– By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
No one really likes to admit that they weigh too much. Some people even have a range of responses at the ready to explain being overweight: “I’m big-boned,” “I have a slow metabolism” or “This just means there’s more of me to love!” Each or all of these may be true, but the fact is, if we want to enjoy a productive life and to see our grandchildren grow up, we need to be conscious of our health, and that includes recognition of our own weight issues.
There are several issues that contribute to misperceptions of weight. First, many people don’t consider themselves to be overweight or have obesity, despite the fact that a significant part of the population falls into one of these categories. If people don’t believe that they have weight issues, they’re certainly not going to think that there is a need to control their weight.
The BMI Factor & Physician Role
Another problem is that doctors often don’t acknowledge or discuss weight issues with patients — not every doctor closely monitors their patients for obesity. One medical study revealed that just over half (52 percent) could correctly evaluate a patient’s Body Mass Index (BMI)! This is a problem. BMI is the most common measure used to determine obesity. In most cases, they would underestimate body fat, which is nice to hear if you’re the patient, but could ultimately do more harm than good.
Among doctors who do calculate their patients’ BMI, about one-third of them don’t discuss the impact of a high BMI with the patient. Again, this is a problem because when people deny that they are overweight, they don’t try to lose weight — plus they risk continued weight gain. If a doctor doesn’t take time to explain the seriousness of obesity and other potential health risks associated with weight, it can make the doctor’s visit seem more like a passing discussion rather than a confirmed conclusion of overweight or obesity. Without a clear, formal diagnosis, some people will assume the doctor is simply offering casual advice to lose weight or get more exercise. If the doctor doesn’t seem too worried, maybe the patient will make changes, or maybe they won’t.
Your Weight and BMI are just Numbers and they can Change
No one wants to hear that they weight too much or that they need to lose weight. Even if we know it to be true and want to make a change, hearing it from someone else, especially a doctor, makes it even more real. Putting a label on it places us in a category no one wants to be in. The “requirement” for weight loss immediately makes it seem like a burden or unpleasant task to be avoided at all costs.
Don’t buy into that perception! Weight loss is a journey and everyone’s journey is individual. So be bold and speak to your doctor about your weight and any potential health issues related to having obesity. Your weight and BMI are just numbers and they can change!
Ask your doctor about a range of weight loss options and programs to find out what best fits your needs. A referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) as part of the medically-monitored New Direction Program can also help. An RDN will work with you to create a program that considers your lifestyle and responsibilities, incorporates foods that you actually like to eat and identifies activities that work for you and that you are willing to do.
Knowledge is power and the first step to change. Some things will work, others may not. That’s okay. Give yourself deserved credit for your effort and try something else. All great things take time, and becoming your best self is no exception.
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.