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Should Doctors Watch the 'Fat Talk'?


With the obesity epidemic growing, more research is being conducted into the role the medical community plays in helping patients maintain a healthy weight. A recent study in the medical journal Pediatrics asked parents to give their reactions to various words used to describe weight, such as obese, fat and chubby. The researchers specifically wanted to know how the parents would feel if a doctor used these words to describe their child's weight. Parents rated the words "fat," "obese" and "extremely obese" as the most undesirable and least motivating, preferring doctors use “unhealthy weight” to describe a concern. Parents described the undesirable words as judgmental and said they felt the doctors were not empathetic to their situation. The study concluded it's important for doctors and other health care providers to consider the language they use when dealing with parents and their child's weight issue. However, some might argue these terms should still be used, and that softening the language doesn't change the message. Moreover, "obese" is a medically recognized term used to describe the amount of excess weight in relation to a person's height. But if doctors want the message to be heard at all, and for these families to make healthful changes, perhaps it would be more effective to use language that doesn't make patients and their families feel defensive. What do you think? Should doctors be selective when choosing words to describe weight? Should they ask patients which terminology they prefer?  

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