Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Advice from an overweight doc?

What does it mean when the doctor clearly can’t follow the doctor’s advice?

Pediatrician Perri Klass explores the issue in a NY Times column this week. She struggles with her weight, but then she faces giving advice to an overweight 8-year-old. Read more

She asks: “How on earth, I was thinking, am I supposed to give sound nutritional advice when all they have to do is look at me to see that I don’t follow it very well myself?”

Doctors, of course, are human, and struggle as everyone does with finding free time. And as Klass says at the end of the column, “If this were easy, I would be thin and fit.”

But does it make it harder for an unfit doctor to dole out healthy lifestyle advice? Or does the doctor have the advantage of personal experience and compassion for the patient struggling to be healthy? In the end, does it matter at all to the care of the patient whether the doc exercises and eats well?

In our recently-completed Great American Physician survey, which will run in an upcoming issue, we found most of you do think the doctor has some responsibility here. In fact, 90 percent say it’s important to set an example for patients.

Although most of you eat well and exercise fairly regularly -- and I talked with several docs who lift weights, walk, and practice yoga -- 45 percent of you admit your body mass index is a bit higher than it should be (and 13 percent say much higher). A quarter of respondents don’t eat right most of the time, and 3 percent smoke cigarettes.

But does it matter?


  1. Speaking of this topic, I just saw this survey on MedPage Today:

    "Critics say that President Obama's choice of Regina Benjamin for Surgeon General is inappropriate in the midst of an obesity epidemic because she is overweight.

    Should Dr. Benjamin's weight disqualify her for the Surgeon General post?"

    So far this morning, the "no"s are ahead.

  2. It would be inappropriate for a Surgeon General to be a smoker; obesity is multi-factorial and although lifestyle and diet play a large role, there are clearly genetic and aging factors that do not allow everyone to maintain a perfect BMI throughout life.