Friday, February 17, 2012

Physician, step on the scale!

Time magazine recently offered up an interesting fact: Doctors who are a healthy weight are more likely to talk to you about your weight than doctors who are overweight.

In a Mayo Clinic study about how doctors cared for their overweight patients, 30 percent of doctors who were a healthy weight brought up the subject, but only 18 percent of overweight or obese doctors addressed the topic. And who can blame them? If I were the patient, I know what I'd be thinking: Hypocrite!

That's exactly what the players of a major league baseball team were thinking when their team doctor started opining about matters of health and fitness. In How We Did It, I talked with Dr. Ken Romeo, a sports doc, who recalls how a player stopped one of his lectures with a few well-chosen words.

"Why should we listen to you, doc? You're fat!" the player accused.

At 315 pounds and wearing a 4X shirt, the doctor clearly had a weight problem. But, like most of us, he had never really seen his weight for what it was. We focus on features or character traits we think compensate for -- even hide -- our extra pounds... a pretty face, say, or a flamboyant personality.

Dr. Romeo suspected he might be fooling himself in this way. So he decided on a dramatic test. He took a brown paper grocery bag, cut out two holes for his eyes and put the bag over his head. Then, he looked in the mirror. This time, the mirror didn't lie. "I am fat!" he concluded.

Fortunately, Dr. Romeo took charge of the situation. He went on to lose 115 pounds using first the Atkins diet and then the Pritikin diet. He stopped smoking, too!

I wonder what he and his patients are talking about these days.

But what gives with the 30 percent figure anyway? That means more than two-thirds of healthy weight doctors aren't talking about weight issues, which--forgive me if I'm wrong here--also happen to be health issues.

When I was 30 pounds overweight and climbing, my doctor (a healthy weight woman) gave me my annual physicals and never said a word about my weight. Until one year, as she was literally going out the door of the exam room, and had her back to me, she said, "Watch the fats!" It wasn't a very helpful "conversation," to say the least. Would I have appreciated a more frank confrontation? I don't know. Would you?


  1. I've had many doctors talk to me about my weight in the past. So much that I was scared enough to take action. Doctors really need to learn HOW to go about it if they are going to do it though. I had many devastating appointments, and even after having lost 80 lbs. many doctors don't even acknowledge it, so it goes both ways. But it's lifesaving information to receive and they should be informing their patients.

    I wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog! I enjoyed reading your book! :)

  2. You are SO RIGHT, Alissa! Not only do they need to learn how to talk about weight, but they absolutely need to acknowledge a patient's weight loss! On a visit to my doctor after losing 30 pounds, I expected to hear some encouraging comment. I was so proud and eager to hear her congratulations. NOT A WORD! After a few visits, I finally pointed to my chart and said, "Look what I did!" Still, no reaction. The lesson I learned is that you can't look to others to validate your accomplishments. You have to congratulate yourself! No one is more vested in your success than you are.

    Thanks again for your kind words about my book on your blog. I'm glad you found it helpful and enjoyable. I'll check in now and again to see how you're doing. You'll be heading for Hawaii before you know it!