Why did you pursue obesity medicine certification?
Obesity is such a prevalent condition in my patient population. I wanted to have the proper tools to make a positive change in my patients’ health. Much of what I’d learned about the treatment of obesity was an oversimplified mantra of “eat less, exercise more.” I wanted to learn evidence-based methods to combat this disease.
Many doctors have told us about the “aha” moment that stimulated their interest in obesity medicine. Do you have an obesity medicine “aha” moment that sticks out in your memory?
My most memorable “aha” moments occurred when I first started attending Obesity Medicine Assocation conferences. Learning about the causes of obesity from everything to molecular to psychosocial factors made me realize why and how this has become such a problem for so many Americans. It was inspiring to meet other physicians who were so successful and excited about their work. One particularly eye-opening lecture featured a talk from a patient about some of the bias and mistreatment that she’d faced in healthcare as an obese woman. All of these experiences gave me a new perspective when I returned to treat my own patients.
How do you currently incorporate your obesity medicine training into your practice?
As a family physician, I use my obesity medicine training every day. This includes, but is not limited to, motivational interviewing to help a patient make lifestyle changes, or more detailed recommendations for diet, exercise and medications.
Why do you believe obesity medicine certification is valuable?
Any practicing physician should be familiar with this condition that affects such a large percentage of Americans. When there are so many fad diets and “miracle pills” pushed by untrained individuals, it is important for patients to have access to physicians trained in evidence-based practice.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your practice?
Lack of resources has been a significant challenge in my practice. Time is one of our most precious resources, and I never feel like I have enough time to do all the things that I want to do! Since I work in a busy family medicine practice, there are always other issues that need to be addressed, sometimes making it difficult to concentrate on obesity alone. Financial resources are a huge hurdle as well. Many of my patients’ insurance plans do not fully cover the services I could offer or the interventions that I would recommend, and many cannot afford to pay out of pocket.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I consider it a great achievement any time that I can empower a patient to make a positive change in his or her health. We don’t always get the BMI under 30, but I’m just as happy when a patient tells me how much more energy she has, or how much his self-image has improved after making some very simple lifestyle changes. Most of us went into medicine to make people feel better; it’s great to see that happen on a daily basis.
What do you wish other physicians knew about treating obesity?
Obesity is not simply a cosmetic issue, and having obesity is not a moral failure. There are so many patients with obesity who need compassionate, comprehensive care, but are discouraged by how they’ve been treated in our healthcare system. We bring our own experiences and biases into our practice, whether intentional or not. We have the ability to prevent or mitigate so many other chronic diseases by effectively treating obesity. When we treat obesity, we aren’t just trying to shed pounds, but improve our patients’ overall health.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with obesity medicine?
I once had a patient come in for a routine physical, and this was the first time I’d seen her in over a year. During that time, she’d gained about 25 lbs, placing her in a BMI range of greater than 35. When I brought this up, she quickly dismissed me, stating that she’d joined a “fat positive” support group that encouraged her not to worry about her weight. She reported that her mental health had improved greatly during that time. I think about this visit often, and how what we consider healthy does not always align with our patients’ goals. We have to treat the whole patient, and pay attention to their unique challenges while empowering them to make the best decisions for their health.
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