Overweight and Afraid to Go to the Doctor? You're Not Alone

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Overweight woman talking to doctor

Most people understand that seeing a doctor once a year is a smart choice for their health. Even if you feel perfectly fine, an annual check-up can detect health issues early when they are most treatable or prevent them from developing in the first place.

More than 50 percent of people in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. But for many people, going to the doctor is a source of anxiety. Fear of what the doctor will say or worse – feeling dismissed or shamed for being overweight – prevents many who need care the most from seeking it. It’s essential to find a doctor who approaches your care with compassion and understanding, as well as with knowledge about the complexities of weight management.

Obesity Is about More Than Willpower

Experts now recognize that obesity is a disease that is influenced by many factors, not just willpower. A complex interplay of genetic, developmental, hormonal, environmental and behavioral factors all contribute to a person’s weight. If you are 20, 30 or 100+ pounds overweight, you know it isn’t ideal. You’ve likely tried many approaches to eating well and exercising, but the number on the scale won’t budge or you continue gaining weight, and the cycle continues.

A comprehensive treatment approach includes more than diet and exercise. It must also recognize the psychology around food and address how other factors may be impacting your weight.

Why is My Weight Important?

Weight is an important factor in most people’s overall health. “Being overweight can heighten your risk for many health conditions, including diabetes, joint pain and arthritis, cancer, heart disease, infertility, sleep apnea and more,” says University Hospitals internal medicine specialist, Ajay Kumar, MD.

“This is why, regardless of the reason for seeing your doctor, stepping on the scale is almost always part of the routine,” he adds. “If a doctor suggests weight loss as part of your total treatment plan, it’s important to trust that it’s being made with your overall health in mind.”

It’s Okay to Shop Around

Finding a doctor with compassion and sensitivity is essential. No two doctors will have the same approach to weight management, so it’s important to find someone who makes you feel comfortable and safe discussing all aspects of your health, including your weight.

Consult online reviews and ask questions before you schedule an appointment, so you can get to know the practice and decide if it’s the right fit.

When You’re Ready to Make a Change

You and your doctor should discuss your motivations for losing weight. You might want to address a specific health concern, or you may just want to enjoy a more active lifestyle with your loved ones. Whatever the reason, your doctor can help with recommendations and advice, including:

  • Good nutrition and a diet plan that fits your lifestyle
  • Safe exercises for weight loss and overall health & fitness
  • Any barriers to weight loss you may experience, both emotional and physical. For example, perhaps you have a back problem that makes exercise difficult; or maybe you have a history of trauma and/or anxiety that affects your eating patterns.
  • Additional treatments and tools available for weight loss management

The right doctor will be happy to discuss all of these issues and more with you. In some cases, they may refer you for nutritional counseling, physical or behavioral therapy or weight loss surgery.

Related Links

University Hospitals has an extensive network of primary care providers throughout the region. Once you find the right doctor, we encourage you to develop that relationship and make a commitment to your health by seeing them regularly.

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