Sunday, May 15, 2005

Doctors Worry About Obesity Yet Ignore Benefits of Low-Carb

This ABC News report makes a connection between the rapid increase of people looking for effective pain treatments to the rise in obesity rates in the United States.

I can remember when I weighed over 400 pounds and would have several areas of my body suffering from chronic pain. Whether it was in my back, ankles, knees, neck, feet or side, some place or another on my body would constantly be in pain so much so that I couldn't help but be constantly reminded of my obesity problem. Getting out of that pain is an enormous motivating factor for trying to lose weight, too!

The story mentions a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that find more than 60% of Americans are considered overweight. This number has risen at an "alarming rate" by nearly tripling since 1964 when only 23% of Americans were classified as overweight. How did we go from more than three-fourths of the nation being skinny to nearly two-thirds being fat in just 40 years?

I think the way the low-fat diet has been pushed on Americans as the "only" healthy way to lose weight and keep it off has been a major contributor to this problem. While it sounds good to tell people they need to eat a more "healthy" and "balanced" diet, it's just not realistic for medical professionals to expect everyone to be able to follow that kind of eating plan for their entire lives.

That's why I was so glad to find the low-carb lifestyle because it provides a healthy and delicious alternative to the failed low-fat diet craze that swept through the United States in the 1980s. We will not see a change in obesity rates until people are given all the facts about how livin' la vida low-carb can help them. As weight problems continue to grow and grow (all pun intended!), doctors will eventually have to take a closer look at the low-carb lifestyle and recommend their patients begin a low-carb plan to lose weight and restore their health.

Restoring health is the biggest benefit I have seen on my own low-carb journey. I know I have put myself in a better position to not have diabetes, heart disease or chronic pain. These things will not be a problem I will have to deal with in the future.

One nutrition expert who has been in practice since the 1980s said in the article that he doesn't remember seeing many 300-pound patients when he first started treating patients. But now he says 300-pound patients are the norm.

There was a through-provoking quote made in the story by a chronic pain specialist in Pittsburgh.

"I think for many doctors there is a hesitancy to weigh their patients and talk about weight because of the social stigma associated with the obese," said Dawn Marcus, a chronic pain specialist in Pittsburgh. "But if doctors decline to evaluate their patients' weight, they miss a good opportunity to improve their health and get rid of their pain."

Why would a doctor who is allegedly getting paid to help be as healthy as you can be want to deprive you of any information that would get you there? If doctors are hesitant to fully explain the ramifications of carrying around too much weight, then who's gonna do it?

Unfortunately, it's already taboo to tell someone they're fat. When it's put that bluntly, it can be hard to hear (and politically incorrect at that!). But I contend that people need to confront the obese people they love and care about with a message of hope that they can have real success on a low-carb lifestyle. Don't nag them about it or make any idle threats about why they need to lose weight. That tactic won't work in a million years. But sharing about a weight loss method that can help them with their problem will.

A June 2004 study in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that overweight and obese people have a much more difficult time overcoming pain and their lives are adversely affected by it.

Here's an illustration from the article that explains why the link between weight and pain exists:

"It's like carrying a 30- to 40-pound bag on your back when hiking. After just an hour or two, you notice the weight and start feeling pain in your back and joints. The difference is if you're overweight, you can't take it off instantly and say, 'Ooh, I feel so much better now.'"

You can pop all the Tylenol in the world, but it's only going to mask the pain temporarily. The best way to take care of residual pain from carrying around extra weight is to lose it. There are some secondary pains, such as headaches, which happen as a result of being overweight as well. A study in the article notes that a large number of of obese and overweight people miss as many as four days of work every year because of a severe headache brought on by their weight problem.

"The findings suggest that people with obesity were more likely to report frequent, more painful and more debilitating headaches than other groups," a doctor in the study said.

The article also contends that doctors feel helpless about dealing with obesity problems because they don't believe they have been equipped to deal with such issues.

"Sometimes it can be like beating their heads against a wall," a doctor said. "We don't have good tools to treat obesity. Some pharmaceuticals are moderately effective. Counseling can help too, but that requires more time than the average physician can spend with their patients."

This doctor doesn't have a time problem (although they do try to push you out the door within minutes of seeing the doctor!). What he and millions upon millions of other doctors have is a lack of education problem. They have not fully examined the alternatives to a low-fat diet, such as the low-carb lifestyle, and completely bought into everything the AMA tells them regarding "good health" hook, line and sinker. It may go against everything they were ever taught in medical school about health to believe that low-carb is good, but it is essential these doctors get educated so they can help their obese patients.

It is rare to find a doctor these days who has either done his own research or sought out independent medical research that proves the low-carb way of eating is the right choice for most of their patients. This is a travesty considering the American healthcare system is widely considered the best in the world. Doctors can offer their patients much better advice than repeating the lie that their patients have to do low-fat/low-calorie in order to lose and maintain their weight.

Noting a dramatic four-fold increase in the number of weight loss surgeries such as gastric bypass since 1999, doctors are noticing even those are dangerous because of the complications that often arise after the surgery, including continued chronic pain and even death.

My mother had gastric bypass surgery done in December 2003 (just weeks before I started my low-carb lifestyle). Since then, she has lost 120 pounds and looks great. But it wasn't without complications, either. She was hospitalized twice for dehydration and malnutrition. And she'll occasionally have stomach pain when she eats more than her shrunk stomach can handle. There's no way on God's green Earth I would ever do such a surgery myself unless I had tried every other way possible first. Yet, that probably would have been my next consideration after doing Atkins had the low-carb lifestyle failed me. Thankfully, though, livin' la vida low-carb worked to perfection to help me lose weight, keep it off, and be the healthy man I am today.

A quote at the end of the story states: "We need to not be afraid to tell our patients that they're overweight," a doctor said. "It's not like saying 'you're ugly' or 'I don't like you.' It's about telling them about a real medical condition. And it's the only way to begin to help."

Now you're talking. An open and honest discussion between doctors and their patients is the only way the obesity epidemic is ever going to be addressed in this country. Now if we can just get the doctors to recommend low-carb as an option for helping people deal with their weight. What can it hurt since two-thirds of Americans are already overweight or obese despite decades of having the low-fat diet shoved down their throats. The time has come to try something different because what we've been doing has failed miserably. Got low-carb?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your blog today about doctors "fear" of mentioning the obesity word. It touched me personally because I myself was at the doctor about a month ago complaining of high blood pressure. (I gave blood and the tech reported a bp of 180/90. (I'm only 30 years old!) The doc proceeded to go into a long talk with me about my weight and lack of exercise! I was completely irritated and left the office accusing the doctor of 'not doing his job and just blaming my problem on my weight', a doctor cop-out.

But, after I calmed down I realized that he probably just saved my life! I needed to lose weight so I can be around for a while and watch my children grow up! I started Atkins the very next day and I am happy to report I have lost 13 pounds already! (been about 3 weeks) I also got my husband and my mom to join me; and all together, we are down a total of over 35 pounds! WOW. I will be living low carb from now on. I enjoy your blog, and thank for pointing out that doctors need to be blunt. (although at the time it may seem like a jab at you personally!) ~H

5/15/2005 2:29 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANK YOU for sharing your story with me. I am sure many can relate to your experience with the doctor "laying it on the line" with you regarding your weight.

I have an unbelievable experience regarding a visit to my doctor last year just a few months after beginning my low-carb lifestyle that will blow you away. Unfortunately, I've already put that story in my book and don't want to spill the beans here just yet.

Just know that it was one of the best things that could have happened to me, although it was very devastating at the time. You are an inspiration to me and I wish you many years of continued success as you and your husband are livin' la vida low-carb.


5/15/2005 3:20 PM  

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