Can Overweight Doctors Really Help Patients Lose Weight?

Neil Chesanow

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December 08, 2016

In This Article

Talking to Patients About Their Weight

Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance at George Washington University, recommends that doctors use a technique called "motivational interviewing," a method for talking with patients that encourages them to reveal their barriers to adherence and helping them address those barriers.[17]

Although learning the basics can take several hours of training (seminars and workshops are available online) and becoming an adroit motivational interviewer requires practice, the technique can yield positive results in as little as 5 minutes, says behavioral psychologist Kim Lavoie, PhD, co-director of the Montreal Behavioral Medicine Centre in Montreal, Canada, who has trained thousands of doctors and other providers in the method.[18] Simply asking a patient for permission to discuss her weight can have a positive effect, she says, by giving the patient greater emotional investment in the discussion.

"Doctors often say that there is so much to cover in a visit that they don't have time to talk about weight," Dr Kahan observes,[17] "but they can at least start a conversation.You don't have to do it all at once. This isn't something that you solve in a single visit. This is a chronic disease, like diabetes. You can make progress with each discussion."

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