How Do I Talk to my Doctor About my Weight? (RETHINKING OBESITY Part 2 of 5)Oct 09, 2023
As an obesity physician, I'm on a mission to empower individuals with the knowledge and mindset needed for sustainable weight loss and a healthier life.
That’s why I started a new podcast series called RETHINKING OBESITY on the High on Life podcast. In my latest episode, I get into what I really mean when I say obesity is a medical condition. I also share the challenges individuals face in addressing it, and how healthcare providers can better support patients.
Today, I want to share the key takeaways from this value-packed episode.
This podcast episode is part 2 of my 5-part series called RE-THINKING OBESITY.
Listen here if you missed part 1.
Obesity Is a Medical Condition, Not a Character Flaw
The first and most crucial point is that obesity is not a character flaw or a result of poor lifestyle choices. It is a genuine medical condition. Far too often, individuals living with obesity carry an unjustified burden of shame and stigma. As a society, we need to change the narrative surrounding obesity.
Understanding that obesity is a medical condition is essential. Just like any other chronic illness, such as diabetes or hypertension, obesity requires medical attention, not judgment. The sooner we acknowledge this fact, the sooner we can provide effective treatment and support to those affected.
Discussing Weight with Healthcare Providers
One startling fact I shared in the episode is that it takes an average of 11 years for someone living with obesity to discuss their weight with a healthcare provider. This statistic, based on the "Action Study" from Canada, highlights a significant issue within our healthcare system.
This delay in addressing obesity is problematic because obesity is a chronic and progressive condition. The earlier we intervene, the better the outcomes can be. It's not about manipulating body weight; it's about managing excess adiposity to improve overall health. Delaying diagnosis and treatment only leads to poorer outcomes for individuals.
Who is Responsible?
The "Action Study" also shed light on how people perceive responsibility for obesity. Shockingly, 74% of participants believed that obesity management was entirely the individual's responsibility. This mindset leads to self-blame and the mistaken belief that more willpower, dieting, or exercise will magically solve the problem.
Furthermore, the study revealed that a majority of healthcare providers shared this perspective. This common perception creates a significant barrier to effective treatment. When individuals think it's solely their fault, they may not seek help, and when doctors believe it's solely a matter of diet and exercise, they miss crucial opportunities to provide comprehensive care.
Advocating for Yourself with Healthcare Providers
If you are living with overweight or obesity, it's essential to advocate for yourself when discussing your weight with your doctor.
Here are some steps to consider:
1. Book a separate medical appointment
Obesity is a complex issue that deserves dedicated time and attention. Booking a separate appointment ensures you can have a thorough discussion without rushing.
2. Ask for support
When discussing your weight with your doctor, express your desire for their support in treating obesity effectively. Be clear about your struggles and your commitment to improving your health.
3. Seek referrals
If your doctor is not well-versed in obesity management or exhibits weight bias, don't be afraid to ask for a referral to an obesity specialist. Remember, it's your health, and you deserve the best care possible.
4. Understand your needs
Before your appointment, reflect on whether you need nutrition knowledge, help implementing lifestyle changes, support for mental health, or medical treatment. Being clear about your needs will help you and your doctor make informed decisions.
Guidance for Healthcare Providers
For healthcare providers, broaching the topic of obesity can be challenging, but it's essential for the well-being of your patients.
Here's how you can approach the conversation:
1. Ask for permission
Start by asking your patient if it's okay to discuss their weight. Respect their autonomy and comfort level.
2. Educate without blame
Provide a brief education about obesity as a chronic medical condition. Assure your patient that it's not their fault and that there are effective treatments available.
Work with your patient to develop a treatment plan tailored to their needs. Address their concerns and goals, and involve them in decision-making.
4. Refer when necessary
If you feel uncomfortable managing obesity or believe your patient would benefit from specialized care, don't hesitate to refer them to an obesity specialist or a multidisciplinary team.
Lastly, whether you're a patient or a healthcare provider, it's crucial to understand where you need help. Not everyone requires the same approach to obesity management. If you already possess nutrition knowledge but struggle with implementing changes, you may need support in behaviour change and psychology. Consider seeking help from therapists or psychologists skilled in cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, or dialectical behavioural therapy.
This conversation reminds us that obesity is a medical condition that deserves empathy, understanding, and effective treatment. Whether you're living with obesity or a healthcare provider, it's time to change the conversation and provide the support needed for healthier lives.
Let's work together to destigmatize obesity, offer compassionate care, and empower individuals to make informed choices about their health.
In the next part of the RETHINKING OBESITY Series, we will be discussing the tests and bloodwork used during an obesity assessment. Subscribe and download to the High on Life podcast on your favourite podcast provider to never miss an episode!
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