Junkfood Science: “Just lose weight” — another story

July 02, 2007

“Just lose weight” — another story

Our local station just re-ran a June 15th episode of The View featuring an interview with Grace Anne Koppel, Ted Koppel’s wife. Her story illustrated the troubling persistence of fat prejudice among healthcare providers. If you are considered "overweight" and go to the doctor with a concern, regardless of how famous, beautiful or successful you are or aren't, you may be told to just lose weight.

Mrs. Koppel explained that she went for a complete physical in 2001 because she couldn’t walk for half a block without needing to stop and catch her breath. At the end of the physical, her doctor simply told her “lose ten pounds and you’ll feel like a new woman.” She said she was not given a simple breathing test that she now knows is available in every community and would have diagnosed her problem.

While on vacation with her family, she couldn’t even walk three steps and was gasping to breathe. Her breathing was noisy and difficult. Rushing to Mayo Clinic, it was only then that she was given a breathing test and discovered she had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Her COPD had progressed so far that she was given five years to live.

Treatment and early diagnosis, she said, can help to slow progression of the disease. Six years later, she is now doing well and said she’s no longer on continuous oxygen. She was urging people who have shortness of breath or a persistent cough and aren’t able to do the things they used to do, to go to the doctor and ask for a breathing test (pulmonary function test).

She should have added: And don’t let them tell you it’s just because you’re fat.

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