the scale every time, I politely remind them that I decline to be weighed, and we go on our merry way without any more hassle.
Sometimes, you might find a provider will not keep you as a patient if you decline being weighed. I haven't found that yet, but I'm sure it could happen. In that instance, you have to decide if avoiding weigh-ins is worth it or not to stay with that particular provider. Generally speaking, my view is that if they don't recognize that routine weighings are a fairly meaningless measurement and that you always have the right to decline such things, they're not worth having as a care provider anyhow. I would worry what other medical procedures or interventions they might try to bully me into, and I would not want to stay with a provider who tried such strong-arm tactics.
When Weighing is Appropriate
Most med techs have been matter-of-fact about it when I decline to be weighed, but occasionally one will fight me. I have no doubt that regular weighing is encouraged but the fact is that they cannot "require" it because legally you can always refuse tests or procedures.
That said, sometimes I'll pacify them by telling them that I'd be happy to weigh later in the appointment IF there is something in the appointment that requires an accurate weight. Examples of that might be:
- Certain types of prescription drugs (although most drugs do not use weight-based dosing, some do and an accurate weight would be important for these)
- Before a surgical procedure (anesthesiologists need an accurate weight for anesthesia dosing)
- Prenatal blood tests for birth defects (an accurate weight is very important for these tests)
- If the doctor has reason to be concerned about something like Congestive Heart Failure (weight gain from fluid retention can be a marker for worsening CHF)
Sometimes they will tell you they need to track your weight so that if there is a big increase or decrease, they know to look for possible problems like diabetes (which often causes a sudden, unexplained weight loss), etc. This is an accurate point. As Living ~400 lbs. notes, it certainly is true that a big change in weight can indicate problems, and there are certainly advantages to tracking your weight trends. I'm not opposed to that, and in fact I track my own weight for just that reason.
However, it's your choice whether you prefer to do that for yourself or have your doctor do that for you. Personally, I prefer to track my own weight trends and stop being a slave to the medical weigh-ins. I simply reassure my healthcare providers that I am perfectly capable of watching for any alarming patterns myself and that I will report in if there are any concerns. They know me well enough to know that I care very much about my health and that I really will follow up on it if there is a problem.
Because there may be other situations in which weighing really is important medically, be open to listening to reasons. If it seems reasonable and in your best interests, do it. If you don't mind routine weighings and it's no big deal to you, it's probably easier to just go along with it; there's no law that says that if you are into fat-acceptance you have to decline being weighed.
But think through your feelings so you are making a conscious decision about routine weighing; if it doesn't seem reasonable, if it's just routine and you prefer to keep track on your own, or if you find being weighed triggering or judgmental, feel free to decline it.
Remember, you have the power to refuse or acquiesce.
Weighing every time you go to most doctors is not a requirement. If it bothers you to be weighed, if it's triggering to you, or if you just refuse to be constantly subjected to scale scrutiny, just say no.
Personally, I always agree to be weighed the first time I visit a new care provider, so they have a ballpark figure on record for med dosing or whatever. I think that's a reasonable request. But after that, I decline to be weighed routinely. Some days it's a battle to have that decision honored, but I don't ever back down.
I do consider circumstances individually; if there is a justifiable reason to get an accurate weight, then I agree to it gracefully and without making it into a big deal. But only if there's a real reason for it.
I do have a scale at home and I do weigh regularly in order to watch for any alarming trends. I find that just relying on the fit of your clothes is not enough to really monitor your weight trends and that a closer watch than that can be useful, so I do weigh.
However, I don't need to rely on a doctor's office for that; I'm perfectly capable of monitoring my own weight trends. It doesn't take a medical degree to weigh yourself and keep track of those numbers.
I am in a place emotionally where I don't fear seeing the number on the scale....it's more a matter of principle. I was a slave to the scale for many many years and I lived and died emotionally about what the damn thing said and on the reactions of the people weighing me. I refuse to go to that place anymore. I know what I weigh and I don't have a problem with that number, but I don't need to submit that number to public review unless I choose to or there's a compelling medical reason to do so.
Most of the time, it's just routine to weigh people, not truly necessary. And it's ALWAYS your right to accept or decline.
What do you choose to do in your life? Do you agree to routine weighings at the doctor's office, or do you refuse? Do you keep track of your weight at home, or do you find simply monitoring the fit of your clothes is enough? Why do you make these choices?
*Coming Soon: The Debate Over Routine Weighing During Pregnancy