patient talking to doctor about safe weight loss
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Bringing Up Safe Weight Loss With Your Doctor

By Kayla Young

The topic of weight loss is a touchy one at best.

You’ve probably seen articles about celebrities who have made a “stunning transformation!” While one-half of the general public is celebrating weight loss, the other is reminding everyone that a person’s weight isn’t what defines them or their success. (Especially with the term “pandemic pounds” floating around.)

It can be hard to know where to stand on the subject.

On one hand, losing weight can be hella hard to do and applauding that effort is great. On the other, it’s true – society’s standard of body size and beauty is biased to say the least, and our obsession with weight loss can be pretty damn unhealthy.

But isn’t it unhealthy to be “obese”?

Please, please, please. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be a change in the way that you view obesity and people who have it. No, I didn’t type that wrong. Labeling people as “obese” is a sneaky way of suggesting that it’s their fault and if they just try a little harder, they can lose weight. In addition, defining individuals by the disease that they have instead of the person they are is incredibly insensitive and inappropriate.

Weight management isn’t always as simple as eating a little healthier or exercising a bit more. Factors like genes, hormones, medication, and sleep can all contribute to weight gain. By referring to obesity in the same way we would any other medical condition, we remove the stigma that surrounds it, and we can start to help people feel safe to talk about it in a healthy way. If you’d like to learn more about why “people first” language is so important, here’s a handy little link for ya.

Okay, so why it is so important to voice my weight concerns with my health care provider?

Let us be the first to say that loving ourselves and our bodies is number one on our list of priorities. But if you’re concerned that your weight is impacting your health, your current activities, or your plans for the future (like getting pregnant, for example), talking to your health care provider is definitely the place to start.

Some health care providers are even reluctant to bring up weight discussions with their patients because they don’t want to fail or offend them so it’s important that you advocate for yourself.

A good health care provider should also feel like a partner; they’re someone who takes the time to get to know you and your weight story. They help to provide (or refer you to) comprehensive care that includes the options of psychological counseling, approaches to dietary and lifestyle modification, and medical or surgical treatments. They also stay in touch with you and remain a part of your journey, even if they aren’t providing direct care. If you aren’t getting the “partner” vibe from your current health care provider, it’s okay to search out someone else who feels like a better fit.

How can I bring it up with my doctor?

If you’ve decided to chat to your doctor about weight loss and don’t know where to start, here are some strategies and advice suggested by Dr. Donna Ryan and Dr. Christopher Still:

  • Make an appointment that is specifically designated for discussion of your health and weight.
  • Ask if there are other resources they would recommend (like a dietitian, physical therapist, psychotherapist or programs like Weight Watchers).
  • Speak up if your doctor gives you advice that you know is a bad fit for you. There’s no point in nodding away if you know their suggestions won’t work for your lifestyle or your budget.
  • If your doc is attributing every ailment you bring to them as weight related, or offers a one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss, it’s probably time to look for another healthcare provider. Weight management programs should be comprehensive and made just for you.
  • If you feel like you’re being judged, ignored or not taken seriously it’s another red flag that this health care provider isn’t right for you.

If you need a new provider, check out Obesity Care Providers to find someone who is specialized in obesity medicine. You can also check out the Obesity Action Coalition for more information and facts about obesity.

Your health is important so don’t worry about not having the exact words to start the conversation – just start it.

What are your thoughts on talking to your doctor about weight loss?

Have you had a conversation with your health care provider about losing weight in a safe and healthy way? Are you thinking about it? Is there anything about it that gives you the heebie-jeebies? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

While I have you here, you can also help by taking this survey – not only will it help the medical community understand the barriers around obesity, you’ll also receive further education on the topic and be entered for a chance to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are anonymous and will be shared only in aggregate. TAKE THE SURVEY

Once you’ve completed the survey, you will be asked to provide your email address if you’d like to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email will only be used to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize and to send a follow-up survey as part of this same initiative.

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