My Doctor Used the "F" Word

Jun 26, 2013, 12:38 PM, Posted by Najaf Ahmad

scale-02

He made a remark that I found deeply cutting and hard to digest (no pun intended). “You’re overweight. You need to do something about it”. OK, he didn’t use the word “overweight.” He actually used the “F” word. Fat.

I was taken aback. I was upset and hurt. I really didn’t believe him. Sure, I’d gained some weight, but not that much. I certainly wasn’t gorging on cronuts, sconuts and cookie dough batter. (Although I guess I had rekindled my affair with Ben and Jerry.)

Besides, was a doctor really supposed to be saying this to me? “No!” my friends reassured me. “You’re not fat. Besides, you just had a baby! Dump your doctor and find a new one!”

My husband had a different take. His question put things into perspective: “Do you want a doctor to lull you into your grave? Or do you want someone who is vested in your health?”

Thinking about this gave me pause. Research suggests that due to the overall increase in obesity within our nation, patients today don’t often recognize that they are overweight. Moreover, I did have particular reason to worry about the ill effects of extra weight with a family history of Type 2 diabetes. I’ve watched my dad suffer the scary effects of poor blood sugar control.

I reflected some more on my interaction with my doc. He spent a fair bit of time stressing how extra weight spelled doom. He demanded to know why I wasn't exercising. I sheepishly noted that the struggle of juggling little kids with work and other obligations made it hard to find the time. He scoffed, noting how he put his own kids in a stroller and went running every day. “Your kids are obviously much better-behaved than mine” I thought.  

Despite the uncomfortable visit, I've decided that I’m going keep my doctor. He showed that he cared in his own, somewhat ham-fisted way. This is a tough issue. It’s tough for docs to talk about. It’s tough for patients to hear. It’s tough for society to grapple with. Perhaps this is why the AMA’s decision to recognize obesity as a disease has triggered so much discussion.

Since my doctor did take the time to address the problem, I do feel more accountable. But that doesn’t mean I feel more motivated.

I don’t like being lectured to. There must be better ways of broaching this conversation with patients to motivate them to take charge of their health. If my doc did his homework he’d know that. He’d follow the example of Rajiv Kumar who took the extra step of trying to understand why his patients were failing at their weight loss goals.

And if I work up my nerve I’m going to tell him this the next time I see him.

The Soft Sell