A recent study examined what physicians say to patients who present with chronic obesity. Physicians usually don’t address the issue at all because of time constraints. They have very short appointments and specific things they have to cover, plus perhaps they fear being offensive or have ambivalence because they don’t know what would actually be helpful for the patient to hear.
This new study looked at what physicians say when they’re aiming to address a patient’s clinical obesity and give advice. As it turns out, even when they had to give guidance, they gave almost none at all. In 80% of cases, they gave general advice along the lines of “you might want to eat less and exercise more.” Only 6% of the time did they recommend a specific protocol or program to follow. So they were giving basically no actionable information. Why? Perhaps they don’t know what to say that will be helpful and that won’t offend.
I have a small ray of hope to share, though. This past week, I gave a talk to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Lifestyle medicine is a sub-specialty in which physicians can get board certified. My friend Dr. Mark Goetting is a physician who is board certified in obesity medicine, sleep medicine, and lifestyle medicine. And he did the Bright Line Eating Boot Camp back in 2015. He also ran a bunch of hospital-based weight-loss programs for the State of Michigan.
Mark reached out to the leaders in the member interest groups in lifestyle medicine to ask them to support me giving a talk. So I did. I went and I gave a talk about helping your patients overcome overeating. What do you do when your patient presents with obesity? What do you say? I gave them some new tools. I talked about the science of food addiction and gave them assessment tools they can use, including the Susceptibility Quiz. I talked about the benefits of patients adopting a structured approach to eating, like the Bright Lines in Bright Line Eating. I talked about these behavioral interventions and how they compare to modern weight loss drugs.