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Need holiday weight loss? Your doctor may not be best place for help

Make this holiday a success for weight loss. Where to find resources

Women who are looking to lose weight for the holidays may want to find other options for help besides their physicians, finds a new report published December 20, 2012 in the journal “BMJ Open” by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Where can you go for weight loss help and what works best?

According to the report that is based on physician surveys, just 44% of doctors feel they even know how to treat obesity. Instead, they turn patients over to nutritionist and dietitians for weight loss. Doctors polled responded they didn't feel they have the education or the tools to help patients tackle obesity.

For the study, researchers pooled 500 family physicians, general practitioners and internists between February 9, 2011 and March 1, 2011.

The focus of the survey was to find out physicians’ perspectives on causes of obesity, their competency in treating patients seeking to lose weight and who they felt was most qualified in the healthcare field to help with weight loss and maintenance. They were also asked for solutions for improving treatment.

The results showed doctors in primary care strongly supported the need for more training that included nutrition counseling and changed in how they practice such as having body mass index scales to help improve care they give to obese patients.

Physicians who had been out of medical school fewer than 20 years were more likely to identify cause of obesity as lack of information about good eating habits and inability to access healthy foods as important causes of obesity.

Sara Bleich, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management said in a press release, "With respect to training and practice-based changes, primary care physicians would like to see implemented, 93 percent reported that including body mass index (BMI) as a fifth vital sign would be helpful; 89 percent reported that including diet and exercise tips in patients' charts would be helpful; 85 percent reported that having scales that calculate BMI would be helpful and 69 percent reported that adding BMI to patients' charts would be helpful.”

Regardless of when physicians completed school, the felt they needed more tools and training to help patients with weight loss, which Bleich says suggests obesity-related medical education hasn't changed much over the years. Most identified the need for more training and practice-based changes to help them do a better job with obesity care.

If you’re looking for weight loss solutions in the New Year, speak with your doctor about obtaining a consult with a dietitian or nutritionist. Most insurance companies will pay for a visit to either a clinic or hospital, with a small co-payment. Many hospitals offer group classes, in addition to one on one nutritional counseling.

Making weight loss happen

Internet tools that can help with a healthy diet to meet your weight loss goals include, “Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight”, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and “Nutrition and Healthy Eating” from the Mayo Clinic. It’s also important to incorporate regular aerobic exercise into your weight loss plan. Speak with your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have been sedentary.

Recent findings from Duke researchers show aerobic exercise is the best way to shed pounds. Finding motivation can be difficult. Suggestions for getting started include making a pact with a 'buddy' for regular exercise, whether it's walking, jogging, cycling or swimming.

Start a walking program. Keep the pace moderate to burn calories. A pedometer is a great motivational tool that can help you measure your daily progress as you slowly add more steps each week.

Another study from this year found getting in the pool is as good as exercising on land. That's good news for anyone with chronic pain or existing disabilities. You don't have to swim. For the research, Canadian scientists tested he effect of riding a cycle in the water. Participants got aerobic exercise without having to raise their heart rates.

Keep with your routine throughout the holiday season. Ask yourself why you're eating to stay on track with healthy foods and engage in 'self-talk' that can help you meet your weight loss goals and sustain them.

If you need counseling for losing weight, seek help from a dietitian or nutritionist. There are plenty of other resources for holiday weight loss. The new study shows your physician may not be the best place to turn for help, but certainly speak with your provider one to one.


BMJ Open 2012;2:e001871 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001871

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

Duke Univsersity


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