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July 09, 2008

Doctor: Do Not Lecture the Obese

Blogger and medical doctor Robert Lambert suggests that lecturing patients about their weight is unhelpful. He says that the obese are the "new pariahs in our culture," having displaced smokers as the lowest of the low.

Instead of patronizing obese patients with a lecture, I try sympathizing with them. Just because something is simple doesn’t make it easy. How do you quit smoking? You just stop smoking. We should just pull out of Iraq. There should be peace in the middle east. People should stop hurting each other and start being nice. All of these are good ideas, but the devil is in the details. Losing weight is a struggle, and it really helps to have people giving you a hand rather than knocking you down.

He's not really saying anything new here. No one is happy about being told that they are fat, especially since that is usually obvious. This doesn't mean that doctors should just skip over the issue. They should be telling obese patients (1) you have a weight problem; (2) it is harmful to you; and most importantly, (3) here is what we can do about it. This third step is the whole reason the poor fat guy is standing in your office in the first place, Doctor. He's not paying you to be nice to him.

The same is true for dentists and flossing. Yes, I know, I don't floss enough. She said that last time and the time before that, too. Sure, I understand that not flossing can cause some problems. And I'm embarrassed that we have to go through this every time. Does that mean she should stop mentioning it? Of course not. It's her job to mention it. The entire purpose of my visit to her weird-smelling office (aside from ogling the dental assistants) is to take care of my teeth. I'm not paying you to be nice to me.

The same is true for university professors. The fact I payed for tuition did not mean that they had to go easy when they tore apart my thesis. If that were so, the entire point of attending university and working on a thesis would be lost.

This whole thing---"doctors should tip-toe around their patients' weight problems"---is just part of the no-guilt, feel-good trend. The idea is that no one should have to be feel shame for things over which they cannot control. Except, of course, that weight is entirely within the control of the individual. Humans seem to be the only species on the planet for which reducing caloric intake doesn't result in a reduction in weight. Figure that out.

Yes, it's difficult to lose weight. But it's certainly not outside of the control of the individual involved. The doctor who decides that his patient has heard it all before is derelict in his duty to help that patient.

(h/t HotAir Headlines)

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:01 PM

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