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I am so angry right now so apologies in advance for an almighty rant coming your way.

I know I am a big girl right, and I know that being big sometimes (but not always) can come with health complications which can impact on NHS resources. However, I do not smoke, I do not drink (much, anymore) I don’t do drugs, I exercise 4-5 times per week, and make a huge effort to eat well…I generally am trying to limit the effect of my obesity on this world and more importantly on my loved ones!!

Yeeeshhh, I have had one hell of a day!!

*breathe*

Yesterday while at Playgroup with Rose I pulled something in my back as I lifted her onto the slide. The pain got progressively worse so we left early and I took painkillers and rested up for the evening. This morning I woke up in excruciating pain and as I attempted to get dressed my back spasmed and I swear to god it was worse than the pain of childbirth.

I called an Ambulance because I seriously did not know how else I would get to a doctors, I was crying out in pain and unable to get comfortable. I was told it was not an emergency and I should call the GP, who told me to take some painkillers and get a cab to the surgery.

The pain subsided a bit (with some pills) and I made my way to the surgery to get my back looked at.

Despite the fact I have been at my doctors surgery for close to twenty years, it’s very rare that I see my own GP, so I wasn’t surprised to get an appointment with a doctor I didn’t know.

He asked what had happened, and after my short explanation and having a slight feel of my lower back then came a question I wasn’t expecting.

“So tell me about your weight”

“I’ve lost about 4 stone this year” I replied

“Right” he said with a surprised look.

“I know I have some more to lose” I responded cheerily

“See this is the problem, it’s carrying all that extra weight and having a weak core that is causing the pain”

Weak core??? I can do a 90 second plank I’ll have you know. I was stunned into silence as he quickly scribbled a prescription. So less than 3 minutes after entering his room he was sending me on my way with painkillers and instructions to rest.

“So you advise no exercise then? It’s just I’m supposed to be running a marathon in 3 weeks time”

He smiled shook his head and said

“You are clearly not fit enough to run a marathon.”

“Do you mean I am Too Fat to Run?” I inquired

“Well Yes, to be frank” he said reclining back in his chair

This is where I chose to fight back, how dare he? So I laughed in his face and told him that I have been running 3-4 times a week for the last year, ran 20 miles less than a month ago, a half marathon last weekend and a relatively fast 10k on Saturday just gone.

“That is THE medical advice I am giving you” he said defiantly

“Well I am going to get a second opinion from a sports injury specialist and give it a week or so before I make my decision” I said.

And I will.

I am furious with how I have been treated. Not the advice to rest, because I understand any sane person would advise this. But the whole assumption that my back pain is caused by my weight and his inability to be told otherwise. So what, skinny people don’t pull muscles or get slipped disks or trapped nerves? I have never suffered from back pain, even at my heaviest or during my pregnancy – so why would I start suffering now?

Uuurrrrgggghhhhhh!!!

“Have you raised a lot for charity?” He asked before I left the room. Oh yeah because that’s the only reason I would run a marathon right? As a fun runner, I could never be someone who actually enjoyed running.

I posted something about this on the Facebook page earlier (check out the debate here) and it seems I’m not alone in this judgemental treatment. One ladies GP refused to sign a letter to say she was fit to run a French race (it’s a legal requirement there) because of her weight, she went on to complete the race in 4 hours 20. Other doctors suggested their patients give up running immediately to take up yoga or swimming instead.

I know doctors have to tackle the issue of obesity but at least talk to patients to find out what their lifestyle is all about before tarring them all with the same brush.

I am undecided about what I am going to do about Brighton in 3 weeks, but what I do know is that I will be making an official complaint about that doctor.

Anyone else experience anything like this? Or do these things just happen to me?

Oh…I forgot to mention. He asked me to try and touch my toes, when I touched the floor with my hands his jaw promptly followed. Those post run stretches are starting to payoff!!!

This incident not only knocked my confidence and almost saw me pull out of The Brighton Marathon, but it signified the starting point of a huge shift in my mindset about issues relating to weight, health and happiness and soon after this I made it my mission to tackle these misconceptions head on…and in June 2014 the Too Fat to Run campaign was born.

  1. November 3, 2014

    Screw him. Doctors can be very quick to judge and proclaim this and that forgetting that a lot of their knowledge is based on averages. Hope you’re back to running in time for the marathon x

  2. October 28, 2014

    I’m so pleased to have found this blog spot.
    I’m a fat runner. I’ve run for 30 or more years, I been doing judo for over 10 years and I have been working on pilates as a way of relaxing for about 6 months now.
    Yea I’m fat but I’m also fit.
    Last year I sprained an ankle and trotted off to the GP. My GP is good and knows how hard I train. She sent me for a scan as she was actually quite worried about my tendon.
    I turned up at the hospital. The sonographer was utterly vile. Called me fat, lazy, a metabolic time bomb, what ever that is! He sent me straight to the blood people for full blood tests and asked for the results immediately. When my cholesterol came back as 4.0 my glucose as 5 and it was clear my liver was not dissolving he sent me back to have more tests as the original ones were ‘obviously wrong’. He refused to refer me to a physio until I’d shifted some of that weight. I ended up in tears. When I think how many miles I run in all weathers, how many times I’ve been thrown and got up, how many planks, press ups I’ve done, to be treated like a social pariah just because I’m not a size 10.
    Thank you so much for this web site. After 30 years of running I still find it hard to run in day light x

  3. October 24, 2014

    I’m a chef, so hopefully I’ve managed to switch off my kitchen language so that the occasionally ‘what an utter bellend’ doesn’t make it through.

    Have you tried an osteopath or sports physio? Depending on what you have done and where the pain is you may be able to get a massage or a similar that will alleviate the pain. I have a fabulous clinic here in Guildford (if you are anywhere near me I will happily supply the details) and on the few occasions when I have twisted funny and ended up in excruciating pain it has turned to be locked facet join in my spine that was unable to right itself due to spasming muscles around it. My physio always manages to release it after an hour of deep tissue massage.

    I’m on slim, have a notoriously weak back and unlike your reader who ran a 4.15 marathon my fastest is 4.30. While size certainly isn’t irrelevant it’s certainly not everything.

    Complain vociferously. What an utter bellend!

    oops

  4. July 27, 2014

    It’s the ‘I am God’ syndrome that some ‘professionals’ have, you have lived in your body they have not, so stand your ground! what is normal for you is not for someone else, the doctor should treat you as an individual. Besides which someone who shows their weight outwardly is much healthy than a thin person who does no exercise thinking they are healthy just because they are thin, feeling outrage on your behalf!!

  5. July 27, 2014

    Yes!!! My own FATHER suggested that I do less exercising and be much more careful running because of my weight. Which I understand, however, I could run circles around him! He will scoff or give a look and an eye roll when I say I’m going for a run. I was finally so fed up that I, very firmly, reminded him that I eat healthier than he does, drink less than he does, and have been known to do 2 Zumba classes a day, 5 days a week. He has NO room to judge whatsoever. He has since kept his mouth shut.

  6. I am an osteopath. I see slim people every day with back pain. It’s completely unfair of the GP to put your injury down to your weight! Hope you have recovered from your pain. If not, please feel free to ask for advice barry@themovingbody.co.uk http://www.themovingbody.co.uk

  7. God, I HATE this. I hate that you’ve been treated like this. It totally sucks, and you definitely don’t deserve it, considering how well you’ve done with your exercise and weight loss. (Think he could do the same?!)

    I wholeheartedly admit that I am nowhere near as fit as you are. But when I went to my doctor for the twentieth or thirtieth time about the back pain I’m suffering, I asked him to tell me what he’d suggest if I was of a normal weight. He said he couldn’t, because I wasn’t a normal weight. I repeated: “No, seriously. If I came to you with this problem and I was a normal weight, what would you have done?”

    Now, I love my doctor. When I first went to my doctor (a different doctor) while I was in college, he just told me: LOSE WEIGHT. And that was it. No painkillers or anti-spasmodics, despite crippling pain and muscle spasms that stopped me from walked the mile to college completely, and eventually from walking the hundred feet across the road to the store without pain.

    If he’d treated me as a person, instead of as a fat person, I might not have ended up on four painkillers, including morphine.

    It’s disgusting. They seem to think that the weight is the only problem. Sometimes I think doctors are the problems. 🙁

    I hope your sports injury specialists gives you a better diagnosis/second opinion, and that you get better help. I know how painful the back injury/muscle spasms can be. Especially when it’s not treated, and doesn’t heal.

    Best wishes and healing thoughts!

  8. April 29, 2014

    I had a similar experience this weekend. I have been running for about a year and a half, and just finally ran a full 5k without stopping (so proud and excited!). Unfortunately it was a downhill finish with a last minute turn and I pulled a ligament in my knee. I had to get checked out by the doctor and she just kept saying over and over again how running is the worst thing to do and I should stop. I just feel that she NEVER would have said it to someone who wasn’t a larger girl like me. There is no way she would have told a skinny person just to give up on what they’re passionate about. How about you help me Doc and give me some rehabilitation advice instead of killing my dream??? Frustrating!

    • Don’t it make you sick? You rest up, see a sports injury expert if possible and when you are ready get back to your running, show your doctor she is wrong!!

  9. Well done for fighting back. I’m disgusted! I really hope you back improves quickly so you can carry in with your training.

  10. March 20, 2014

    You need to see a physiotherapist- not sports therapist/massage person.
    Physios are professionals, and are the experts in dealing with low back pain.
    A sports Physio will be even more experienced in what you need to do to get race fit.
    Be v careful in rushing back to running before your back is better- plenty more marathons, but need your back to be fit enough to run them all!!
    Good luck and enjoy the race, it’s amazing!!
    Don’t forget to post Gp your result!!

  11. March 19, 2014

    My brother went to the doctor for severe back pain and was initially told it was because of his weight…he went to get a second opinion and it turned out that he had a severe back injury that included slipped disks and the small bones that keep your disks aligned were broken. He had surgery 3 months later that included everything and fusion. Eff the GP and I hope your second opinion is far more helpful. What a jerk.

  12. March 19, 2014

    HONESTLY?!?! What a jerk! I’m glad you stood up for yourself. And good luck with the pain issues and deciding what to do about your marathon.

    I had a friend who went to the doctor for back pain and her doctor told her “Well, it’s basically because the extra weight you’re carrying around is equal to carrying a canoe on your back.”
    Yep.

  13. March 19, 2014

    You are so right to be angry. I regularly run around 3 to 4 times a week, although I haven’t gone over the 6 mile mark yet. I simply CANNOT shift any weight. A hospital doctor told me, in a very bored voice, “It is a fact, Mrs Smith, that if you eat less and exercise more you will lose weight”.
    I was actually crying in his consultation room and he left the room with a snotty remark and the nurse left me with actually described him to me as a knob.
    Well hell, doc. Come along on my next parkrun and try and beat me.
    Contrast that to my follow up appointment with an alternative doctor (no weight change) who looked up as I walked in and said, in a very pleasant voice. “Oh. I was expecting to see a larger lady. (Cue big beamy smile from me).
    Even my physiotherapist niece has privately told my sister that she feels really bad for all the times she’s advocated exercise to her patients as she’s watched me work so hard but lose very little.
    I’m much fitter though!

  14. March 19, 2014

    I know how you feel I have back problems for years waiting a hip replacement and I just get told my weight is not helping one Dr said he was fed up with patients eating them selves fat and expecting him to help when there health is bad

  15. March 19, 2014

    When I was pregnant with my youngest all the booking in doctor could see was my BMI. Spend ages telling me that would need extra tests as I would be prone to diabetes. I can understand the reason why BUT all she wanted to talk about was that and totally ignored the fact that I have a medical condition which meant that I needed treatment during labour or my child could die. She refused to label my notes with the red stickers that I knew needed to go on so that as soon I went into labour they knew i needed to go in. I did complain and got the chief consultant secretary on the phone and an appointment with her straight away. Got an apology and my stickers. On top of it all thy knew they could not do the tests due to severe morning sickness.

  16. That is what is annoying me and I can understand why you upset. Why does everyone just assume that any health issue must be connected to weight – next they will blame flu on our weight? I blogged in the beginning (Doctors) on how a specialist told me how a surgery will be a high risk due to my abdominal fat – bugger the fact that it was not selective surgery but an urgent surgery. (She wasn’t my usual doctor but still). On my follow up visit she told me she couldn’t believe I was up and about since “fat people recover more slowly”… stuff the fact that in general I’m very active and at that stage was working on incorporating exercise more and more. I think at times it is just the easiest way out for some doctors to blame any medical condition on weight.

  17. That is rough. People don’t know what they don’t know. Hang in there and just keep doing your thing!!

  18. What a complete and total @sshole!!!! I hope you file a complaint against him because that is clearly unprofessional and just very rude of him! I hope your back gets better soon and best of luck with the race!!

  19. Can’t believe the nerve of that doctor! Good on you for standing up to him. He needs to realize that snap judgments have no part in medical practice. It’s good that you know your body and aren’t afraid of speaking up.

  20. March 19, 2014

    Wow, thats disgusting! When I was about 17 I had spasms in my back so bad I couldn’t walk for a week (When I finally could walk I had a major tap exam 2 weeks later, I was doped up on pain killers to my eye balls just to get through it lol!) And I can tell you now it was NOT weight issues as I was only about 65-70kgs! (They are actually caused by a lack of good salts in diet. I took magnesium tablets and they helped heaps!!)

  21. March 19, 2014

    I’m not really sure why this doesn’t make everyone reading it furious…?! Idk maybe they haven’t felt the embarrassment and discrimination of being overweight (or some other factor that has led them to feel that way), but wow that pisses me off. I’m glad you stood up for yourself!

  22. March 19, 2014

    Reblogged this on Losing the Fat Girl and commented:
    OH! MY! GOD! I cannot believe that medical professionals are dealing out this kind of treatment. I have been through a lot of medical professionals with Epilepsy and two pregnancies (plus I suppose getting my eyes done) and have never had my weight brought into it like this. Am I just very lucky?

  23. Try finding a good physical therapist. I had a pain problem that went through 4 specialists and endless tests and when one doctor finally sent me to a physical therapist, he thought just to relieve symptoms, she finally accurately diagnosed and fixed the problem! I think because therapists spend so much time touching their patients’ bodies they are more in tune with certain types of problems – like muscle pulls and such – than doctors who rely on computerized scans. Good luck with your marathon!

  24. March 18, 2014

    Good on you for standing up to the doctor. You know your body and what feels right or wrong. I would definitely advice you to speak to a sports therapist or advanced massage therapist.

    A lot of sudden back pains from a twist is caused by a muscle in the lower back called QL. It is very hard to stretch yourself as it’s deep. But good results have come from relaxing it.

    Don’t despair and I’m sure you can be ready for Brighton.

    Best of luck,
    Dorthe

  25. March 18, 2014

    Don’t even get me started! I have had so many bad experiences with doctors, mostly along the same lines. They all need a walk up call that being bigger doesn’t necessarily mean unfit. I hope your back gets better for the marathon. It must be the week for injuries because Comma do has crocked his k we three weeks before The Manchester marathon and I’ve buggered my arm. Lets hope we all recover soon!

  26. You are so right to be angry! I read your post and all the comments even the ones supporting the doc.
    I AM an ER doctor (in the US) and what he did is inexcusable. It doesn’t sound like he did an appropriate history or physical to rule out bad things that could have caused your excruciating pain. Instead he judged a book by its cover and never even opened the book. It is unethical and immoral and depending on exactly what he did or didn’t do, might even be negligent – that I can’t tell from your post – but know that you are so right to be angry!!!

    • It’s so easy to put it down to being over sensitive about weight issues, earlier today I wondered if I was just sticking my head in the sand and not wanting to accept the truth. If the DR had said this a year ago he would have had a point, but I have worked really hard to egg to this point with my fitness!!!

    • Thank you for saying that. I was treated similarly when I had a dance injury (I used to semi-professionally bellydance plus do triathlons and powerlifting). The doc did pretty much the same thing that happened to you….and the pain didn’t go away. I eventually went to another doctor that diagnosed a fracture in my spine along with a slipped vertebra…all that could have been handled better had it been diagnosed right away.

  27. March 18, 2014

    It is the doctor’s job to give us there medical opinion. BUT, doctors are human and do not always give the best or correct advice. Take the advice to get all the way better before doing any exercise that may make it worse as I am sure you know already. Then do what your body says is safe for you. We tend to know our bodies well as we are the ones that live in them. I would try not to take it personally and get that second opinion if you feel you need it or a different doctor with a better bedside manner. Sorry what doc said hurt you–keep on keeping on.

    • I have been doing a bit of research online and gentle stretching, keeping mobile and even swimming can be helpful for back pain, but I will be taking it easy and seeing how it heals up. It is not his advice that was the problem it was his cheap shot diagnosis. Not every health problem or ailment an overweight person has is weight related and it is irresponsible to make that assumption. His comments did not hurt me in anyway, those days are long gone. But they did anger me. If doctors are so judgemental what hope do we have?

  28. March 18, 2014

    My back spasms now and again…..diclofenic is your friend. If you can take voltarol it is brilliant. Avoid codeine cos it will give you constipation……
    Get well soon…….and go kick ass in Brighton! (I will be there shouting you on!)

  29. March 18, 2014

    I’m a little conflicted about this post. First, just to be clear I do think its shocking the assumptions that are made about bigger people (side story a friend I’ve made in the last 3mths jokingly said to a Jan gym post of mine -I’ll give it to the end of Jan- not realising I’d lost 3 1/2 stone in the last year from going to rhe gym. Yes I was furious) However I kind of feel bad for locum gps. They have like 10mins to see every patient and that inevitability means thwy fall back on the laws of averages and sterotypes. Bigger people are more likely to have bad backs. I think you were absolutely right to challenge him though. Maybe he’ll think twice next time

    • I get that completely, which is why I was trying to help him see the bigger picture he just didn’t want to hear it. He was so annoyed that I has challenged him that he watched me struggle out of his room with the pushchair when he could have at least held the door open for me. It was very awkward!!

  30. March 18, 2014

    Great post!! Good for you!!! 🙂

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  1. […] lead up to my marathon pulling a muscle in my back and being told by a doctor that basically I was Too Fat to Run, so my diet suffered as I let things get on top of me. So it is difficult to assess how my body felt […]

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