The clinical weight loss industry has been abuzz lately over a recently published report conducted by the John Hopkins University out of Baltimore, Maryland. This study involved surveys from over 500 randomly selected physicians, with the purpose of trying to determine weight loss advice and types of treatments overweight doctors might prescribe versus a physician of normal weight. The results showed that obese or overweight doctors are less likely to discuss the need for patients to lose weight, despite the fact that weight loss may be instrumental in their health.
The study found that 30% of participating doctors whose Body Mass Index was normal were more likely to suggest or prescribe weight loss to their patients, whereas only 18% of the physicians whose BMI was high reported doing the same. Not only that, but 93% of the doctors surveyed were not likely to diagnose a patient as medically overweight unless the patient’s weight exceeded their own. Looking deeper into the stats and the answers provided on the surveys, it seemed obvious that doctors within a normal weight range were more apt to recommend treatment for diet and weight loss than their overweight counterparts. Additionally, overweight doctors were more likely to prescribe pills for weight loss rather than diet and exercise.
Statistics, Control Groups and Body Mass Index
Despite being randomly selected, half of the physicians were below the baseline BMI and half were above the baseline BMI. These control groups were considered fit if their self-reported BMI was below 25, and they were considered overweight if they reported a BMI exceeding 25. By using this filter, combined with a total number of 500 doctors participating in this study, the statistical validity of this report would be considered dependable by anyone’s standards. Understanding why an overweight doctor is less likely to acknowledge, let alone prescribe treatment for an overweight patient is not explained and remains unclear. But by looking purely at the numbers, there appears to be a consistent pattern that, in my opinion, is being overlooked.
When this report came out in the January 2012 edition of “Obesity”, the response to the data was overwhelmingly harsh towards overweight doctors in general. Predictably, I sensed a mob mentality developing with every article or response I read. This outcry seemed to immediately point out how reckless and irresponsible these overweight doctors have become. “Physician heal thyself” and “How dare they not set a better example” was being screamed from the rooftops by an overwhelming margin of writers and editors responding to the Hopkins study. One famous “Wellness” expert and author even went so far as to compare these overweight doctors with seasick sailors, corrupt politicians, bad cops, and even immoral clergy – I’m not kidding.
I’m in complete agreement that doctors, as a group, should be vigilant in their patients’ overall health by always looking at their lifestyle, diet, nutrition and weight. But the numbers in this study have unfairly, in my opinion, placed the blame too heavily (no pun intended) on the shoulders of overweight doctors.
Let’s revisit these numbers…
The study indicates that 30% of normal-fit physicians were likely to diagnose and recommend treatment for obesity and/or weight loss. This means that 70% of those same doctors were not likely to treat their patients for this. To me, this should be of greater concern than the 12% difference of fit and fat physicians being plastered all over the headlines. Even if you choose a doctor with abs of steel, you still run a 70% chance that they’ll never say a word to you about being overweight. In fact, if you drill down even further with these statistics, from an overall percentage standpoint: the odds of your overweight doctor treating you for weight loss are only about 6% less than if you see Dr 90210.
The important thing to remember is that doctors are all human just like the rest of us. They have their own struggles in life: maybe they just love ice cream, maybe they run 10 kilometers every morning before daylight… the point is that it’s up to you to research and find a competent and dedicated doctor, without relying on the puffed up statistics being churned out by universities hell-bent on spending their grant monies before the fiscal year ends. Look – I have no idea how many hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent on this study, but I can assure you that common sense could have produced a similar set of stats for a lot less.
Take a look at the doctors who recommend Isagenix products, and you’ll see a dedicated group of fit and healthy physicians who understand their patients often need a helping hand, especially when our soils are depleted of nutrients and we are living busy lifestyles and eating poor diets.
Choose Your Doctor Because He’s a Good Doctor
In any event, the publicized furor over 8.2 chubby doctors (out of 100) not recommending a healthy weight loss program, compared to the 7 thin doctors not recommending a weight loss program, seems a bit misguided at best. Skinny or fat, all physicians should be actively involved in their patients’ health by recommending a nutritious diet and exercise. However, by looking objectively at this report, it’s easy to see that the answer is not only in selecting a doctor based on his or her BMI; the solution is also in finding a like-minded doctor that cares about you.