If you’re overweight, are you doomed to remain so?
Your family doctor probably believes you are, according to the journal Canadian Family Physician. In spite of expert advice and treatment, many doctors believe obese patients aren’t likely to shed much weight, leading some to question whether it’s futile – and even cruel – to keep treating obesity.
As associate scientific editor Roger Ladouceur wrote, obesity is linked to a host of genetic, environmental and societal factors that are deeply rooted in us, making it extremely difficult for people to change. Most individuals who are overweight don’t need to be reminded they should lose weight, he says. Moreover, many medications for treating obesity have been removed from the marketplace because of seriously harmful effects.
“Why, then, do we tell our patients to lose weight? Why do we repeat, ‘You should lose weight’? What’s with that? Somewhat sadistic, don’t you think,” Dr. Ladouceur wrote.
Instead, he asks, “shouldn’t we help them to become more comfortable with themselves?”
It’s a sticky debate. We all know obesity is linked to all kinds of health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. But if we’re unlikely to succeed in shedding weight, should we give up on slimming down?
Jana Havrankova of the Clinique familiale Saint-Lambert in Quebec provides support for Dr. Ladouceur’s argument, writing in the journal that strategies promoted by the weight-loss industry offer dismal results.
“The few patients who manage to lose weight and keep it off achieve something truly remarkable. From a public health standpoint, however, the treatment of obesity is a failure,” Dr. Havrankova wrote. She says emphasis should be placed on prevention instead.
In a separate paper in the same journal, however, Dominique Garrel of Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Montreal argues that doctors shouldn’t give up. They should approach obesity as they would any other chronic disease, he says, and set small, reasonable goals for weight loss over a longer period of time. Even losing a small percentage of body weight can make a difference to one’s health, he says.
“I would argue that obesity must be treated and that, as physicians, we have an essential role to play,” Dr. Garrel wrote.
What do you think? Have you succeeded in losing weight, and in keeping it off?