Have you ever been seen by a physician who was obviously overweight?
Or a better question might be, do you think you would receive quality weight loss advice from an overweight physician?
If your answer is NO, a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath says you would be right.
In fact, based on this study1, even if you are overweight… you just might not receive any weight loss advice at all!
How Many Doctors Are Actually Overweight?
Physicians, like much of the American population, are not immune to weight loss challenges. A recent study of male physicians revealed that 44 percent of them were overweight and 6 percent were obese.2
What this means is that 50% of male doctors are above a normal, healthy weight. I apologize that we do not have good data on female physicians (it could be a different story).
And I am not beating up on doctors (I am one). Doctors have a very hectic lifestyle and high levels of stress.
Doctors are susceptible to the same triggers for overeating and sedentary behavior as the rest of the population (e.g. stress at home, skipping meals, grabbing junk food at the office).3
Why it Matters: The Relativity of Obesity Diagnosis
According to this study, the chance of doctors diagnosing an obese patient as obese was only 7% if they perceived themselves as having an “equal to” or higher Body Mass Index (BMI) than the patient.
On the other hand, if the doctors perceived themselves as having a lower BMI than the obese patient, the likelihood of the diagnoses was 93%.
A big difference…
As troubling as this is, it does make sense that a doctor might feel uncomfortable telling someone thinner than they are that they have an obesity problem. It is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.
The difference in BMI even affects the chosen weight loss remedy. According to Sara Bleich,
PhD, lead author of the study,
In short, a normal BMI doctor is more likely to recommend a change in diet and exercise, while an overweight doctor is more likely to prescribe dangerous prescription weight loss medications.
Even Thin Doctors Aren’t Providing Much Help
The Bleich study also reveals that only 30% of normal BMI doctors engage their patients in weight loss discussions. Overweight doctors engaged in this conversation only 18% of the time.
Either way, for a nation undergoing an “obesity epidemic” this is simply not enough.
What Does This Mean For You?
If you or a family member has weight issues, it might be a good idea to make sure your primary care physician does not also have weight problems. This is not to say that an overweight doctor can’t help you, it is just more likely that a doctor who does not have a weight problem might provide better support.
Also, when you do find this doctor, make sure to ask questions about your weight…
Final Note About Weight Loss Advice from Anyone – Including Doctors
Ultimately, this study sheds light on two key insights about the medical profession and weight loss advice in general:
1) Even where dietary advice is given, doctors are not generally trained in this area – nor are they well versed in nutrition.
Many doctors are rushed, busy and barely have time to see patients at all – much less help them create personalized dietary/exercise programs that would lead to long-term results.
Not to mention the fact that even in cases where time is not a limiting factor, the medical profession at large has traditionally not placed a high priority on training doctors in the areas of diet, weight loss or nutrition. So most will simply regurgitate the most basic or traditional dietary guidelines, which are often outdated or simplistic at best.
Which leads me to the second insight…
2) Regardless of who you get advice from, it is YOU who must be proactive about your diet and health.
Nobody else is going to do it for you. In my own experience, people who have seen the greatest results were inevitably the most proactive. They eagerly and actively sought out the best information, evaluated claims with a critical eye, and then implemented what they learned until they saw change.
The good news is, the fact that you’re reading articles like this one already says a lot about you.
Keep it up! Continue to be discerning about the science that backs up any program or claim – and once you feel satisfied, take action in your own life.
Information like we covered today – as well as what you’ll find in our Fat Loss Fast Start Program – can give you a head start. The rest is up to you!
In the comments below, I’d love for you to tell me one way you think you could be more proactive about your own weight loss efforts or health in general. Make it specific – something you can take action on.
Don’t leave your health in anyone else’s hands… it’s up to you.
Dr. Steve Sisskind
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.
I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!
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1. Bleich SN, et al. Impact of Physician BMI on Obesity Care and Beliefs. Obesity 2012; DOI:10.1038/oby.2011.402.
2. Ajani UA, Lotufo PA, Gaziano JM, et al. Body Mass Index and Mortality Among US Male Physicians. Ann Epidemiol. 2004;14 (10): 731-739.
3. LaPuma J, Szapary P, Maki K. Predictors of Physician Overweight and Obesity in the USA: an Empiric Analysis. Nutr Food Sci. 2005;35 (5): 315-319.