Politics & Policy

Study: Overweight British Patients Get Offended if the Doctor Suggests a Diet

(Photo: Sunabesyou/Dreamstime)
Some doctors are avoiding telling patients they should lose weight.

A recent survey of British general practitioners found that one in three of them claims to have upset an overweight patient by suggesting that it is not healthy to be overweight.

The poll was conducted by Pulse magazine and surveyed 1,141 general practitioners, according to an article in the Sun

The Sun reports that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has told general practitioners that they need to do more to point out the costs of excess weight to overweight patients — especially considering that two out of three adults are either overweight or obese. 

One of the GPs who participated in the survey, Dr. Tope Ajayi, said that sometimes he just doesn’t tell his sick and “clearly overweight” patients that their weight is a problem in order to avoid offending them. What’s more, it seems that Ajayi’s hesitation is not without reason: An anonymous GP in the survey claimed that “patients are often resentful when GPs say weight is the cause of their problem,” and that some have even “declined to see some of our GPs whom they feel pressurise them about weight.” 

But all feelings aside, if a doctor really cares about the future of one of his overweight patients’ health, then “pressurise” is exactly what that doctor has to do. I do understand that it’s hard to hear that you have a problem with your weight. But do you know what else would be hard? Dying of heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. 

Unfortunately, however, this kind of attitude goes far beyond just this single study. In fact, just last year, I covered a piece that went so far as to claim that it’s actually “oppressive” to cite studies linking obesity to health problems, because all of it is just “sketchy research” that’s rooted in our society’s hatred for fat people.

Sorry, but . . . nope. Obesity is unhealthy, according to studies conducted by everyone from the American Medical Association to the Department of Health’s Center for Disease Control, and no, I did not just “oppress” anyone by stating a fact. After all, the thing about reality is that it actually does not change depending on how you feel about it. 

I understand that it’s not nice to make fun of people for being fat. But being a medical professional who neglects to discuss the risks of a patient’s weight is not being nice, either. In fact, it’s selfish. It’s putting his or her own comfort level over the the health of the patients, and the health of their patients is supposed to be a doctor’s entire job. The link between health problems and weight problems is a reality, no matter how patients may feel about it, and pretending that it isn’t only serves to hurt them. 

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