According to a recent study, doctors typically give patients who are obese ambiguous, superficial, and frequently unsupported by scientific evidence advice when telling them to lose weight. The study was published in the journal Family Practice, which is owned by Oxford University Press. Although obesity is a persistent and recurring problem, doctors frequently lack direction on what information is beneficial for patients who want to lose weight. As a result, it may be challenging for patients to use and apply the information they receive. Patients frequently complain about negative encounters because they find these weight-related interactions to be challenging.

The researchers examined 159 audio recordings of general practitioners` encounters with obese patients that were gathered in the United Kingdom between 2013 and 2014. The investigation found that weight-loss advice from doctors to patients with obesity rarely included effective methods and mostly consisted of telling patients merely to eat less and be more physically active. The advice was mostly generic and rarely tailored to patients’ existing knowledge and behaviours, such as what strategies they had tried to lose weight before. The advice was mostly (97 per cent of the time in analyzed consultations) abstract or general. Superficial guidance, such as one doctor telling a patient to just “change their lifestyle a bit” was common. Doctors gave patients information on how to carry out their advice in only 20 per cent of the consultations. They mostly offered weight loss guidance without any detail about how to follow it.

Doctors frequently (76 per cent of the time in the consultations) told patients to get help somewhere else for support in weight loss, often suggesting that they return for another consultation at their surgery. The analysis indicated that when doctors did offer specific information it was often scientifically unsupported and unlikely to result in actual weight loss. The notion that small changes in behaviour (“take the stairs more often”) can have a large weight loss impact is a common myth and is even prevalent in scientific literature, but it isn`t supported by research. Another common myth was that patients just needed the “right mindset” to lose weight.” This research demonstrates that doctors need clear guidelines on how to talk opportunistically to patients living with obesity about weight loss,” said one of the paper`s lead authors, Madeleine Tremblett. “This can help them to avoid amplifying stigmatizing stereotypes and give effective help to patients who want to lose weight.”


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