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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Akaka

No, I’m not that kind of Dr.

Warning: This post includes information about my actual weight and age. If that makes you uncomfortable, please stop reading.

I often find myself kidding about the fact that I’m not “that kind of doctor.” Referring to the fact that I’m not a medical doctor who heals people and saves lives. I have a doctorate in philosophy, which means I theorize about the world around me. As a marketing professor, I mostly theorize about markets. There are jokes and cartoons that reflect this sentiment and, for the most part, they are funny and accurate. I avoid bodily fluids at all costs and have no idea what to do when my kids are sick or get hurt even in the slightest way. I’m very comfortable with my lack of knowledge in this area and often seek out advice from those who are more knowledgeable than me, including friends, family and, of course, Google.

I have the highest respect and appreciation for medical professionals. I try to go in for check-ups regularly to make sure that, according to the medical field, my body is working the way it should. So my recent encounter with my primary care giver, who will remain nameless in this post, left me feeling shaken, uncertain, and a little bewildered. Not to mention pissed off.

After the routine capture of medical metrics – height, weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc. – I dared to ask about my weight. My accumulation of the “COVID-19” (as in gained 19 lbs. in the past 3 years) had not gone unnoticed by my pants and I decided I should do something about it. True to my research form, I already looked up what a healthy weight might be and according to BMI calculators online at 5’6” I should weigh in at around 150 lbs. to be “normal” with less than 25 BMI. According to my weigh in, I’m currently 27 lbs. above this marker – you do the math. However, I imagine that things like ethnic differences, age and lifestyle might be important to consider, so I inquired with my “expert” in the field.

He told me that a reasonable amount of weight loss was 17 lbs. in one year. I agreed that seemed like a “reasonable” amount and then asked what my “ideal” weight should be. After a few seconds of mental calculation out loud, he responded…130 lbs is ideal.

“Seriously?!?!?!?! That’s insane!” I screeched. “How can you expect me to weigh 130 lbs. now?!?! I’m 42 years old and had 3 kids!!” I proceeded to explain to him that that I weighed around 130 lbs. before I was married and had children, almost 20 years ago! I asked very sincerely, almost desperately, “Where does that number come from?!”

“Someone came up with it,” he told me.

“Who??” I wondered out loud. He explained to me that 2/3 of people in the US are overweight and obese because we are no longer hunters and gatherers who spend our days looking for food and killing our prey. WTF?!? I’m expected to be the weight of a woman who spent her days in search of her next meal?! What about evolution? Adaptation? Reality?

He said that I should focus on losing the 17 lbs. in a year and come back and we can see how I feel and if I’m “happy” with the situation. I responded by saying that I couldn’t possibly be happy knowing that my “ideal” weight is an impossible 130 lbs. And then he said the thing you should NEVER say to a marketing professor. He told me that my inability to be happy with my weight was a MARKETING problem!

I responded with – “NO it’s not it is a MEDICAL problem!” The problem, in my mind, was the expert in the room telling me that I need to weigh a ridiculous 130 lbs. to reach my ideal weight without thinking about who I am and the life I have lived. Was he trying to send me spiraling into a state of depression?? (Turns out prior research indicates that perceptions of obesity trigger anxiety and depression) I strongly suggested that he work on his delivery of such information and then asked him about the “muscle weighs more than fat” narrative. He then opened up an official calculator and calculated my ideal BMI to provide evidence. Guess what he told me – 150 lbs. Google was right (there’s really a range – please don’t take this as medical advice and seek a different provider if needed). I took a validated breath and acknowledged that was more realistic. Marketing won over medicine that day.

I write this long and revealing story to underscore the need for consumer education and patient advocacy, but mostly to tell marketers to stand your ground.
Your work is SO important.

There are, as with any field, good and bad, productive and unproductive, ethical and unethical. However, misperceptions and misrepresentations about marketing lead people to believe that our central goal is to manipulate people into buying shit they don’t need. It is not.

Marketing is central to value creation – imagine your day, just today, without access to market-based resources such as food, clothing, shelter, as well as yoga classes, skiing, and education, not to mention Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Of course, there are downsides to all of this that we need to address, but without a doubt, value is created through markets and marketing is a central facilitator of value creation. This is my opinion (see my first blog post) on markets and marketing, based on over a decade as a market explorer.

So, no, I’m not that kind of doctor. I’m what my kids would call a teacher-doctor. I’m also a marketer. A brilliant professor in my PhD program once said, no one wants to date a marketer – they are a sociologist, anthropologist, psychologist, historian, and an economist. He was right. I’m all of those things (it took a very special person to marry me). I look at the world through multiple lenses and, through my work, have the capacity to enhance lived experiences and increase wellbeing for individuals, organizations, collectives, and society at large. Plus, if my medical doctor never tells another 42-year-old, 5’6” woman that her ideal weight is 130 lbs., I might just save a life. You’re welcome.

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