A research article recently published in the Obesity journal surveyed 500 physicians on their BMI and how that relates to their interactions with patients who are overweight/obese. Those physicians with a normal BMI were more comfortable talking with patients about diet and exercise, and felt that they should be role models to their patients in order to discuss healthy living. What was interesting about this study was that only 30% of normal BMI physicians would have the diet chat with their patients. It opens an interesting dialog about why more physicians who are normal in weight are not having this discussion with their patients, particularly when one-third of Americans are obese according to the CDC. I wonder how many patients believe that physicians should practice what they preach before they dole out advise, or prescriptions for that matter. With this conversation about weight and diet being so limited in the physician-patient relationship, perhaps the presence of health and wellness coaches, nutritionists and personal trainers should be closely tied into the patient care team. Such a referral system would alleviate the physician’s responsibility to do that which they are not fully competent to manage, and address the health concerns of many Americans desperately in need of help.
The next question is how to empower physicians to seek support for their own health concerns? Overweight/obesity in physicians simply leads us to recognize that they are just like us and deal with the same challenges as their patients, but have yet to fully execute a solution to their own weight concerns. Discretely, utilization of health and wellness coaching by physicians can enable them to focus on themselves, since physicians are trained to focus on addressing the needs of others. Perhaps by engaging in a coaching experience physicians will be inspired to prescribe the same care to their patients.