As someone who has struggled with gaining and losing the same 20 30 pounds for most of my adult life, I can certainly relate to the trepidation associated with stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office, especially when I anticipate that I won’t like the number staring back at me. While weight is simply one of the metrics we use to assess your overall health, for many, this number carries a lot of emotional baggage with it. Few people feel like a failure if their blood pressure is a little high, but many who are overweight perceive a 5-pound weight gain as an indictment of their character. Discussions about weight can sometimes bring up deep-seated feelings of frustration and disappointment. For some, these feelings are so negative that they avoid seeing healthcare providers altogether because they do not want to have the inevitable conversation about their weight and its impact on their health.
Why Do We Talk About It?
As your healthcare providers, it is important for us to discuss all the facets of your health. Just like it would be inappropriate to ignore high blood pressure or high blood sugar in patients with hypertension or diabetes, we would not be doing our patients a service by avoiding a discussion about weight simply because it is uncomfortable for them or us. Many times, we, as women, deprioritize our health and our needs when we are focused on meeting the needs of our families. As our lives get busier and more stressful, healthful habits like cooking nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, and working out are usually the first to get sacrificed. Without being aware of it, it’s easy for weight to pile on. This extra weight is not only relevant because you’re having to buy new pants; it increases your risk for a variety of chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. It is sometimes the most notable sign of conditions like a low functioning thyroid gland and often co-occurs with depression. In our specialty, obesity can cause irregular menses, increase the risk for endometrial cancer, and reduce fertility. During pregnancy, obesity can increase early pregnancy loss and increases the risk of blood pressure disorders in pregnancy, diabetes, and your risk of having a Cesarean delivery. To properly take care of you, we should be including a review of your weight, your diet, and your exercise routine if you have one.
Our goals in talking about your weight if you are overweight are to assess your readiness for lifestyle change, counsel you about the implications to your health now and in the future, and equip you with information, referrals, and strategies to help you become the best, healthiest version of yourself. That does not look the same for everyone. We’re not all going to be the same size at a good weight that is healthy and sustainable for us. However, a diet rich in processed foods and sugar and a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy for anyone regardless of whether you’re naturally thin or heavier. There are professionals who can help with learning about nutrition and exercise. There are medications that can improve success that is appropriate for some patients. In a few circumstances, surgery may be an option for select patients who have not been able to achieve a healthy weight naturally. You don’t have to go it alone, and we’re here to offer support. Just know that we talk about tough things from a place of concern about you, not to ruin your day. We feel privileged to take care of our patients and want you to get the best care and advice we can offer.