Your Overweight Doctor Might Not Be Giving You the Best Advice

doctorWould you take weight-loss advice from a doctor who could stand to lose a few (or maybe more than a few) pounds him- or herself? Interestingly, if your doctor is overweight, he or she might not actually give you the chance to make that call. A new nationwide survey of primary care physicians has found that doctors who have a normal body mass index (BMI) are more likely to discuss weight-loss with patients who are overweight or obese than doctors who are themselves overweight or obese. Overweight and obese doctors also said they felt less confident giving patients advice on diet and exercise. In other words, a physician's own body weight may affect the care he or she gives patients.

Are we surprised by this?

Advertisement

Of course, if you were obese and a doctor, you might feel kind of sheepish lecturing someone else about weight. That makes total sense. But the study results also make you wonder about other ways doctors might shape their advice and care based not only on accepted medical guidelines, but also on their own experiences and predilections.

For instance, the (wonderful) OB/GYN who saw me through my second pregnancy was pretty dismissive about a lot of my worries about what foods I should and shouldn't eat while I was pregnant. She told me that, for pretty much every day of her pregnancy, she ate the same lunch: a PB&J sandwich and a Diet Coke. That's probably not the advice she was supposed to give me, but you know what? I appreciated it. I liked that, in addition to the standard medical advice, she gave me her own personal perspective as well. It seemed ... human -- and more than a little helpful. (She knew I wasn't going to go out and do -- or eat or drink -- something crazy and possibly seriously damaging. She was just giving me a reality check based on her own experience. Mom to mom. Person to person.)

In fact, if I were overweight or obese, I might actually prefer to take advice about weight loss from a doctor I knew had struggled with his or her own weight as opposed to one who had never had to give his or her slim belly and trim hips a second thought. Yes, even if that doctor did not seem to be -- just at that moment -- winning that battle. At least an overweight doctor would understand that weight loss, though advisable, is not easy!

Sure, I suppose if the doctor was very obese, it might be hard to take his or her weight-loss advice totally seriously. You might think, yeah, right, and look how well that's working for you! But bottom line: Doctors are human. We should cut them some slack. And it sounds like a lot of them might need to start cutting themselves a little slack as well.

Would you be comfortable taking weight-loss advice from an overweight or obese doctor?


Image via Truthout.org/Flickr

Read More >