Monday, March 9, 2009

Future dietitians and weight bias

I came across this disturbing article the other day about weight bias among future dietitians. A new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed only two percent of future dietitians have positive or neutral attitudes towards obese individuals with the rest moderately biased.

Dietetic students were asked questions about both a normal weight male and female as well as an obese male and female with the same health characteristics other than weight. The results indicated that
the majority of the 182 students who participated viewed obese patients' self control, attractiveness, eating habits, compliance to treatment, self-esteem, and insecurity negatively.

Although this may show that dietitians are not immune to weight bias, this can impact treatment negatively. What patient wants insensitivity by a professional? How can a patient learn to trust her/his dietitian and get though the treatment plan?

This makes me wonder what dietitians think of eating disorder patients as first impressions. Do they think we are all stubborn, non-compliant? Do they feel some of us are too thin or too fat to be there? Whatever stereotype a dietitian or any other professional may hold affects both the patient relationship and treatment in the long run. No one needs stigma held over them. Perhaps, stigma reduction classes, similar to medical students compassion training classes, should be implemented into in the class curriculum, as well as positive role models and mentors who do not reflect weight bias.

Note--this is only a small study with a mostly Caucasian group, so there might be differences in ethnicity attitudes. This also can obviously not be a clear generalization, as with any profession, there are always the good apples and the bad.


Just Eat It! said...

I think I must be one of the few lucky ones who found a pretty unbiased dietician. I actually kicked then spat on my dietician the first time I saw her a few years ago and I still see her today.

I did see a dietician once that was so incredibly insensitive, though. She essentially declined to see me again until I would "admit that I had a problem."

There's good and bad dieticians out there, it's just a matter of finding the right one.

Kara said...

I agree that a biases and stereotypes class would be beneficial for future dietitians along with most other professions.

I just started seeing the dietitian that I'm seeing currently and I'm still feeling her out. I can't tell yet if she has any weight biases, but if I can't tell, that's probably a good thing.

Gaining Back My Life said...

I think your side note hit the nail on the head. Mainly speaking, from my own experience with my D.

As a bulimic 4 years ago, she refused to see me as it would be a waste of her time, since I would purge everything anyways.

It took alot of guts for me to reach out like that; I wanted some accountability and was hoping for a set mp so I could take charge of my recovery process.

As an underweight anorexic, her schedule was wide open for me. It's sad, but I think as humans, we just don't always get it and instead go with the popular flow of information.

Much of which is incorrect or completely ignorant.

"Julia" said...

I think there needs to be a study into psychiatrist bias.
Going on personal experience, the one time I tried to breach my little problem with my therapist, she insisted that unless I was only eating three baby carrot sticks a day, I couldn't possibly have an eating disorder.
She thought I was making it up!
She said, and I quote, "if you really had an eating disorder, you wouldn't be talking to me about it."
Huh... I wonder why I came to therapy? Maybe to sort out my problems?

Tiptoe said...

I agree with everyone that like all professionals go, it is about finding the right one.

GBML, I think it sucks that this dietitian did this. It really makes you compare one ED over another, and that should NOT be the case.

Julia, yeah, I agree that there should be more bias studies. Though I haven't experienced it, like you have through psychiatry, I've certainly heard similar stories. You'd think professionals would have a better clue at how unhelpful it is when they behave this way.