We asked several physicians who specialize in treating obesity and excess weight how they would recommend talking to our family physician about reaching a healthier weight. Here were their suggestions:
- Educate yourself first. Before you start the conversation, it’s important to learn why the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization have declared that obesity or excess weight is a chronic medical condition, as Dr. Arya Sharma says in this fascinating video.
- Bring it up. Dr. Judy Shiau says, “If you are looking for help for weight, one of the first things you can do is say to your doctor, can we talk about my weight today? And that is a door opener. Because sometimes it’s really hard for a primary care physician to say, is it okay if we talk about your weight? Because they’re a little bit worried that that might become a sore point. But if you’re ready, then please don’t hesitate to ask for help.”
- 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 solo effort. 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 bigger a picture you can give them – and the less likely they’ll be to simply prescribe you “diet and exercise” as the solution to your challenges with weight.
- Speak their language. Psychologist Dr. Michael Vallis has the following advice: “If you’re working with a healthcare provider who you feel is being biased towards you, you might consider asking, ‘Doctor, do you believe in evidence-based medicine?’ And I can pretty much guarantee you that every licensed physician on this continent would say, ‘Yes. Evidence-based medicine is the standard of my practice.’ And then you can say, ‘How come you’re not following evidence-based practice with me and my weight?”
- Evidence-based medicine for weight is treatments that have been proven in large clinical studies to be effective: medication, meal replacement programs (with medical supervision) and surgery, among others. Getting your physician to talk about how you can explore THESE options is the first step towards real success.
- If necessary, push back. Dr. Michael Lyon says “We’re still in an era where the medical profession has very little knowledge about serious weight problems. They haven’t acknowledged really often times that a serious weight problem is a medical condition, a disease if you will that needs to be treated like other diseases. Push your doctor for real help. Say ‘I’ve done that. I’ve tried that. I’ve done diet programs. I’ve been around the block many times. Now I need real help.’”
- Make an informed decision. As Dr. Ali Zentner says, “Patients need to acknowledge that this is a whole area of medicine available to them. And I think it’s vital for a patient to understand that you can treat your disease any way you want to. It’s your body. You only get one. However you want to go about it, you go for it. But make an informed decision.”
- Choose the right HCP partner. Dr. Ali Zentner also has fantastic advice here—“Ask what someone’s credentials and experience are. And ask what their training is before you let them make a judgment call about your health.”
For many people, diet and exercise alone are not enough to reach a healthier weight. There are now safe and effective non-surgical medical treatments that have been proven to help people be successful over the long-run. Talk to your doctor or check out our physician locator to find a doctor near you who specializes in the medical treatment of weight.
For a doctor’s visit checklist, click here.
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