If you want to lose weight this year, you may want to consider consulting with a physician who’s BMI is within normal limits. According to a national cross-sectional survey of over 500 primary care physicians in the United States, those who struggle to maintain a healthy weight themselves are much less inclined to help others fight the battle of the bulge.
In most cases, it’s not that they don’t want to. Instead, it’s more likely that they either lack the confidence in themselves or feel that because of their own weight struggles, they assume that most patients won’t take them that seriously. Normal weight physicians feel similarly about their overweight colleagues and feel as though they themselves are better role models for patients. Whether this is truly the case or not, it really doesn’t matter. And although not all physicians are well-equipped to deal with weight management issues, it’s not fair or appropriate to assume that a doctor knows less because their weight isn’t ideal. It’s also not appropriate to assume that physicians who are at a healthy weight are better equipped to counsel their patients on nutrition and exercise-related matters.
The biggest difference between healthy weight and overweight or obese physicians and their ability to counsel patients on weight loss is their confidence. This confidence, if wielded appropriately, can be very beneficial to patients. It can help physicians be more comfortable in bringing up the topic of weight loss and seek out resources that their patients can use on a regular basis to achieve their ideal weight. This confidence can also be detrimental if physicians aren’t careful. Being confident is not the same as being knowledgeable. There are many ways for individuals to lose weight and not all of them are healthy. Additionally, what works for the physician who is at a healthy BMI may not necessarily work for someone else. More important than confidence is a physician’s ability to counsel on what they know and defer to other experts in the field on topics that they are less familiar with.
Unlike normal weight physicians, obese doctors were found to be more likely to prescribe medications and report weight loss success. This may mean that with proper resources and a little confidence boost, these physicians could possibly be their patients’ best advocate and, because they can relate to the struggle they are going through, possibly more effective.
By providing additional education and helping physicians become more aware of the resources they have available to them, patients and the physicians themselves could all benefit. Encouraging overweight and obese physicians to get serious about their health may improve their confidence with patients and enhance their own eating practices.