Friday, February 15, 2019

Weight is not simple.

I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.

I’ve partnered with Med-IQ several times; they’re an accredited medical education company that works with physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. As I am a professor of public health, this partnership is a great fit. The topic this time is about obesity. Specifically, that a positive and supportive healthcare provider and broader community are important to successful weight management.

Here’s what I mean by that; there are physicians who, when treating patients who are overweight or have obesity, see the weight more than they see the patient. Example:

Me: All my kids have strep and my throat is on fire and I have a fever. 
Doctor: Let’s talk about your weight.

or

Me: I’d like a PAP smear, please.
Doctor: Your weight is going to cause future health problems.

[end scene]

Here’s the deal, I teach public health. I understand that I need to lose weight and I understand why. The road to the body I currently have was long and winding and involved three kids, and the road back to a BMI that doesn’t trigger these sorts of conversations will likely be long and complicated as well. 

Is it responsible for physicians to work with me on my weight? Yes. To make sure it’s on my radar and help me develop a plan for managing it? Yes, absolutely. But should they ignore the salient health issues I am currently dealing with and redirect everything to their concerns about weight? No. Diagnosing me with strep throat has nothing to do with my weight. Providing a standard cancer screening test has nothing to do with my BMI.

On the few occasions when this has happened, it made me feel certain that my doctor was less concerned with who I was and why I was there, than with their own preconceived ideas about what my weight meant. That doesn’t make them bad doctors, not at all. It just makes them bad for me

So now I see a general practitioner who works with me on both my overall health and whatever it is that may have brought me into his office on that particular day. He refers me to resources and support, and in sum, sees me as a whole patient and whole person. He’s the best. It took a while to find him, though, and I suggest that – if your experiences with a medical provider reflect my examples rather than the doctor I have now - you find yourself a new physician. 

It’s important for a variety of reasons, but paramount among them is that successful weight loss is a complicated and long-term process. If you’re going to start down this road, you need a doctor with whom you can communicate honestly and who understands that this is a multi-faceted problem with many causes and many possible solutions. If you’re working with someone who makes you feel judged or ashamed, you’re likely just going to avoid getting the medical attention you need and making the behavior changes that will improve your health.

(If you’re looking for more information on obesity, how to manage it, or how to find a provider - see the links below.)

There’s a survey you, guys! It includes further education on the topic and will take less than 15 minutes. 


Once you've completed the survey, you will be asked to provide your email address if you’d like to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $50 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize. 

Survey responses are anonymous and will be shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with obesity and your care team, which will help them develop future educational initiatives for healthcare providers to improve care.


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