What does an overweight or obese person expect from their doctor?
The morning hosts of my local talk radio station were discussing the topic of lying this week after a new survey was released that shows most Americans believe there are times when telling a fib or two is okay. So, being the devoted caller with an opinion (gee, imagine that!) to share, I used this opportunity to call them up to discuss the issue of how doctors habitually LIE to their patients about their weight problem and that I believe it is actually perpetuating the obesity problem by making it much worse than it needs to be.
Both hosts immediately chided me saying that most doctors they know are VERY responsive to the needs of their patients, especially the ones who are overweight or obese, by providing them with medical advice about how to deal with their health issues. I responded back to them that those days are changing because of the ultra-sensitivity that some doctors have these days about hurting their patient's feelings by calling them "fat" or "obese." That's exactly what got this doctor into hot water last year just because he was willing to be honest with his patient about her weight problem.
Now there's new evidence that shows this "wussification" is running rampant worldwide as more and more doctors either don't or won't tell their overweight and obese patients how to deal with their very real medical problem threatening to destroy their health. This The Age story reports on research out of Australia which shows doctors are not helping their patients near enough with dietary and activity advice because they just don't have the time to devote to it.
Lead researcher Dr. Daisy Tan, advanced academic general practioner registrar at Fairfield Hospital in Sydney, Australia, surveyed 227 patients while they were in the waiting room of their doctor's office to poll them about their expectations regarding the medical advice that would be provided to them that day.
Although 81 percent of the patients who were a part of the survey were considered obese, about one-third (28 percent) of them said their doctor had NOT told them that they need to lose weight.
ONE IN THREE HAVEN'T EVEN BEEN CONFRONTED ABOUT THEIR OBESITY?!?!?! Sheez, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Doctors not only have the right, but I believe it is their responsibility to share their concerns with their patients about a major health problem, which most definitely includes being overweight or obese. This is so very disappointing.
During my conversation with the morning radio talk show, I brought up how my doctor NEVER ONCE told me I needed to lose weight when I weighed 410 pounds. Both hosts responded incredulously stating that their doctors almost always tell them about their need for weight loss and that I must have a bad doctor or something. I don't think so because this is a trend that is showing up more and more in the United States and around the world.
If doctors truly cared about their patients, as I'm sure they will tell you that they do, then I believe nothing is gonna discourage them from sharing the truth with their patients about their weight issues. Or, let's just say, THEY SHOULDN'T! Had I been encouraged by my doctor to begin losing weight years ago, then perhaps I wouldn't have gotten to weigh over 400 pounds or, as in the case of Manuel Uribe, over 1200 pounds before deciding to FINALLY do something about my weight problem.
Of everything that was discussed during my conversation with the radio talk show hosts, one thing really stood out in my mind that I've been itching to tell you about here all week. The host said, "But didn't you realize you were fat without your doctor needing to tell you that?" I get this question posed to me from time to time by people who obviously don't understand what it's like when you get that big. There's a whole host of psychological factors that come into play.
Did I know I was fat? Duh, of course I did! It was hard to ignore all of the signs, including that big tumor protruding out the front of my body know as my 62-inch belly! But what I didn't know was that my weight was progressively getting heavier and heavier to the point that I was in complete denial about just how bad my weight problem had gotten.
Case in point is my brother Kevin. I was talking to my dad on the telephone the other night about Kevin and he told me that Kevin recently told him that he weighs 350 pounds. When I heard that, it took my breath away at the revelation that my own full-blooded brother was deep in his denial about his weight problem. I told dad that Kevin probably weighs closer to 600 pounds and that he is simply not owning up to the reality of his weight. This is a common problem among the obese which makes it harder and harder to help them. That's why I talk about this subject so much in my book because it is one of the keys to helping people triumph over their weight problems like I did.
One encouraging thing about Kevin's situation is that he has read my book about my weight loss now and is going to try to begin losing weight by livin' la vida low-carb. WELL IT'S ABOUT TIME, BRO! With multiple heart attacks, hospitalizations, a tumultuous personal life that includes a recent divorce, and a severely weakened heart that doctors have said may only last until the end of the year, this may very well be Kevin's last great hope for survival from his morbid obesity. Please continue to pray for a miraculous healing in his life. I love my brother, but he's eating himself to an early grave.
My brother's sad story is precisely why this issue about doctors advising their patients about their weight is so significant to me. It hits home and very well could have led me down the same path as Kevin had I not figured this weight loss thing out for myself. Sure, others could do the same thing that I did and start educating themselves about good nutrition, but most people are unwilling to invest the time and energy it takes to do that.
The survey included 70 patients who were were considered overweight, but just one in five of them had received any weight loss advice at all. It makes me wonder out loud if the "eat a healthy diet" or "eat a balanced diet" lecture was getting so old that the doctors just stopped bothering with it.
What a crying shame, although most physicians never move away from the failed low-fat/low-calorie/portion-control dietary advice they've been giving to their patients for decades. This is disturbing since over 80 percent of the patients automatically accept the eating and fitness advice from their doctor as the best solutions for dealing with their weight and at least attempt to follow them. Additionally, over three-fourths (78 percent) desire regular follow-up visits for their doctor to monitor their progress.
There are a few brave physicians who have kept up with the latest advances in medical science regarding the low-carb nutritional approach, including that it has been found to be the BEST diet for treating the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, there are still too many doctors taking the lazy way out by just ignoring the problem or throwing dangerous diet pills or risky weight loss surgeries like LAP-BAND at them as the ONLY solutions to their weight problem which has the effect of discouraging some people from even TRYING to lose weight. How very sad indeed! :(
According to Tan's study, nearly eight out of ten patients EXPECT their general practitioner to help them do something about their weight. But less than half (46 percent) feel their doctors are investing enough time with this issue to address it.
Interestingly, Dr. Tan said most of the patients surveyed said they would prefer to hear from their doctor how natural remedies can help them lose weight over taking drugs or being referred to a dietitian (most of whom despise the low-carb lifestyle and would more than likely put them on that same old low-fat/low-calorie/portion-control diet that we all know works so well. NOT!).
This study was published in the July 17, 2006 issue of The Medical Journal of Australia.
The results of her survey have certainly raised some eyebrows and Dr. Tan said doctors should heed these "interesting" results as an opportunity to be bolder about helping their patients overcome their weight problems once and for all.
"[This study] may indicate that general practitioners should be more proactive in instituting preventive health measures," she concluded.
Ya think? We are on a very unstable slippery slope at the moment with medical professionals trying to keep from being sued by their patients for slander for calling them a euphemism for "being fat" while also trying to treat these same patients for conditions that would improve if they would just lose some weight. Sigh.
There are no easy answers to these issues, but I do believe doctors should stop beating around the bush about their patients' weight problems and start offering them multiple options for attacking the obesity issue with individualized methods that work well for the individual. The decades-old "one-size-fits-all" mentality of the low-fat diet is the biggest joke of our lifetime, but now we know better. I don't believe low-carb is for everyone, but we need to begin helping people find their way to manage their weight and keep it off for good. Isn't this a cause worth pursuing? I definitely think so and so should your doctor.
Best of all, the doctors and patients will both be pleased with the end result!