The Fat Lady’s Lament: Cushings’ Survivors’ Stories of Navigating Implicit Bias around Obesity

Cecelia A. Ottenweller (Independent Folklorist)

Cushing’s syndrome – a rare endocrine disorder that floods the body with cortisol – disfigures by causing sufferers to gain tremendous amounts of weight, amongst other symptoms. 13 million people are diagnosed annually; women are five times more likely than men to have it. Due to implicit bias in medicine, Cushing’s is often needlessly fatal due to failure to diagnose. This paper brings together the stories of Cushing’s syndrome patents and their caregivers to reveal the deeply-rooted attitudes and beliefs about fat bodies within the wider culture and American medicine and demonstrates how these beliefs rob people of dignity, agency, and community.

Part of 05-08 Sounding Board I, Friday, October 14, 10:30 am–12:30 pm