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February 21, 2011

Lighter Than Air: The 'Ville de Paris' (1906)

(The title of this post has nothing to do with the post. I just want my friend Bruce, who is under the weather, to feel better).

My annual gynie exam was today. If I wanted to see the doc, I had to wait until June (BEST HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD, people, don’t you forget it), so I chose to see her physician’s assistant, Patty, instead. No problem, right? She’s perfectly qualified.

I’m sitting there with my pants off, faded mauve lap towel covering my lady parts, having the discussion about Taking Better Care of Your Health. I didn’t mind – I saw Patty last year and she had used the opportunity to talk me into taking more calcium, so I was wondering what good advice she would have for me this time.

“Have you thought about making any changes in your lifestyle?” she asked so gently, gazing at my partially naked 200+ pound frame.

I told her about how I had changed my sleep habits, cut back on drinking, and how I was seeing a nutritionist who was nagging me to eat more vegetables and protein and whole grains and less of everything else.

“So how is the weight loss going with the nutritionist?” she asked.
“I’m not seeing the nutritionist for weight loss,” I said.
“So, you’re…” she was at a loss for words. Why would a fat woman be seeing a nutritionist if not to lose weight? (The real answer is: because her BFF dragged her to this class at church).
“Hey, I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to lose weight,” I said. “I’m just not going on a diet.”
WHAT? What kind of woman isn’t going on a diet?
“Why not?”
“Because I’ve been there and done that, and if I want to lose weight, I have to obsess every single minute every single day about food and I just don’t have the energy to do it any more,” I said.

Little did I know, I was falling right into her trap.
“How would you like to hear about a program that uses a health coach to help you lose weight in a safe and easy way?” she asked.
Who could say no to that?
“Sure,” I said.

Note to self: UR FUKED.

The physician’s assistant at my doctor’s office sells a multi-level marketing weight loss scheme of meal replacements and wanted to tell me about them. The health coach WAS HER.

Kill me now. She has my phone number. She has my medical records. She knows I want to lose weight. And she is a multi-level marketer of a SIMPLE! and EASY! program that is guaranteed to work for the low, low cost of I Don’t Want to Know.

This is so wrong, isn’t it? It isn’t right to pitch people for your get-rich quick scheme when you’re in a position to stick your gloved finger up their hoo-ha (and then their other hoo-ha right after that). That just ain’t right.

So now here are the possibilities as I see them:
1. I join her weight loss thing. It costs me a couple thousand dollars, but I lose the weight and keep it off. Everyone is happy. (Chance of happening: less than 1%).
2. I join her weight loss thing. It costs me a couple thousand dollars, and I lose the weight and but I can’t keep it off. She’s happy for the money but unhappy I’m making her look bad. I’m unhappy I spent all the money and unhappy I’m fat again. (Chance of happening: about 10%).
3. I don’t join her weight loss thing. She’s mad that I can’t see a good thing right in front of my face but I lose the weight another way and she is humbled at my next annual exam. (Chance of happening: less than 5%).
4. I don’t join her weight loss thing. She’s mad that I can’t see a good thing right in front of my face and I don’t lose the weight and I’m so embarrassed I have to find another gynie doc even though I loved that one and have been going to her for 10 years. (Chance of happening: about 85%).

Which do you think will really happen?

1906 Postcard Photo from Postaletrice. Used under a Creative Commons License.

  1. February 21, 2011 22:20

    This is how doctors are trying to make a profit these days. They need a way to get cash flowing in on a more steady basis given that health insurance providers are requiring too much work to get paid. Don’t fall for it.

  2. February 21, 2011 22:31

    Have I ever told you what I do for a living?

  3. Cindy in Walla Walla permalink
    February 21, 2011 23:18

    Perhaps it’s 5? She’s horribly embarrassed she behaved so unprofessionally, berates herself all day and makes a pact with herself that if you (please please please dear God) will just return and never mention this unfortunate event to her (or the good doctor) she will in return provide the most gentle professional experience until the end of time.

    For everyone.

  4. February 22, 2011 04:36

    Uh, I’m gonna go for option 6, actually (because I like 5 as well, but here’s this to consider): You call the office and ask to speak with the office manager, and lodge a complaint about how unprofessional it was for this woman to pitch you on her side business while you were there for your annual. Honestly, I cannot imagine that’s okay with the practice that she’s doing that.

    And then ask them how far in advance you need to call and schedule next year’s annual to be certain that you see the DOCTOR, next time.

    • February 22, 2011 05:51

      Good idea. Especially about the appointment part.

    • barbra permalink
      February 22, 2011 08:22

      This is what I was going to advise as well. What she did seems unethical, and I think the doctor should know about it.

      • February 22, 2011 08:40

        I wonder if the doc knows. The PA said “A LOT of people in this practice are on this program.”

    • February 22, 2011 14:57

      Ditto. That was wildly inappropriate.

      • February 22, 2011 15:06

        I was trying to make it “Well, it IS kind of medical advice…” in my head. Except it wasn’t. Medical advice is “find a program to help you lose weight,” not “Buy this!”

    • February 23, 2011 07:36

      Oh, yeah. This is the only solution. I would be furious, which is not the emotion I specifically look to have in leaving my annual check-up.

  5. February 22, 2011 05:29

    Good grief – what Mir said! Completely unprofessional!

    That said, I vote for #3. We are voting here, right? 😉

    • February 22, 2011 05:52

      I hope #3 happens, too. At least the first part.

  6. talesofmy30s permalink
    February 22, 2011 05:43

    I think you should find out if it is known in the office that she is selling her side business.

    It may be okay with the practice, but it’s not okay as a patient. This is still is grating on me hours after you mentioned it.

    • February 22, 2011 05:50

      LOL Sorry to grate you for hours, Rachel. Yes, I’ll get to the bottom of it.

  7. madge permalink
    February 22, 2011 06:07

    I can’t wrap my head around the colossal unprofessionalism here. But! BUT! Even worse, was how vulnerable a position you were in when she approached you. I’m so infuriated about this! If you don’t call, I will. Email me the number and I’ll make an anonymous complaint.


    • February 22, 2011 06:18

      I want you on my side in a fight, Madge!

  8. February 22, 2011 07:05

    I can’t even begin to think of what to say about this. This is. It’s just so. I can’t. What? She did what? Fuck.

    • February 22, 2011 07:44

      But it’s a GREAT PRODUCT. It worked for her! Now she is a distributor!

  9. February 22, 2011 07:33

    That really pisses me off. What a completely inappropriate abuse of her position.

    • February 22, 2011 07:44

      There is something about MLM that turns normally sane people into selling lunatics.

  10. February 22, 2011 08:15

    What Mir said. Your doctor should know what the PA is doing.

    • February 22, 2011 08:40

      I think I’ll talk to her about it first, then the doc if need be.

  11. neeroc permalink
    February 22, 2011 09:43

    What they said. Your doctor needs to know this is going on in her office. Activity like this in her office, by her staff gives the appearance of her endorsement. If they do know, I think there are still issues with the approach taken. You’re in a setting where you’re receiving advice from a medical professional, it seems boundaries may have been crossed.

  12. February 22, 2011 12:17

    I vote for #6.

    Now I will stop going apoplectic at how unprofessional and LAME she is.

    • February 22, 2011 12:55

      I just hate that I was so shocked I couldn’t get apoplectic at the time.

  13. February 22, 2011 12:46

    I’m floored. FLOORED by this. And to think, I’m currently mulling over a post for next week (National Eating Disorders Week ~ Project Body Talk) about how much money people are making at the expense of people who want to lose weight. SO many diets. Which don’t work. WHICH DON’T WORK. But still, we’re told that it’s our will power, our own lack of character and strength that is the problem. Not that our metabolisms are affected by dieting, and that the diet industry takes such advantage of us. Not that the obsession involved in dieting is an eating disorder of its own. Not that it’s enough to make a person hate them self and lose their mind. They don’t care. If they truly cared, they would back off. They wouldn’t try to sell people products that they know don’t work. Hell, if they worked, we’d all do it once, and be whatever the hell size we want to be, right? Right.

    Too hell with her. She was so out of line trying to sell her crappy product to you, she’s not even in the same town. I’m blown away.

    I have a friend/acquaintance who’s sucked into this whole thing right now. Trying to earn a BMW selling stupid smoothies. Trying to convince people that you can be thin AND rich in 90 days, without any work.

    Whatever. There’s a sucker born every minute. I refuse to be one of them.

    • February 22, 2011 12:53

      I’m very afraid of diets, especially very low-calorie diets, because I think they can wreck your metabolism. There’s a reason 95% of people fail to keep weight off for a year after they lose it.

  14. Maureen permalink
    February 22, 2011 19:44

    That is a conflict of interest. I’ve heard of it happening before, but that doesn’t make it right. As a nurse, I’m offended.

    • February 22, 2011 20:47

      Good to hear a professional opinion. Thanks.

  15. Al_Pal permalink
    April 20, 2011 00:02

    Wow, disturbed! Update? I, too, am enraged on your behalf.
    PS I *so* would not have guessed 200+! You look normal-sized to me. ;p

    • April 20, 2011 06:15

      She told me the doc knows and approves of the program. Now I really feel like I can’t go back. Too bad, because I loved that doc.

  16. April 21, 2011 19:41

    Dear SueBob,

    Get over yourself. If you don’t like it, just decline. Besides, did you even investigate what the “program” is? How do you know it isn’t better than anything else you’ve tried? What objective observations or comparisons did you make about it?

    So what if she makes a little from the effort? Did the nutritionist you saw see you for free? No. You went there voluntarily.

    When you sign up for Weight Watchers, what do you think happens? the same thing. (btw WW made about $1.2 billion last year.) Sure Weight Watchers works if you stick with it, and you have to regularly check in, but you don’t get a health professional at your side along the way. The PA that saw you already demonstrated her commitment to you from her previous visits, but apparently that wasn’t seen as a plug for the Calcium supplement industry.

    Have you ever seen a TV commercial, newspaper ad, or radio spot? Sure you have. All are trying to get you to buy their product. Are they all scams? No one gets apoplectic about the Geico commercials. But when a real-live person offers you something all of a sudden you act like you’ve been mugged, and Patty should be crucified, and in reality nothing had even happened yet.

    Think about the things you purchased this week. Every dollar you spent went to a person. Not a product, a service, or into cyberland. It went to a person, as a profit. They provided something you needed or wanted or believed would benefit you somehow, and you bought it, without a blink. Every chiropractor I’ve ever seen also sold supplements, they still do good work. Every hair salon/barber I’ve been to also sells all kinds of hair products.

    Don’t be so hard on Patty, she’s trying to survive like the rest of us the best she knows how. If you didn’t want it, just decline. If you were curious, ask more questions. But don’t make assumptions.

    Best of luck finding a new doc.

    • April 21, 2011 21:49

      To answer your questions: yes, I investigated the program. It is a very low-calorie diet made up of a lot of meal replacements. Pretty much the same as Jenny Craig etc, but even lower-calorie. About $300 per month.

      I do have ethical concerns with her making a little from the effort, much as I have concerns with doctors who refer you to imaging centers that they own.

      Yes, the nutritionist was free. She offers her information as a retired nutritionist who just wants to help people live healthier lives.

      When I walk into weight watchers, I know I am walking into someone who is selling me a diet plan for money. At my doctor, I think it is fine if they give me diet advice like pointing me to weight watchers, Jenny Craig or lindora, as long as they aren’t getting kickbacks to do it (or tell me to take calcium, not “X Brand of Calcium that I happen to be selling”. The ethically fuzzy area is when the person offering you the diet plan is making money to do so. I know a lot of chiropractors and veterinarians especially do stuff like this “for your convenience,” but it is still shady to me. And I wrote the blog post ASKING questions because I just knew it felt wrong, but I wasn’t sure if I was overreacting. Most people seem to think I wasn’t, but numbers don’t really prove anything, and you’re welcome to your opinion.

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