Feeling judged by your doctor could prevent you from losing weight, study finds

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Overweight and obese individuals who feel their physicians are judging them based on their weight are less likely to shed the extra pounds, reports a new study from Johns Hopkins.

The findings also suggest that most patients are willing to try to lose weight but that their efforts are often thwarted by judgmental attitudes they perceive from their doctors.

"Negative encounters can prompt a weight loss attempt, but our study shows they do not translate into success," said study leader Kimberly A. Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Ideally, we need to talk about weight loss without making patients feel they are being judged. It's a fine line to walk, but if we can do it with sensitivity, a lot of patients would benefit."

Conversation works; criticism doesn't

The researchers conducted a national Internet-based survey of 600 adults with a body mass index of 25 or more. The participants were asked if they felt judged by their doctors for needing to lose weight.

Results showed that 21 percent of patients felt judged, and 96 percent of those individuals had tried to lose weight in the previous year. And only two-thirds of the respondents said their doctors had brought up the topic of weight loss.

"Many doctors avoid the conversation because they don't want to make anyone feel bad, worrying they'll create a rift with their patients if they even bring it up. But that is not in the patients' best interest in terms of their long-term health," Gudzune said.

Understanding and support are necessary

Gudzune noted that doctors ought to be taught how to bridge these difficult conversations with sensitivity yet straightforwardness, making patients feel supported and understood. Starting with small weight loss goals, moreover, can help with long-term reductions in both weight and body fat.

"We don't want to overwhelm them," she said. "If we are their advocates in this process – and not their critics – we can really help patients to be healthier through weight loss."

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine
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