Tight White-Coat Syndrome: Physician Heal Thyself

Michael Dansinger, MD, MS


May 15, 2006


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Is that white-coat feeling a little tight? Many physicians are overweight or obese for the same reasons our patients are.[1] Many of us do not eat right and get enough exercise.[2] We work long hours, making it seemingly impossible to squeeze regular exercise into our busy daily routines. We eat on the run and unhealthy food (often served in our own hospitals) is commonplace.

Physicians rally against obesity, and yet, we are not doing all we can. Sadly, those of us who fail to embrace lifestyle recommendations in our personal and professional lives promote a public perception that lifestyle change is ineffective or unrealistic.[3] Despite dramatically increasing obesity rates, we have failed to improve our dismal obesity counseling rates.[4] The physicians who fail to recognize and treat obesity are often the ones who personally fail to heed lifestyle recommendations,[5] and these doctors may sometimes lose credibility with their own patients.[6]

I know we can do much better. First, we must recognize that the human body needs at least an hour of exercise daily for optimum health, and every able-bodied physician should strive to achieve this. Second, we should eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits daily, and third, those of us with excess body fat should literally count our daily caloric intake and aim for about 12 calories per pound of ideal body weight.[7]

If we can commit to these goals, both as individuals and as a medical community, imagine the example we would set! As individuals we will feel better and stronger, and as a medical community we'll serve as better role models for our patients. To succeed in healing others, we must also heal ourselves.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Michael Dansinger, Obesity Researcher at Tufts-New England Medical Center.


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