Tips to Improve Health Care Encounter when Talking about Weight

If you’re someone who struggles with weight, you may also struggle talking about weight with your health care provider.

I know this because for the past 40 years I have talked to thousands of patients about weight and have seen firsthand how difficult this conversation can be for many individuals.

Difficulties can range from people feeling judged when talking about their weight journeys, to revealing personal behaviors related to their weight or to discussing feelings of blame or shame experienced during past encounters.

If you’re looking to better manage weight, expert help is available.

You can start the process by first asking your primary care provider for help.

Feeling more comfortable talking about weight can help improve this encounter.

Here are some tip I hope you find helpful:

1-Prepare Before the Visit

First, take some time to reflect on your weight journey.

Take note of what has worked well for you in the past and what hasn’t.

Looking back can help you move forward.

Sharing key weight journey information during the encounter will also help the provider get to know you better.

Also, make a list of questions to ask your health care provider.

Some examples:

  • How much weight do I need to lose to start seeing benefits?
  • What kind of diet should I be following?
  • Are there any recommended food or fitness apps you think I should try?
  • Am I a candidate for taking an anti-obesity medication?
  • Can you refer me to someone for help with meal planning, exercise or stress management?

2-Share Your Feelings

If you’re seeing the provider as part of a telehealth visit or you’re both wearing masks during an in-person visit, it can be harder to pick up on nonverbal cues.

That’s why I recommend that you let the provider know if the questions he or she is asking you are making you feel uncomfortable.

This happened to me recently during a telehealth visit and I thanked the patient for letting me know that my questions about her diet where making her feel uncomfortable.

I also recommend you practice advocating for yourself to fight weight bias during all health care encounters.

3-Get a Plan

You want to leave your visit with specific action steps to take that will keep you accountable and moving in the right direction toward better health.

The action plan may include practical steps to take such as tracking your diet for at least 1-2 months to start, becoming more calorie aware, planning your meals and snacks, asking for support at home to make more time for self care or tracking your steps taken daily to motivate increased activity.

The action steps you choose to follow should be based on mutually agreed upon goals, which may also include having a follow-up appointment or referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist or an obesity medicine physician specialist.


Robert Kushner, MD





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