The New York Times published a piece this week entitled “Healthier Than Thou: When Your Doctor Is Fitter Than You Are”.
The article references research that overweight or obese patients may feel like their clinician is judging them based on their bad habits. This stems from Physician profiles on websites where you can review not only your potential Doctor’s credentials but also their philosophies on life and health. The Doctors that listed things such as “I practice what I preach by maintaining a healthy lifestyle” or ” I enjoy working out at the gym” were considered by some patients to be taking the moral high ground and unapproachable. They go so far as to compare this to how meat eaters may feel vegans judge their diet.
It should rethink blanket recommendations that providers need to practice and demonstrate healthy habits in their own lives to be effective.
Instead, it should realize that doctors who don’t advertise healthy lifestyles may appear more approachable to some patients.
To me, this is completely asinine. Why do I say this? There is my opinion and then there are the facts.
- Opinion: Most of us have been to a gym. Have you ever gone to a gym and had a trainer give you workout advice? If a trainer was in good shape would you be more inclined to heed their advice on your health and fitness as opposed to a trainer who was not in good shape? I have been in both situations. And I can tell you, the out of shape trainer who could not reach parallel with a squat was not encouraging. After all it was his job to help me be in shape and encourage me to be healthy.
- Facts: It is your Doctor’s one and only JOB to help you be healthy. That is it. That is what you are literally paying them for. Not to be your friend, not to make you feel better about poor life choices. After decades of research, not one person can argue the fact that exercise and a healthy diet contribute to a healthier person. I do not know a Doctor that would argue that fact. It would be against your best interest as a patient for your Doctor not to encourage this, whether you are overweight or not. Another example: Would you truly trust a Doctor sitting outside his office smoking while telling you “cigarettes cause cancer”? I want my Doctor to be fit and to encourage me to be fit.
Is it fun for an overweight person to go to the Doctor and hear they should be exercising and making some dietary changes? No. But has going to the Doctor ever really been fun? (well, when you get Botox it’s fun). When our Doctors start to be more concerned about not seeming too “fit” so as not to turn patients off or not hurting their patients feelings, they are not doing their job to the best of their ability. Rather than being embarrassed or leaving with hurt feelings, acknowledge that maybe they are on to something and consider making some changes in your lifestyle choices. Ask your Doctor for some recommendations on diet and exercise.
For all of the comments I see that mention a pre-existing condition that make it difficult to work out or lose weight, this is your DOCTOR we are talking about here. Not someone judging you from behind a computer screen on Faceboook. They should be aware of your medical conditions and you should have an open dialogue with them and be comfortable to discuss all health concerns with them. I do understand that some Doctors are not open and friendly and warm. In this situation I do suggest you find another Doctor as another important part of your Physician-Patient relationship is open and candid dialogue when it comes to your health or any other medical concerns.
Check out the original article here.