For many years it has been considered standard practice to weigh patients, but is weighing really necessary, or is it just a trigger for eating disorders?
When might weighing be necessary?
Some argue we need to weigh people for health reasons.
A change in weight could indicate a health problem, so weighing could lead to a diagnosis of a much deeper problem. Such conditions that may be linked with weight loss are: coeliac disease, overactive thyroid, and many other conditions. On the other hand, some things can be indicated by weight gain, such as pregnancy, PCOS, and menopause. A change in weight can also indicate certain mental health conditions. So it’s important for health care professionals to look at the physical symptoms to understand mental health.
A high weight or low weight could also cause certain conditions. A high weight is a known risk factor for conditions such as: heart disease, high blood pressure, and various other conditions. Being underweight puts people at a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies, a weakened immune system, fertility problems, bone loss, and anaemia.
So, it’s important to weigh in some cases, because it may just lead to a diagnosis that could save a life.
When might weighing not be necessary?
Others suggest we shouldn’t weigh people on routine. This is because not only can it be triggering for people, but weight doesn’t always equate to health.
Health at every size (HAES) sees health as irrespective of weight. Just because someone is in a larger body, it doesn’t mean that they are more unhealthier than someone in a thin body, and vice versa. So, instead they check biomarkers of health such as checking cholesterol, blood pressure etc. to determine someone’s health.
In treatment, someone who is HAES aligned wouldn’t prescribe weight loss as a treatment, instead they would look at how to improve their current lifestyle, for example increasing fruit intake.
It is important to note many people fear going to health care professionals through fear of fat shaming, so if you offer a service that operates without weighing, it may encourage people to seek treatment.
What should we do?
You can draw your own conclusions from this blog, but as long as you are doing what you believe is truly best for your patient, that’s all that matters. If you are weighing them, consider whether it is helpful for the patient to know their weight or whether it is a trigger and it could harm them.