Physician, heal thyself?

Interesting article in Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune.

The upshot of the article is that the general public often distrusts a health professional whose own physique does not exemplify best practices in health care; in other words, we may be less likely to take health advice from an overweight doctor. And according to the Tribune’s own poll, 75 percent of respondents agree (as of 6pm, July 28th; see latest results here.)

I have two reactions to this: firstly, while obesity is certainly a problem in this country, I disagree with the notion that physicians who have weight or other health issues should be viewed as somehow less trustworthy. The fact of the matter is that none of us are perfect. As mentioned in the article, doctors who face some of the same health issues as their patients may in fact be more empathetic and understanding, and therefore create a greater, more useful bond of trust.

To take the example of therapy, it is highly unrealistic to expect your therapist to be completely devoid of any hang-ups, problems, or neuroses of their own.

Secondly, the basic question here is about personal responsibility. When you go to see a health care professional, it is your health and well-being that you should be addressing. Making judgments or assumptions about your doctor’s weight or habits is sometimes a way of creating excuses for not handling your health care situation. In coaching, we teach about personal responsibility and focusing on the task of hand. Your doctor should be there to assist you and guide you in reaching your wellness goals, not to serve as a shining example of the physical ideal. As a coach, I strive to affirm and support the patient through their attributes, goals, and actions; not to serve as some kind of paragon of virtue.

Do you have thoughts of comments on this issue? Please feel free to leave them below.


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