Doctors vs. Fatties

The other day, Russell launched a discussion about whether or not doctors should shame fat people (well, no, that wasn’t quite the discussion, but whatever). Today at Maclean’s, Jessica Allen argues in favour of more shaming (well, not exactly, but whatever):

Two years ago my doctor told me I was overweight—not in a Karl Lagerfeld to Adele sort of way—but in the privacy of his office, during an annual physical, and in a sensitive manner. The result? After calling him terrible names in my head, I lost 20 lbs over the course of five months. And the next year, I weighed in just about right. It’s been the most effective weight-loss tool I’ve ever encountered because every year I know I have to get back on that medical scale, and I don’t want to disappoint the doctor, or myself.

But recent results from a national survey published in the journal Chronic Diseases and Injuries in Canada show that few of our doctors (one in three) are advising obese patients to lose weight. But if 59 per cent of Canadians are either overweight or obese, and being fat causes God knows how many health problems, and our doctors aren’t measuring waistlines (fewer than one in five of the survey’s participants, the journal reports) and 40 per cent of overweight or obese Canadians describe themselves as just, “about right,” than that’s a fat problem. If we can’t count on our doctors to call the kettle fat, then who can we count on?

I’m undecided on the appropriateness of the stink eye as medical treatment.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. I am OK with my doctor telling my, for personal health related issues, that I am overweight – provided that he offsets it with a comment about how dreamy my eyes are and notes that my ability to sit on a couch and watch hours of basketball is sexy in it’s own way.

  2. But I saw on the Facebook that companies are making us all addicted to aitch-eff-see-ess sugar and that’s what makes us fat! You can’t say that it’s my fault, I mean would I choose to be overweight?

    • your age is showing. Name the grammatical construction that did it. 😉

      • There’s a reason I did that, and it was done on purpose.

  3. Doctors who shame people should be ashamed of themselves. (See what I did there?)

    Anyhow, I certainly think physicians should address the issue with their overweight patients. But I think they need to do it in a manner that is realistic about how hard it can be for seriously overweight people to lose the pounds.

  4. My experience is that my patients know they are fat. They know they need to lose weight and most smokers know that smoking is bad for them. I encourage patients to exercise but recognize that actually losing weight is very hard for the vast majority of people. Shaming people is counter productive. The big issue is trying to get people to have realistic goals.

  5. a few years ago, i ran across the blog

    Story after story of fat patients going to the doctor and receiving horrible treatment because of their weight. I’m not concerned about a doctor telling a patient that their weight has a potential negative impact on their health. But after reading the stories on that blog, I’m concerned about major health problems being ignored because doctors spend their time and effort addressing a patient’s weight instead of a patient’s health.

  6. Shaming can be an effective health tactic in some circumstances. It’s worked wonders with regards to smoking. It’s more questionable when it comes to weight, though, because people have less control over their weight than over whether they start smoking, and weight is hardly the only (or necessarily best) indicator of an unhealthy lifestyle. I’m sure I eat worse and exercise less than many people with weight problems, but I am blessed with an excellent metabolism that keeps me from gaining weight quickly.

  7. Fatness is a bodies defense mechanism you wouldn’t tell a sick patient he needs to lose the excess white blood cells so his blood is “thin” no you would treat his condition. It has been proven that healthy excess of fat actually protects against several deadly causes of death.

Comments are closed.