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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
February 14, 2012

Obese Doctors Might Unintentionally Overlook Patients' Weight Problems

Research shows that some overweight doctors might not recognize obesity when they themselves are struggling with their weight. By Jennifer Chan
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There is a reason we take health advice from our doctors. After all, they're supposed to know best. However, a new study shows that some doctors might be passing inaccurate judgment on patients when it comes to weight-related issues. According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, some doctors have a hard time addressing obesity in patients when they themselves are struggling with their own weight issues.

Researchers studied 500 primary care physicians around the US and found out that a doctor's own weight can influence the way he or she dispenses advice on patients’ health. Doctors who were overweight were less likely to address the issue compared to those who were of normal weight. 

Furthermore, researchers discovered that 93 percent of the doctors diagnosed their patients as obese only if they believed themselves to be of lesser or equal weight. The small percent of obese doctors who do diagnose obesity in their patients also tend to prescribe anti-obesity medications rather than exercise and a proper diet, whether it's because they had negative experiences or they subconsciously felt giving such advice would be hypocritical from someone who wasn't thin. Meanwhile, doctors who used to be overweight but successfully lost pounds by making lifestyle changes were more likely to recommend the same to their patients. 

These results may be surprising, but they are most likely a subconscious reaction rather than an intentional matter, the researchers say. These findings also put the spotlight on doctors who are also struggling with their weight. If more doctors could lose weight the right way, they would be able to diagnose more obese patients and advise them to make lifestyle changes involving diet and exercise.

But you don't need to be a doctor to know the importance of leading by example. If you want your family or friends to lose weight, be the first to take action.


You can start leading a healthier lifestyle by having a balanced diet. Check out these articles for tips and ideas:

For exercise tips, try these:


(Photo by sundesigns via sxc.hu)

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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