Here is a study out of Johns Hopkins that says fat doctors are not as likely to diagnose their fat patients as “normal” weight doctors:
Here are two articles, both of which parrot the party line that it must be bad that fat doctors are less likely to offer diet tips, but are otherwise very different. The first (a short paragraph in the middle of a one-pager at nytimes.com) adds some skeptical snarkiness, while the second adds an extra helping of fat hate, horrifyingly advocating that all fat doctors should lose their jobs.
First, I HATE it when people with a certain BMI are described as “normal”. To me it smells of bias. It just triggers my skepticism for the rest of it.
What I find disturbing in the research abstract is this:
A higher percentage of normal BMI physicians believed that overweight/obese patients would be less likely to trust weight loss advice from overweight/obese doctors (80% vs. 69%, P = 0.02). Physicians in the normal BMI category were more likely to believe that physicians should model healthy weight-related behaviors—maintaining a healthy weight (72% vs. 56%, P = 0.002) and exercising regularly (73% vs. 57%, P = 0.001).
In other words, the thinner doctors have a prejudice against fat doctors. (And gee, do you think those prejudices carry over to their treatment of fat patients?)
If nothing else, wouldn’t you think doctors might want to listen to what fat doctors have to say about being fat? You know, professionals that have the actual experience? Maybe thin doctors don’t trust the advice of fat doctors, but as a patient, I certainly would rather discuss being fat with someone who knows that there is no way to turn a fat person into a thin person. And maybe fat doctors have a better (personal) understanding that fat people can also be healthy people.
The study shows that fat doctors are less likely to diagnose a patient who weighs the same or less than themselves as “obese” and less likely to discuss weight loss treatment. What the study does not appear to show is whether or not fat doctors discuss healthy behavior that is not weight focused.
I’m not saying that fat doctors are all great – I have personally had my experience with a fat healthcare professional who clearly hated her own fat body. (see My Fat Ass and RNP from Hell, http://wp.me/pB0rE-7o). And I currently have a thin doctor who is not perfect but is willing to listen and allows me to participate in my healthcare decisions.
But I think this study shows less about the medical treatment one receives from fat doctors and more about the prejudices of thinner doctors; and those prejudices are what needs to be studied and addressed.