Shared Decision-Making in Weight Management

Shared decision-making is a process whereby health care providers take into account each person’s personal preferences, priorities and goals before selecting a specific treatment plan.

As a weight management expert, it’s a process I’ve been using for most of my career to help my patients lose weight and get healthier.

Getting to know each patient in a short period of time can be a challenge for providers but it’s necessary to achieve the best outcomes.

To help you better manage weight, here are some questions providers may ask you:

  • Is it ok to discuss your weight?
  • What has worked and not worked in the past to help you lose weight?
  • What kind of support do you have at home?
  • What kinds of diet and physical activity challenges do you face?
  • What are you expecting from me during this visit?
  • What do you need before you leave today to be successful?

It can be helpful for you to think about how you would answer these questions prior to seeing your health care provider.

Shared decision-making works best when you take an active role in your care.

Here are other areas to think about prior to your next health care visit:

1-What are My Top Weight-Related Health Concerns?

The goal of weight management is to make you healthier.

Think about how losing weight can help you.

One person may be trying to lose weight to avoid going on diabetes medication or to lower blood pressure.

Someone else may be trying to improve symptoms related to arthritis or reflux or even lower cancer risk.

I encourage you to think about and verbalize your weight-related health concerns.

2-What Are My Weight-Related Needs and Goals?

Given your life situation and stressors, think about your current motivations to lose weight.

Are you interested in joining a formal program like WW or following a self-help approach, as in my latest book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Are you someone who did well in the past using digital tools to track weight-related behaviors and want to try some new ones?

Would referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist give you more ideas for healthier meal planning?

Could a physical therapist or personal fitness trainer help you develop a physical activity program that better meets your needs?

Would it be helpful to see your health care provider regularly to monitor your progress?

Feel free to jot down notes before your visit so you remember to discuss goals that are realistic for you.

3-What are My Thoughts about More Aggressive Treatments?

If you’re someone who struggles with feelings of intense hunger or the disease of obesity that make it hard to manage weight on your own, you may want to ask your provider about recently approved medication treatments.

You can ask if your health care provider prescribes them or if you need a referral to an obesity medicine physician specialist.

For individuals with severe obesity and/or those with a weight-related medical problem such as diabetes or obstructive sleep apnea, bariatric surgery is a very effective treatment.

Shared decision-making works best when you and your provider develop a treatment plan that’s targeted to your needs.


Robert Kushner, MD

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