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TikTok Doctor Sets Standard for How to Talk to Patients About Weight

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A TikToker who goes by @thatgaydoctor has gone viral for a brilliant video in which he describes the non-stigmatizing way he speaks with his patients about weight.

The man behind @thatgaydoctor is a primary care physician in Chicago, according to his Instagram bio. In the TikTok video caption he wrote, “Many come in to talk about weight, others avoid the Dr for fear of it. I change my script to try to fit needs/goals. Not a one size fits all chat.”

@thatgaydoctorMany come in to talk about weight, others avoid the Dr for fear of it. I change my script to try to fit needs/goals. Not a one size fits all chat!♬ original sound – thatgaydoctor

In the video, he lists a six-step approach to broaching the discussion about weight. After a pleasant greeting, he first asks, “Is it OK if we talk about your weight?” which gives the patient an opportunity to decline to discuss it.

Next, he tells them their weight and asks, if it’s his first time meeting the patient, if that is a typical weight or if there has been any change lately? Once he hears the answer he suggests asking if the patient is comfortable and happy with their current weight, or if they would like to change it in any way.

Based on the patient’s answer he’ll proceed by asking, “Do you have a certain number that you’re aiming for or are you more just about how you look and feel?” This information, he said, lets him know how the patient sets goals.

Once he hears the response he’ll ask if there is anything the patient can identify, like diet or exercise, that “need[s] to be improved upon,” or would they like him to make general recommendations? After this portion of the conversation, he recommends they check bloodwork to be sure there are no health issues to be addressed. “If we find anything abnormal it’ll just be more motivation to make change,” he tells them.

This script is simple to follow and respectful of the patient, which is why it’s gotten such a positive reaction. In the video’s comments people are effusing praise and emotion. “I don’t know why I wanted to cry SO BAD because I’ve never had a medical professional talk to me like this and I wish they would have,” said one commenter.

Not wanting to discuss weight is a big issue for many patients when they visit the doctor. In fact, it’s a reason some people avoid going altogether, and that can have serious health consequences. Joan Chrisler, Ph.D., and professor of psychology at Connecticut College told a symposium on sizeism, “Disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming, in an attempt to motivate people to change their behavior, is stressful and can cause patients to delay health care seeking or avoid interacting with providers.”

And doctors may even treat patients differently based on their weight. One study of autopsy reports found that obese people were 1.65 times more likely to have undiagnosed, serious medical issues. Doctors could be blaming symptoms on weight that deserve more investigation and diagnosis.

That’s why @thatgaydoctor’s input is so valuable for the medical community, and why it’s prompted such support from people who view it. “How do I send this to my doctor, without sending this to my doctor?” one person quipped.

Header images via @thatgaydoctor

Originally published: February 25, 2021
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