What do you need in your weight loss toolkit in order to have better weight loss odds? Well, you need a diet that fits your goals and matches your daily life demands, you need to commit to regular exercise, and many experts recommend that you have a support group with whom you can share milestones or challenges. Now, a new study suggests that if you’re struggling with obesity, you can improve your weight loss if you have your doctor in your corner too.
It’s long been recognized that a good doctor-patient relationship has enormous value. This study found that patients diagnosed with obesity, who participated in weight loss programs, lost twice as much weight as their counterparts if they had their doctor’s support during the weight loss program. It’s intuitive that if your health care professional is directly involved in any therapeutic program, checking in with you, helping you to solve challenges, and even cheering you on through difficult moments, then you are usually more compliant. A good doctor-patient relationship involves elements such as empathy, fruitful discussions, and trust, which all serve to keep a patient committed to scheduled appointments, follow ups, and even difficult, challenging therapies. This new study suggests that when it comes to weight loss, a doctor’s involvement can help to achieve a better outcome.
Unfortunately, some previous studies have suggested that doctors were less likely to develop deeper connections with patients who are overweight or who struggle with obesity, compared to normal-weight patients. That is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed by the healthcare community, since these are the very patients who probably need more support. Losing weight and sustaining weight loss is incredibly challenging, especially when the excess weight has been entrenched for a long period of time.
_“A good doctor-patient relationship involves elements such as empathy, fruitful discussions, and trust…” _
That may be one reason why in this study, researchers wanted to isolate and examine the impact of patient-doctor relationship on weight loss. The study used data from POWER trials, a government-funded randomized study that lasted 2 years. In the POWER trials, subjects were put into one of three groups: dieting using written guidelines, dieting using remote support and dieting with in-person support. The patient group that used health both coaches and had doctor support (about 347 individuals), were then asked to fill out surveys that offered questions evaluating the patient’s relationship with their doctor, specifically asking about quality of communications.
On average this group had a starting BMI of 36.3 and each patient had heart disease comorbidities including hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels. Though most of the participants rated their relationship with their doctor as “quality-driven,” it was the patients who scored their physicians specifically as “high-level helpful,” showed the most weight loss - on average 11 pounds. The patients who ranked their physicians lower on the helpfulness scale showed an average weight loss of just over 5 pounds. Clearly “doctor support” resulted in double the weight loss.
Typically, when patients join commercial weight loss programs, they rarely share information with their doctor. They may fear pressure from their provider, or they may not want to share failures and missed goals. This study suggests that if patients have their doctor’s support, weight loss totals may be more significant. With obesity having high rates of recidivism, additional tools in the weight loss arsenal are desperately needed. Doctor support could be one easy, accessible solution.
How can you better engage with your doctor?
- Start a food and exercise journal and bring it to every visit
- Ask your doctor’s opinion of the diet
- Let your doctor weigh in on whether the diet will help with other ongoing health issues like diabetes, heart disease, stroke risk
- Ask your doctor to help you determine some reasonable weight loss goals
- Let your doctor know when you are struggling with the diet
- Ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist or dietician if you feel you need some help with basic nutrition principles
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