How Your Doctor Influences Your Waistline

These guys can cure cancer and win the war on obesity. If we let them.

The power of the white coat can't be underestimated.  Even though we don't see our doctors as often as other influencers in our lives, their words can spur us into action. A recent study found that 65% of patients will try to slim down after their doctor tells them they should.  On the other hand, only 39% of people attempt to diet if their doctor doesn't suggest any action. It's estimated that obesity accounts for $90 billion in direct health care costs annually in the U.S. and 300,000 premature deaths (2004 numbers).   Take a second and think about that ... the impact on our Medicaid/Medicare systems, the impact in our communities and families, the number of people around us that we lose simply due to overeating. Yet, if a doctor says, "You've gotta lose weight," and 26% more individuals are spurred to do something about shedding pounds, isn't it worth it?  Shouldn't we encourage doctors to tell everyone with a BMI over 25 (the threshold for being overweight) to drop a few pounds?  Afterall, it's a lot easier to lose a few pounds than 30, or 50, or more. I made a comment on a panel at FitBloggin this past weekend that Obama could solve the financial crisis in the U.S. if he just came and talked to me.  The response was laughter but I was serious!  If primary care physicians were better trained on counseling patients about obesity, if we gave them printed material that they could pass on to their patients, AND if we went to a dramatic but simple step of putting medically trained personal trainers into doctor's offices, imagine how far we could go against the war on obesity. It really is that simple.  Yet right now, only 61% of doctors talk to their patients about losing weight because they're "too busy." Makes you shake your head, doesn't it? So what do you think about your doctor influencing your waistline?  Would a doc urging you to drop a few pounds get you to at least try?  Would it work better than your spouse nagging you?  What do you think? Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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13 Responses to How Your Doctor Influences Your Waistline

  1. Aidan May 24, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Hi Lisa,
    That is really interesting. When I was (relatively) overweight people kept telling me that I didn’t need to lose weight. Looking back at photos now I cannot believe that people said this but there is a tendency that people have to avoid distressing home truths. I was obviously deluded that I believed them but maybe I wanted to hear this. A doctor should be in a position to give that message without worrying about hurting feelings.
    I don’t know if you have seen “I used to be fat” on MTV. I really love that show. It is so inspirational to see these young people making the necessary changes in their lives to become slim, fit and healthy.

  2. Lisa Johnson May 24, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    thanks Aidan, I appreciate you stopping by and the referral to the show. I have NOT heard of it. I’m looking forward to the new weight loss show under the “Extreme Makeover” banner though. One trainer works with an obese client for a year … L–

  3. Aidan May 24, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    I must look out for that one. I have to say that I like the ‘fat to fit’ genre. I don’t like the shows where that are just about making an exhibition of obesity. I really enjoy it when somebody puts the graft in and looks so much better as a result. It is amazing how losing weight can transform somebody’s face in particular.
    You don’t see so many shows that focus on how people react psychologically to being attractive. That aspect of things interests me because I still have horrible memories of comments people made when I had teenage acne :-)
    P.S. I am inspired by your ability to constantly come up with great blog posts.

  4. Jeannie May 24, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    I definitely think I would listen to something outside my family more than a family member. Often we don’t take the intentions of a loved one the right way because we are too connected to them & it creates a lot of emotion. A doctor can be more direct and honest without evoking as much emotional upset & therefore, the person may be more likely to actually listen to the words & meaning.

  5. Lisa Johnson May 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Aidan, thank you … that’s a pretty great compliment! The psychological aspects of weight loss are so varied and so personal I think it would be difficult to get subjects that weren’t “too crazy” and could speak to the broader audience. It also suggests “crazy people are fat” which certainly isn’t true. It would be tough to do the show well without getting slammed for it. I know what you mean though.

  6. Lisa Johnson May 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Jeannie, as a personal trainer and Pilates instructor with 13 years of experience you’d think my family would ask me questions, but NOPE, they NEVER do. They always avoid the subject all together. I’ve given up even trying … if someone wants my help they know I’m there for them in a second. Sigh.

  7. Tara Burner May 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    I dont know if it’s totally true about that dr’s dont have time but perhaps more like they don’t want to make time because it’s more money in their pocket and pharmaceutical company pockets if people aren’t healthy…if a person is obese they’re more apt to have health issues later on which equates to more money in the dr/pharma pockets…but then again this is the cynical side of me speaking and since I don’t go to dr’s I really shouldn’t give my opinion but yet here I am lol

    but to answer the question of “Shouldn’t we encourage doctors to tell everyone with a BMI over 25 (the threshold for being overweight) to drop a few pounds?”
    YES we should…there are lots of things dr’s “should” do and be encouraged to do…getting them to actually do it…another story.

  8. Lisa Johnson May 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Tara, I think the other thing people don’t realize is that being trained to be a doctor is NOT the same thing as being trained to be a personal trainer. They know muscles, organs, surgery, pills and casts and contraptions to stabilize joints. They do not know heart rate beats per minute, exercise prescription, etc. That’s my territory frankly. When I first started working with docs at my studio I was intimidated that they knew way more than I did. Then I realized when it comes to fitness they’re clueless! Lots of them don’t even know the muscle groups outside of their own specialty.

    When I commented on that to a doctor once she said, I had anatomy first semester in med school, I don’t remember much of it anymore. I was flabbergasted.

  9. KCLAnderson (Karen) May 24, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

    I could go on and on about this…until I met my naturopath, no doctor ever addressed my weight in a way that made sense to me. My naturopath saw my body/mind/spirit as a holistic system, not just as a bunch of symptoms to mask. As a result, and with her help, I have healed several imbalances, as well as Lyme disease (which I had no idea I even had) and have been able to lose weight without “dieting,” not to mention getting off of such drugs as Lipitor and improving my cholesterol without it, as well as my blood pressure, which was on the rise, but not medicated. I am on NO prescription medications (except for a bioidentical progesterone cream for part of my cycle) and am just getting healthier and fitter! And I don’t have to workout like a maniac!

  10. Lisa Johnson May 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm #


    I heard you speak at Fitbloggin and was moved by how you had gone from prescriptions to just living healthfully. Thought it was very powerful … if you ever want to do a blog post for LJF about it let me know. It’s a poignant story, eat well and live well. The doctors need to hear a lot more of that …

  11. Tara burner May 24, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Totally Lisa, drs know their speciality and not much beyond that like you said that’s where trainers come in, though you would think that drs “should” know what trainers know since it’s all pertinent

  12. KCLAnderson (Karen) May 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    I’d love to Lisa…AND I forgot to mention that my naturopath partners with a hormone specialist who is a former OB/GYN. He’s the one who prescribes the progesterone…but get this, he also “sells” diet plans that involve buying prepackaged foods and, for a while (until I set him straight) was on my case to sign up. I think he thinks that all women want to be tall, leggy, skinny, blondes with big boobs and that this diet is the way to achieve that.

    Anyway, the last chapter of my book outlines my experience with my naturopath and I could rework it in to a post for you…

  13. bridget May 24, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    As a hair removal specialist I quite frequently treat women with PCOS,(Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome), which causes increased hair growth (hirsutism) and insulin resistence, which makes you fat.

    When you see a woman who is fat and has a beard…guess what? She probably has PCOS.

    It is more difficult for them than anyone else in the general population to lose weight.

    Recently one of my patients who is doing Weight Watchers and working out with a personal trainer two hours/day,(thank goodness she has time and $$ for this), is losing very little weight.

    FYI, she is very smart, educated, diligent and sane.

    Know what her doctor told her?

    “Well, between your genetic profile and the PCOS you are probably never going to lose the weight. You should just buy some beautiful clothes and be happy.”

    I SHIT YOU NOT!!!! That’s what her doctor told her.

    So, I think there is a huge disconnect between MD’s and women,(yeah, I know, what a shock!).

    I have been all over Twitter and God’s universe in general trying to find a nutritionist to help these women.

    Lisa, remember the Elle magazine piece from where the editor contacted you back? She had posted the blatant and cruel truth that doctors admitted in a poll that many are unapologetically prejudiced against fat people. One doctor even said if he could get away without hiring overweight people he would do it.

    So, I really think, there is an underlying disrespect for fat people. Period.

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