Is your doctor a little on the chubby side or sporting negative six percent body fat? The answer could influence the way he or she sees your weight and diet. In a study published early this year in the journal Obesity, researchers found that a doctor’s weight had an influence on the way he or she diagnosed and treated patients with obesity.
The study looked at nearly 500 physicians, roughly half of whom qualified as being medically overweight. Nearly all of the doctors brought up weight in conversations with patients with a BMI of 35 or higher, which qualifies them as obese. But doctors whose own BMI was higher than normal were much less likely to discuss weight issues with patients who only qualified as overweight, with a BMI of 25–29.9.
In addition, only 37 percent of doctors who were overweight gave themselves a good rating in their competency to give advice about diet and exercise, whereas 53 percent of normal weight physicians rated themselves as competent. Overweight doctors were also less likely to believe that a patient would follow diet advice.
Are you heavier than your doctor? Interestingly, all of the doctors were more likely to diagnose obesity in patients whose weight was higher than their own. Doctors who judged their patient’s BMI to be equal to or higher than their own diagnosed them with obesity 93 percent of the time.
But they were nearly all reluctant to bring up the topic in the first place. The article strongly suggests that emotions and social prejudices about weight can bleed over into your doctor’s exam room, making it extremely important for patients to take matters into their own hands.
If you are uncertain about your own weight status, find out your BMI and other weight indicators before seeing your doctor. Then, bring the subject up yourself at your next visit. If you’re uncomfortable with the response you get, it may be time to find another doctor.
image: Alex E. Proimos