New mum hits out after being 'fat shamed' by doctor: 'Incredibly reckless'

Three months after having a baby, Jess Woodward attended a GP appointment with concerns about her skin, only to come out of it feeling angry over questions about her weight.

The Adelaide accredited exercise physiologist has accused the doctor of "fat shaming" her.

Ms Woodward told Yahoo News Australia her primary care GP doctor wasn't available, so she sought out another nearby doctor. She said she was shocked to be told she was "still carrying a bit too much weight" and could "lose a few kilos".

"Unfortunately my needs were not met and the conversation quickly turned to my weight which struck me as not being appropriate or relevant," Ms Woodward said.

Exercise physiologist Jess Woodward, left with her baby Will, and right in a gym.
Exercise physiologist Jess Woodward went to her GP for a hair and skin consultation but was instead asked about her weight. Source: Supplied

"There was no additional questions asked about my postpartum recovery, so for him to make such comments without having that sort of information is something I saw to be incredibly reckless."

Ms Woodward also called into the question the doctor's approach when not knowing her personal health history.

"I've had a disordered eating history in the past and I would say I'm in a recovered state now," she said. "Had those comments been directed at me when I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I think that would've been an incredibly triggering conversation for me, and far more disastrous than it actually was.

"It took me straight back to my primary school years when I was a little bit bigger than my classmates and I was made to feel really terrible about it."

Ms Woodward who acknowledges she has a "straight-sized body" said it was "the first time (she) was really ever called fat".

Adelaide mum later confronts doctor

Not being happy with the situation, Ms Woodward went back to the clinic two days later to discuss what went wrong and hoped the doctor would change his approach going forward.

"He was pretty taken aback and he initially denied it, and looked me up and down once more and was almost surprised to have me accuse him of such a thing," she said.

"But then after taking the time to listen to what I had to say, he apologised which I was grateful for.

"Though there were times in the conversation that he did show a real sign of change, there was another glance over the table, looking me up and down and saying I really didn't look that bad, which prompted me to do something more about it, and share my experience with others."

"I'm privileged that I'm health literate and have to capacity to see beyond his comments," she told Yahoo News. "But I do know there are other people that don't have access to healthcare and know their rights."

"There is such a power imbalance between that of a patient and that of a doctor and that gap is widened when you have comments like this."

Importance of 'constructive conversations about weight'

Working with people who have given birth, Ms Woodward stressed how important it is to "normalise it's okay to take your time".

"The pressure to bounce back within our society is huge," she said. "And being up against those attitudes from the get-go can increase pressure for people to look towards weight loss in an unhealthy and unsustainable manner.

"I had a commenter on TikTok say that she had just delivered her baby and within hours, the midwife talked about how she could get that weight off.

"Coming from someone who works in the health space, when I see people going through this, there would be so many questions I would ask before going into the topic of weight."

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