How Doctors Talk Affects Weight Loss

DURHAM, N.C., Oct. 5 (UPI) — Patients of U.S. physicians who communicate in a motivational style about losing weight lost an average of about 3.5 pounds in three months, researchers say.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., found physicians discussed weight in 69 percent of their encounters with patients. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found overall, no difference in weight loss between patients whose doctors talked about the topic and those whose doctors didn’t.


However, patients whose physicians communicated in a motivation style lost weight, but those patients whose doctors spoke in judgmental/confrontational style did not lose weight.

Lead author Kathryn Pollack and colleagues analyzed the recorded conversations of 40 primary care physicians and 461 of their overweight or obese patients over an 18-month period — saying only they wanted to record how doctors talked about health.

“Patients don’t like to be told what to do, and they are generally not going to question or talk back to their doctor,” Pollak said in a statement. “But what happens when doctors use reflective statements or a more motivational and empathic approach, it changes the relationship; the patient becomes more of an equal, more of a partner in care.”

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