Your goal, as a physician, is to help your patients be as healthy as possible, which means you should be talking with patients about weight loss. Being overweight can be harmful to one’s health and it often results in people being at a higher risk for certain health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and even certain types of cancers. Yet, discussing weight with patients can be an awkward conversation to have, because weight can be a sensitive subject for many. In fact, a recent study revealed that discrimination based on people’s size can take a toll on their physical health and well-being. With that said, there are ways to talk to patients about weight loss without being hurtful or overly forward. Here are four tips for talking with patients about weight loss.
Four Tips for Talking with Patients about Weight Loss
1. Don’t Discriminate.
Don’t discriminate against patients because they are overweight. For example, if your patient comes in to see you about a sore throat or stomach issues, address those concerns first. Later in the conversation, you can start talking with patients about weight loss. It’s important not to make every health issue about weight. A study found that patients who are obese are 1.65 times more likely than others to have significant undiagnosed medical conditions, which indicates that misdiagnosis or inadequate access to health care exists for people who are overweight. Make sure that you are paying attention to your patient’s overall health and not just their weight.
2. Avoid the “F” word.
When you start talking with patients about weight loss, first and foremost, don’t ever say the word “fat,” no matter the context. Patients respond better to terms like weight loss or BMI when it comes to discussing weight loss. The word obesity is another good word to avoid when initiating the conversation about weight. Since weight is a sensitive subject for many, it’s important to enter the conversation cautiously.
3. Ask questions.
A good way to initiate a conversation about weight loss with your patients is to ask questions first. Find a way to ask them about things like their eating and drinking habits, as well as what type of physical activity they do throughout the week. This will hopefully get them talking and thinking about their physical health and diet, plus it can be a good way to open the door for discussing their potential desires to lose weight. Some people will willingly admit they need help losing weight, while others may think their weight is fine and are fully confident with their body image and health status.
4. Educate them.
Even if your patient is closed to the idea of developing a weight loss program or letting you help them lose weight, the least you can do is educate them. Make sure that they understand the risks of being overweight and why it’s important to consider changing some of their eating habits. You could also give them some tips on healthy eating. There’s a good chance that your patient has taken offense to you bringing up their weight and that has them shooting down your suggestions. If you educate them anyway, there’s always the possibility that they will let your words sink in once they’ve had time to calm down in private. If they are open to a weightless program, be prepared to give them suggestions for how to lose weight and to hold them accountable as they start their weight loss journey.
Do you have some tips for talking with patients about weight loss? What has worked for you in the past? Be sure to share them with us in the comments below!