By Madeleine Ortiz
Anyone who has gone on a diet, lost weight, and then gained any or all of it back, knows that permanent weight loss is not easy to do alone. More and more evidence is showing that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is with the support of a medical professional. Talking to a doctor about weight can feel intimidating, so use our six tips to get the most out of any office visit and be on your way to weight loss success.
Doctors offices are busy, and appointments are often scheduled with little or no time to spare in between patients. To avoid feeling rushed, primary care physician Dr. Kristin Terenzi suggests calling the office ahead of time and letting the staff know you will need extra time. Politely explaining that you have specific questions and topics you need to discuss with your provider that will require more time than usual helps the office prepare and allows you to have a more relaxed and productive visit with your doctor.
Be prepared to bring up weight first.
A recent ACTION study published in Canada reveals that less than half of people living with obesity have discussed their condition with their doctor. Weight loss specialist Dr. Judy Shiau says many primary care physicians find it difficult to ask a patient about their weight. Her best tip for avoiding awkwardness? Bring up your weight with your doctor yourself. A good way to start, she says, is to simply ask, “Can we talk about my weight today?”
Provide your weight and diet history.
If you’re ready to talk to your doctor about weight, chances are you’ve already made a significant amount of effort on your own. Dr. Megha Poddar, an endocrinologist and obesity medicine specialist, says by the time patients make it to her office they usually lost a significant amount of weight and regained it more than once. This weight cycling, according to Dr. Poddar, is extremely common and one of the main reasons obesity is classified as a chronic medical condition. The more information you can give your provider about the diets you’ve tried and the weight you’ve lost and gained, she says, the less likely they’ll be to simply prescribe “diet and exercise” as the solution to your challenges with weight.
Bring your food journal.
What you’re eating can play a role in your weight, but so can when and why you’re eating it. Dr. Michael Lyon, head of the medical weight management program in Vancouver, says using a food journal is one of the best tools for identifying eating habits. Dr. Lyon recommends keeping track of what, when, why and even how you’re eating for a few weeks before heading to the doctor’s appointment. Be as detailed and honest as possible, he says – your health care provider isn’t there to judge you, they’re there to help you. Getting a detailed picture of your diet and lifestyle will give them more insight into your condition and lead to better, more efficient solutions.
Have questions prepared.
According to the Canadian ACTION study, less than 30 percent of people living with obesity who had spoken to their health care providers about weight found the conversation effective. To get the most out of your visit, Dr. Terenzi says, it’s a good idea to do some prep work. Cognitive behavioral therapy, surgery and medication are all research-based interventions proven to lead to long-term weight loss. Dr. Terenzi suggests reading up on any of these research-based options that sound like they could fit into your lifestyle and then writing down a list of the questions you have for your doctor. If you want, you can even write yourself a script – you’ll feel more confident and be less likely to forget anything you’d like to ask.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
80 percent* of doctors agree that obesity is a chronic and complex medical disease. Unfortunately, many of those same doctors believe that diet and exercise alone is a viable solution. “Diets don’t work,” says Dr. Lyon. The treatment for obesity is much more complex and requires a multifaceted approach, “and your weight is not your fault.” If your doctor places blame on you, makes you feel ashamed or simply has not yet had the training needed to help you, it’s OK to ask for a referral to a weight loss specialist. If they can’t or won’t give you a referral, it is OK to seek another doctor. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
*According to the ACTION study (learn more here: https://www.actionstudy.com/)
Know your insurance benefits.
The cost of obesity treatments can feel overwhelming, especially when they aren’t automatically covered by insurance. Doing as much research as you can before your appointment can help you understand your benefits, and allow you and your doctor to make a decision about what works best for you and your budget. Know that in many cases, you can lobby your insurance for coverage of your obesity treatment. Just because it’s not approved automatically doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually be covered after communication from your physician. A full list of tips can be found in this informative article.
Though it can all feel intimidating, remember your doctors truly want you to be healthy. Doing your prep work before your appointment helps them help you get to your best weight and health.
If you’d like to see a physician who specializes in managing obesity, click here to find a doctor near you. Many physicians offer virtual consultations which makes it easier to get the right care. Just check the physician’s profile to see if virtual visits (via phone or video) are offered.
To sign up for our free online email program to learn the science of weight management, click here.