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Why as a Physician, I Could Never Judge a Woman for Weight Gain

Training and working as a physician in Kentucky for the past 10 years, the state with the eighth highest adult obesity rate in the nation, I have witnessed many patients and even other healthcare providers struggle when it comes to her weight. I know that when women want to keep pounds off, it can be quite difficult. That’s why instead of constantly being hard on ourselves, we sometimes all need a reminder of how it can be almost impossible in our society as a busy working woman to always prioritize our health.

Women gain weight for one huge reason alone: we are expected to do everything.

Women are expected to not only work or attend school full-time but also keep a pristine home or apartment and also be present at every social or professional event. And once a woman has children, she also has to be a full-time mom. So when expected to wake up early, go to bed late and stretch all her time out between family, friends, career, and school, where will she find any time in the day at all to work out on most days?

All bodies change once a woman becomes pregnant and has children. But once a new baby is in the house, there’s a lot less sleep, unhealthy takeout or delivery, and a lot less time for exercise. How is a new mom really expected to lose baby weight easily? And when cooking for children, making sure your children eat can be difficult so family meals are no longer salads, they may look more like macaroni and cheese and hot dogs.

It’s a fact that our metabolism starts to slow in our thirties. It’s tough to decrease how much you eat and switch to healthier cuisine when your significant other or family can keep consuming loaded nachos.

It also never helps that women have a much slower metabolism than men do. And we all know the recommended daily nutritional calories is 2000 calories but the calorie count is much more dismal if you are a very petite lady or sedentary, which isn’t common knowledge. Also, medical issues can arise over time such as an injury or surgery that can derail even the most unrelenting of exercise regimen. Of course, there are also so many medications that can cause and contribute to weight gain.

The food industry just doesn’t help either. Sugar has been found to act like an opioid and is just as addicting as nicotine and cocaine, stimulating pathways in the brain that lead to pleasure. But food manufacturers know all this and add sugar into 75% of all packaged foods on the market shelves. And portion sizes in restaurants have doubled or tripled in size over the last 20 years, making it difficult to even learn what appropriate portion sizes should even be.

Over my time as a physician, I have met countless different patients coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Many have voiced the difficulties of trying to feed their families on a budget.

The costs of high calorie, high fat foods such as a cheeseburger is on every $1 value menu while a salad can be upwards of $10 making it extremely inhibiting for low income families to afford healthier meals.

Difficulty with prioritizing one’s health is especially challenging for those who chose to practice in the world of medicine. Being in the medical field guarantees one huge thing: you are going to be pressed for time for many, many years. As an undergrad or medical student, reading, studying, exam prep, and classes take up the majority of your days. During clinical rotations, hours can be extremely long and can involve overnight shifts and even call. And then as a resident, you work as a full-time physician but are also trying to get some learning in on your off-duty hours. And when you graduate residency, new responsibilities come about besides your clinical duties such as administrative work and academic endeavors such as research.

Cooking a healthy meal takes a lot of planning, prep work, and clean up. And after a long draining day, it’s almost impossible to motivate yourself to squeeze in that run or trip to the gym. And in today’s fast paced work environment, these are things that almost every woman can attest to no matter her job field.

Knowing all these difficulties women face when it comes to prioritizing her health, we all should take a moment to appreciate our bodies for the strong, hard-working machines that they are and all the amazing things they can do.

Because our own society can sometimes work against our well-being, we also need to try not to put so much pressure on ourselves all the time because we are all doing the best we can.

And even I, a physician, know that the modern woman has so much expected out of her that instead of ever judging a woman for weight gain, we should continue to support one another instead.

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