In the Boston Globe this week, Dr. Suzanne Koven talks about her experience as a “slightly overweight” doctor advising others on weight management.

She writes, “The funny thing is, if I had been a diabetic counseling other diabetics, or an oncologist with cancer, my personal experience might be considered a plus…But, unlike diabetes and cancer, weight issues are not clearly understood as medical. Though obesity is a major individual and public health problem, people become obese because of a mix of genetic, behavioral, environmental, and psychological reasons. And doctors and patients alike still often think an inability to maintain a lean body represents a lack of willpower, a moral failure.”

Though Koven admits she’s never been more than a few pounds over what is considered healthy, she has at times, considered giving up her professional interest in weight, citing shame and musing, “How could I counsel patients to adopt habits I had so much difficulty adopting myself?”

However, over time, she explains, she came to see her experiences as a way to help patients feel more comfortable and even relieved to be counseled by someone who knows firsthand what they’re going through. She writes, “Some of that shame seems to dissolve once I’ve named our common demon.” And from there, Koven and her patients can “move forward together.”

I found this to be an inspiring read. When it comes to health and wellness, we all have our “stuff,” something that we struggle with, whether it’s a physical, mental or emotional ailment or imbalance. I took one grad course on nutrition counseling, and though this topic came up in a discussion on self-disclosure, the class kind of skirted around it.

While I don’t think it’s always appropriate to talk about your “stuff” in a healthcare setting, I find letting someone know you’re listening and not judging can make all the difference. It’s kind of fascinating the way someone’s body language changes when they go from feeling anxious and defensive to feeling safe.  Whether it’s something like a little “Would it help to know what you’re saying doesn’t sound crazy to me?” or just getting a feel for where someone is at so you can figure out where to meet them in the discussion, it’s important.

Anyway, that’s kind of a tangent.

What do you think of healthcare professionals sharing their personal struggles?  

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