Some professionals are experts at giving advice; they just can’t seem to personally follow the recommendations themselves. Some professionals may be able to help countless individuals, while unable to clearly recognize or adequately cope with the same issues in their own family members. When it comes to weight issues, food issues, and eating disorders, experts may be especially challenged personally. It’s pretty well known that a significant number of people become personal trainers or group instructors in order to “justify” their exercise obsession, which may in turn correlate to an ongoing eating issue. If you struggle with over-eating, what’s the easiest way to justify working out several times a day (to burn off the extra calories)? You become a fitness professional. Or you become a dietician or nutritionist and hopefully the pressure of dispensing healthy food messaging will keep your own food issues at bay.
I’m not saying that everyone who decides to embark in a health career that involves exercise or nutrition has issues. I am saying that a significant number of these professionals have a past or current history of exercise or eating problems. And I do fear that some practitioners may recommend or endorse certain questionable supplements or cleanses or other modalities of therapy that could complicate a health condition or even instigate a food or exercise disorder in certain vulnerable clients or patients. Even the super-lean appearance of some of these professionals could place an unreasonable pressure on clients to try and measure up.
Then there are the celebrity trainers and nutritionists, or high-profile media lifestyle professionals. You assume they are fully credentialed and fully vetted by the media staff when they appear in a magazine, online, or on air. After all, the reach they have in an article or segment is huge, so you’d certainly assume they have the education and expertise to back up their comments. If they have hundreds of thousands of followers, they have to know what they are talking about, right?
I have found that’s not always the case. A good press or marketing person can easily inflate a client’s credentials and presto, they are on TV or radio and their professional profile has just been given an enormous boost and endorsement, whether they really have the education and professional expertise or not. Viewers can also confuse entertaining with informed. They are instantly “endorsed” as experts in their field. Some of them are well educated and credentialed – many are not. It’s just the way things are. Beware whom you choose as your guru.
When it comes to the medical world, the vetting process is usually more thorough. Doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals need to present a license or certification and have to continue logging medical education credits to remain licensed. But then it can get a bit sketchy. A doctor goes on TV and maybe gets his own show, treating clients while cameras are rolling 24/7. Is that skirting certain medical professional boundaries? Particularly when you are dealing with individuals who are especially vulnerable or fragile, with serious mental health issues?
Dr. Drew Pinsky has been the host of a radio show, dishing advice on sexual health. As an addiction medicine specialist, he has also hosted a drug rehabilitation program on a reality television series. Many consider him an authority on addiction issues. But I wonder, is that because of his credentials and expertise, his media persona, or a bit of both?
It is interesting to now hear that Dr. Drew's own daughter (the only girl of triplets) has struggled for many years with anorexia and bulimia, posting a series of brutally honest blogs describing her struggles. As an aspiring competitive ice skater, she grappled with weight issues and with the pressures of trying to achieve perfection. She shares that she attributes some of the pressures to a mother who seemed to expect perfection. Home apparently was not always a haven, but an extension of the pressure cooker she felt at school and on the ice. She also relates an incident during a family dinner, expressing concern over the unkind comments being made about Kim Kardashian’s excessive pregnancy weight gain. She claims her father, Dr. Drew, merely muttered about the dangers of excess weight and pregnancy – nothing about the bullying and the horrific pressure that his daughter was alluding to. Her mom weighed in with a comment about KK being fat. Can a doctor who specializes in mental health be immune to the eating disorder that his own daughter is struggling with, and to the home environment and relationship dynamics apparently exacerbating it?
I think it happens probably more than we recognize. We professionals can sometimes be too close to the problem and feel hampered and unable to navigate therapy with our own family members. Some of us may be in denial, or feel embarrassed to seek outside help. As I mentioned earlier, weight and food issues seem to be especially challenging, particularly when family dynamics like a parent-child relationship are unhealthy. I am glad to see that Paulina finally took action, seeking outside therapy. I do wish her father had stepped in and helped her sooner. Maybe he tried, and maybe her mother simply felt ill-equipped to handle the problem. Paulina seems to have found some peace in sharing her struggles, and is clearly inspired to help others while she continues her own journey.
Can someone be an expert in a health field and unable to solve a similar crisis in his own home? Yes, it happens. Can experts be experts while still having their own struggles? Absolutely.
Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience. Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts. Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch? Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at www.healthgal.com.
Published On: February 24, 2014