If you catch your doctor eating Big Macs on a regular basis, it may be time to switch before he packs on the pounds and recommends that you do the same. (Yes, we’ve been baggin’ on Micky-D’s quite a bit lately, but hey – don’t they deserve it?).

OK, so anyway . . .

That may not be exactly how it works, but a recent study that was published in the appropriately named Obesity journal suggests that a chubby or outright fat doctor may be less likely to advise you to lose excess weight yourself.

And if an overweight doctor did give advice on weight loss and nutrition, how likely are you to follow his or her guidance?  The same scenario can be applied to the dentist with bad teeth, the chain smoking doctor who is less likely to provide information about quitting, and the fatty coach with little experience that is in charge of a young football team.

Details of the Study

The study was created by Sara Bleich, an assistant professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, after she went to see a dentist who had bad teeth himself (as in the example above).

To run the study, Sara sent a survey out to 500 primary care physicians, and paid each one $25 as an incentive to complete the survey honestly and accurately.  Of the primary care physicians, two thirds were male, and 70 percent of them were white.  Around 75 of all the physicians were at least 40 years or older, and half were overweight or obese.  Yes, obese, which is a step past overweight or simply carrying a few extra pounds.  Only two doctors who participated in the survey were underweight, so the researchers didn’t include them into the study.

A third of the doctors who had normal weights said that they talked to obese patients about weight loss, while only 18 percent of the obese doctors did.  In addition, only 38 percent of the overweight doctors felt confident about their ability to advise an overweight patient, compared to 50 percent of the normal weight physicians.  This shows that not only are physicians not talking about weight loss enough in general, but those who were on the heavier side tended to avoid the matter even more often.

Why the Disconnect?

The researchers believe this could be because the overweight doctors did not have the confidence to tell their patients to trim their fat, as they were a prime example of poor dieting themselves.  Regardless, the results were expected, including the lack of weight loss advice in general.

Without imparting blame to any particular kind of doctor, physicians need to bring up obesity issues with their patients more often than they are now if they hope to make any sort of impact on our growing obesity epidemic.

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