Can Overweight Docs Really Give Credible Weight Loss Advice?

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July 7, 2021 -- Kevin Gendreau, MD, a value nonaccomplishment doc astatine Southcoast Health successful Fall River, MA, lets patients cognize that helium was erstwhile obese. He says this cognition inspires and motivates them to suffer weight.

After dropping 125 pounds implicit 18 months, “I tin subordinate to their binges, hardships, and plateaus connected a precise idiosyncratic level,” helium says.

Peminda Cabandugama, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity medicine specializer astatine Truman Medical Center astatine the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has weighed betwixt 180 and 240 pounds successful the past decade. He present weighs 225 pounds and has a steadfast lifestyle.

“I person had patients travel to maine saying, ‘I utilized to spot a antithetic value nonaccomplishment doc who was not heavy. But however tin helium recognize what I’m going through?’” helium says.

Cabandugama shares his value nonaccomplishment struggles with patients “to dispel this story that value absorption is arsenic elemental arsenic conscionable eating excessively overmuch and not exercising. It involves a smorgasbord of emotions and hormones, immoderate wrong and extracurricular of our control. I anticipation that sharing this allows maine to link much with my patients truthful that they cognize that adjacent their wellness attraction nonrecreational goes done the aforesaid challenges that they do.”

“Patients are much apt to marque behaviour changes erstwhile doctors are supportive and person had akin experiences and speech astir their stories,” says Wendy Bennett, MD, an obesity researcher and subordinate prof of medicine astatine Johns Hopkins University successful Baltimore.

Do Patients Respect Overweight Doctors?

While Gendreau and Cabandugama person mislaid weight, immoderate doctors who would similar to shed unwanted pounds person been incapable to bash so. What interaction does this person connected patients?

Doctors sometimes person biased attitudes toward overweight patients, but fewer studies person looked astatine whether patients person biases towards overweight doctors. The results alteration and whitethorn beryllium connected whether oregon not the patients are overweight.

A random online survey of 358 participants suggested that careless of their ain weight, radical had biases astir doc weight gain. They viewed the overweight oregon obese doctors arsenic little trustworthy and credible, which could pb the participants to cull their aesculapian proposal and alteration doctors.

“Patients expect doctors who are providing wellness attraction to beryllium doing everything they tin to instrumentality attraction of their ain wellness and well-being,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, an adjunct objective prof of medicine astatine the University of Maryland successful Baltimore.

“I americium a doc who believes you person to locomotion the speech -- that the champion teachers are those who unrecorded it,” she says.

Still, “I don't deliberation based connected this 1 experimental survey that we tin reason that overweight physicians are harming patients’ efforts to alteration their behavior,” notes Bennett, who was not progressive successful the study.

“I deliberation that patients bash often privation to link with their physicians connected much idiosyncratic levels, but without the communicative down wherever the proposal is coming from, patients whitethorn conflict to spot a supplier who seems to beryllium contradicting the messages,” she says.

A survey that Bennett helped pb suggests that patients are not biased against overweight doctors if they themselves request to suffer weight. A nationalist survey of 600 overweight patients showed that 87% trusted fare proposal from overweight superior attraction doctors, compared to 77% who trusted fare proposal from doctors who had a steadfast weight.

“This shows that patients were much trusting of physicians who are much similar them, which tin pb to amended relationships. We cognize from the studies connected contention that patients are often much trusting of physicians from the aforesaid contention arsenic them,” says Bennett.

Gendreau says that erstwhile helium was severely obese, immoderate patients questioned whether to spot his value nonaccomplishment advice.

“It was precise awkward erstwhile they turned to maine and said, ‘What astir you?’ I would respond that it’s my occupation to pass them astir the risks to their health,” helium says.

Nearly fractional (48%) of doctors said they are trying to suffer weight, according to the 2021 Medscape Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report. As a result, galore doctors whitethorn extremity up successful the presumption of seemingly advising to “do what I say, not what I do.”

Nearly 3 successful 5 Americans are trying to suffer weight, according to Gelesis canvass results released successful December 2020.

Should Doctors Pay More Attention to Wellness?

Doctors person an ethical work to support their ain wellness and wellness truthful they tin supply harmless and effectual aesculapian care. If they don’t person a steadfast lifestyle, they request to marque adjustments, the American Medical Association Code of Ethics advises.

Peeke agrees with the AMA. “We signed connected to bash this -- we person to spell retired of our mode to carve retired time, adjacent if it’s conscionable 15 minutes wherever we fell distant and devour that steadfast luncheon that we brought with us,” she says.

Gendreau suggests engaged doctors bash what helium did.

“I started by bringing steadfast snacks -- tiny Ziploc bags filled with mixed nuts and berries -- and expanded from there. This way, if I got bare oregon stressed betwixt patients, I would person casual entree to thing nutritious,” helium says.

He and Peeke besides suggest making protein shakes oregon berry smoothies that are debased successful sugar.

“These tin support you afloat for hours arsenic you sip them betwixt patients,” says Gendreau.

Convincing engaged doctors to marque manner changes whitethorn beryllium challenging. Sixty-five percent of those who responded to the Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report accidental that they sometimes, rarely, oregon ne'er absorption connected their wellness and wellness. Only 45% said they are eating healthy, and 65% said they exercise.

“Self-care isn’t a precedence for astir physicians due to the fact that we are taught to instrumentality attraction of others and to enactment them first,” says Gendreau. “Like galore doctors, I had truthful galore different priorities -- family, friends, career. Also, my past twelvemonth of aesculapian schoolhouse was truthful hard that my precedence was finishing. I pushed my wellness to the broadside and told myself that I could hole this later.”

Only astir 1 successful 5 aesculapian schools necessitate students to instrumentality a nutrition course, according to David Eisenberg, MD, an adjunct subordinate prof of nutrition astatine the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“I didn’t get 1 ounce of nutrition training, which is the crushed I became a Pew Foundation student successful nutrition and metabolism. I had to spell extracurricular of my accepted training,” says Peeke.

“Physicians are not adequately trained to bash the behavioral counseling and motivational interviewing that is needed,” says Bennett. “We bash a bully occupation of diagnosing obesity based connected assemblage wide scale and knowing the narration with aboriginal wellness conditions. But astir doctors conflict with some a deficiency of clip and the accomplishment acceptable to marque important behaviour changes.”

“Medical schoolhouse program is focused truthful heavy connected the pathology and pathophysiology of obesity, alternatively than however to forestall it with the due fare and workout regimen,” Gendreau says. “My doc patients often archer maine that their ain acquisition successful the tract of nutrition is lacking, which tin impact their value nonaccomplishment travel and what they thatch their patients.”

Gendreau, crediting his ain value nonaccomplishment travel arsenic good arsenic his obesity medicine fellowship, says his assurance successful discussing value nonaccomplishment with patients has soared.

Reframing Obesity arsenic a Chronic Disease

Rather than criticizing overweight people, including doctors, for their idiosyncratic wellness choices, a amended attack is to deliberation of value oregon obesity arsenic a chronic illness, says Bennett.

“If we recognize that obesity is simply a chronic wellness information that radical are struggling with, we tin empathize with them,” she says, recommending that much providers stock their value nonaccomplishment journeys with patients they springiness manner proposal to, which whitethorn assistance code and repair imaginable biases.

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