Don't Tell Me to Lose Weight, Exercise More, or Eat Better! It Won't Work

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Looking to shed a few pounds? Sound advice from a doctor or other health care provider can really help. But a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine suggests that advice about how to get healthier is much more effective when it’s specific. Oh, and it also helps when your doctor is empathetic to your struggles.

The study involved 134 overweight people who had additional health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes, and who were invited to take part in a comprehensive weight-loss program. Most study participants were women, and their average age was 51. The program included individual goals, educational materials, calls from weight-loss coaches, text messages with tips on losing weight and progress updates, and regular check-ins with health care providers.

Some doctors and nurses urged their patients to lose weight and exercise in general terms, while others gave specific advice that reinforced a weight-loss program, by encouraging them to talk to their weight-loss coach, for example. People in the group provided with specific advice lost seven pounds more on average than the first group. Those who rated their provider as empathetic and caring also lost an average of seven pounds more.