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I Could Hardly Believe My Eyes

June 6, 2012

The other day, I saw an article that astounded me. I came across it entirely by chance, as part of my new job as a broadcast editor. My job involves clipping news stories and writing short summaries for them, and this one happened to pop out at me while I was working. I’m sure I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise, as I hardly ever get the chance to sit down and read a newspaper thoroughly.

It was a story about some new guidelines suggested by a Canadian organization called the Canadian Obesity Network. I have never heard of this organization, which is strange since a) I am Canadian and b) I would definitely be classified as obese (although I despise the word and all its negative, distasteful connotations).

Anyway, get a load of this: This article is on their website and it is titled “Doctors should ask permission before discussing patients’ weight.” Just the title alone blew me away. How radical is that? How long have we fat folks been clamoring for just this kind of thoughtfulness and respect? The article goes on to list “The Five As of Obesity Management”:

  • ASK for permission to discuss weight and explore readiness
  • ASSESS obesity related risks and ‘root causes’ of obesity
  • ADVISE on health risks and treatment options
  • AGREE on health outcomes and behavioural goals
  • ASSIST in accessing appropriate resources and providers

Let’s take these marvelous As one by one, shall we?

ASK. Can you imagine, friends, a medical person actually ASKING you if it’s okay to discuss your weight with you? Rather than giving you that judgmental stare from across the desk and demanding you account for the fact that you haven’t lost a substantial amount of weight since your doctor last saw you? I can’t even imagine being treated with such respect by my doctor. If I showed him this list, I’m sure he would probably chuckle indulgently at it (that’s the kind of doctor I have).

ASSESS. Good idea. Let’s talk about what’s really going on. What the real risks are (if any), and the possible causes, including emotions (most doctors prefer to pretend emotions don’t exist and have nothing at all to do with weight gain), instead of just telling me that I am doomed to develop heart failure and diabetes, and accusing me of eating everything within reach of my pudgy, greedy hands.

ADVISE. The key word here is “advise” — NOT accuse, demand, abuse, shame, humiliate, denigrate, condescend, or preach.

AGREE. That would be nice. A doctor actually considering you a vital part of the process and agreeing to work with you toward the common goal of optimal health? Talk about progress!

ASSIST. Ah, my friends, isn’t that what doctors are supposed to do? Assist us? But how often have we felt anything but supported or assisted by our doctors? How often have we dreaded those doctors’ visits and felt like we were in the presence of an adversary rather than a friend?

As I said, I could scarcely believe this article existed when I read it. I still have to kind of rub my eyes and make sure it really says what I think it does. There are lots of other great articles on this site, too, where you will find other equally reasonable and respectful insights. I urge you all to pop over when you get a chance and check it out. Here’s the address.

Could it be that some people in the medical community are actually waking up and taking us seriously as human beings? I don’t know … I don’t dare jump to conclusions, but this looks promising and it gives me hope.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2012 12:33 pm


  2. Fab@54 permalink
    June 7, 2012 8:23 am

    I am astounded as well. I need to let this sink in a bit………

  3. June 7, 2012 10:29 pm

    This isn’t the first good news to come out of Canada, and I give Sharma (founder of Canadian Obesity Network) a lot of the credit. He has really pushed for a sensible approach to metabolic health, of which obesity is a part. But he de-emphasizes the stigma and shame. He understands that weight loss is not the goal. I see his fingerprints all over Canadian policies concerning obesity. I’m not sure the States has anyone with his level of influence. There are obviously comparisons in terms of knowledge and experience, and people I agree with more, but none who really have the attention of our government.

    Right now, it’s all about Michelle Obama’s Save the Children campaign. And given the special interests in this country, it’s questionable that we’ll ever have anything else.

    We shall see, and continue pointing to Canada as an example.

    Way to go, eh.


    • June 9, 2012 6:18 pm

      I love Dr. Sharma. I listened to your interview with him, and when I heard him say (not verbatim, this is off the top of my head) “If I treat a 300-lb person and the next year they are still 300 lbs., I have done my job” I was astounded. Can you imagine any other doctor saying this? He knows that diets don’t work and he has so much compassion for large people. He recognizes that there is discrimination and bias and I can just tell he genuinely wants to help people. He has empathy. I have never heard another doctor speak about fat people with as much humanity, empathy, and understanding.

      • June 9, 2012 10:54 pm

        Yeah, he’s got the right attitude in general. If doctors and public health messages in the States had his philosophy and approach, this country would be a thousand times better off. I think we’re decades away from that being the case, though. I leave a little room in my heart for hoping it will be sooner.

        We shall see.


  4. June 14, 2012 7:43 pm

    WOW!!! This article makes me channel John Lennon…”You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one…”

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