The Physician Philosopher Podcast

Weight Loss for Busy Physicians with Dr. Katrina Ubell

This is an exciting interview to share with you as I have a conversation with one of the OG physician coaches, Dr. Katrina Ubell.

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You’ll notice that Dr. Ubell discusses themes similar to what we teach on The Physician Philosopher. That’s because mindset work is universal, whether you’re trying to lose weight (which is what Katrina helps doctors with) or you’re trying to create the time and financial freedom to create a life you love (what we focus on here at The Physician Philosopher).

Keep reading, because we’re also going to dive into Katrina’s book. If you’ve ever wondered about clearing your path to permanent weight loss… this is for you.  

Who Dr. Katrina Ubell is

Dr. Ubell is a master certified life and weight loss coach who struggled with her own weight for decades before finding a permanent solution. In 2016, she founded a weight loss program that has helped over 1,300 physicians achieve the same peace and freedom surrounding food. 

Her podcast, Weight Loss for Busy Physicians, has been downloaded over 6 million times and she is the author of the new book, “How to Lose Weight for the Last Time: Brain-Based Solutions for Permanent Weight Loss.”

Being the child of German immigrants who weren’t particularly emotionally available, Dr. Ubell used food to help herself emotionally when she was a child. However, her reliance on food to self-soothe didn’t become a problem until medical school. That’s when she spent much of her time studying or attending, dealing with high-stress situations, and had little time for exercise or hobbies. That’s when the food reliance got stronger and had more of an effect on her weight.

Dr. Ubell’s weight loss journey

The first time she went to Weight Watchers was fourth year medical school. She proceeded to gain and lose and gain and lose, again and again, a pattern which naturally repeated when she had pregnancies. 

When she lost the weight, it was through white-knuckling and deprivation and was never going to be sustainable. A huge part of her career as a pediatrician was advising people on what to feed their kids, and she felt embarrassed to have her own weight fluctuate to the point that she would see patients at various weights during various points of her journey. As she said, “Overeating is a personal struggle that people can see on the outside just by looking at you.”

She felt like she wasn’t a good role model, and that there she was as this expert in the body and was obviously struggling herself. Dr. Ubell hired a nutritionist and finally became aware that she was an emotional eater. When her next question was, “What do I do with these emotions, then?” she turned to life coaching.

I think a lot of people’s journey into coaching is very much like Dr. Ubell’s: solving a problem for themselves and then realizing how coaching and the tools that you learn along the way can play a part to help other people.

The reluctant entrepreneur

Dr. Ubell didn’t think she had an entrepreneurial bone in her body. She didn’t know the first thing about running a business and didn’t even really have the desire to start one, but what she did have was the desire to help people. 

In the private medical practice where she practiced pediatrics, she was an employee of the doctors who owned it. After over 10 years, she wasn’t feeling especially challenged anymore. 

As someone who values flexibility and new challenges, entrepreneurship turned out to scratch that itch. She saw how her colleagues were struggling and she had a solution. She knew weight loss for busy physicians was possible – she had done it. How could she keep that to herself? She had to share her insights with other people. Dr. Ubell knew how coaching had made such a difference for her in her life and felt called to begin her own coaching practice. 

Why Dr. Ubell wrote How to Lose Weight for the Last Time

She started out wanting to serve an extremely narrow sliver of the population: women physicians in clinical practice who want to lose weight and keep it off forever. That’s who she spoke to when she started her podcast, Weight Loss for Busy Physicians. 

Over the course of time, it was really interesting to see via podcast reviews how many people she was helping were not doctors. Many were referred to the podcast by their doctor or by friends and relatives who were doctors – even by some of her own physician weight loss clients.

She has close to 300 episodes of her podcast, so she could imagine that some people may come to the show feeling hopeful but ending up confused or overwhelmed.

Dr. Ubell thought, “I have this information, and it really helps people. I don’t want to start coaching anybody who wants weight loss help, but I also feel an obligation to give doctors a resource that’s actually going to address the root of the problem for the people that they take care of.” If she put a book together, it would give doctors something to give to their patients to get them started. Then, if it really resonates and that reader wants to work with a coach, they know a little more about what coaching can do and they can feel more informed about making the decision down the road.

 It’s worth mentioning, too, that readers can get a great start on their own even if they don’t go the coaching route. Dr. Ubell’s ultimate motivation in writing her book was to help people get off the hamster wheel and learn more awareness around their emotions and hunger, just like she did.

I think the broader reach that a book provides to help people, the better. And I think Dr. Ubell’s perspective is really important, because not everybody may be right for your coaching program.

Not everybody may listen to a podcast. Having multiple mediums really helps with that, too. I’m glad that she’s written this book and I know it’s going to help so many people create what they want in their lives.

Is it self-love versus weight loss or can both exist?

What Dr. Ubell sees is that body positivity is creating more shame for people. It seems helpful on the surface – deciding to not hate yourself because you aren’t whatever the current trendy body ideal is, accepting yourself and loving your body exactly where it is. But the caveat is that if you then want to lose weight, somehow you’re succumbing to diet culture and you should be ashamed of yourself. 

As she points out, if you’re worried that people will think you’re a sellout if you try to lose weight or that it’s a horrible endeavor, filled with self-hatred, why would you do it? Dr. Ubell believes all this does is make people not want to admit out loud that they actually would prefer to live in a smaller body for any variety of reasons.

She says, “We don’t need to withhold love from ourselves so that we can live in the size body that we want to live in.” The brain chatter that comes with deeply negative thinking about food and weight is something people can get free of, and Dr. Ubell is passionate about showing people that self-hatred is an unnecessary practice that needs to end.

The hunger scale and its role in weight loss

Dr. Ubell notes that once we’ve experienced a higher weight, we’ve been conditioned to believe the fallacy that we can’t trust ourselves and we can’t trust our bodies. And that’s absolutely not the truth. Actually what makes it a lot easier is to learn how to listen to your body’s messaging.

“So many of us are so disconnected from our bodies. We don’t know when our bodies need food, and we don’t know when they’ve had enough, or we’ve been conditioned to believe that when it’s time to stop eating is when we’re already overly full.”

Dr. Ubell’s hunger scale is a tool that helps you practice cueing into what your body actually needs. In the book, she gives some examples. She uses the scale from negative 10 to positive 10 so that zero is right in the middle: not hungry, not full, just neutral. The gauge she gives is that we should start to eat when we’re at a negative four and stop at a positive four.

Dr. Ubell rightly asserts the importance of having an appropriate mindset around food so that you’re not needing food to help you with your emotions. You’re also not thinking about food in ways that create more desire than is appropriate for food. That’s what she calls peace and freedom around food: where you can be around all your favorite foods and you’re happy to eat them.

Whether losing weight or creating the time and money you need to create a life you love, it requires intentional practices.

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