How to structure a conversation about weight between doctors, young people

A study published in the journal Health Communication, Youth Preferences for Weight-Related Conversations, discussed the best way for clinicians to discuss how to approach the topic of weight with their patients.

A three-question survey of 952 MyVoice participants posed the following open-ended questions:

Has your doctor ever talked to you about weight?

What did he or she say?

What should a doctor NOT say when talking about weight?

The findings?

Sixty percent of those surveyed said doctors spoke with them about weight. From that, 85% of the respondents said their doctor brought up the subject, (including actual weight, body mass index, weight status and/or the need to change their body weight), with 16% of doctors providing weight control advice.

As for what should not be said when discussing weight, there were two themes that stood out. The first (32%) regarded avoiding the use of stigmatizing terms and language. One-fourth of respondents requested not to shame patients for their weights.

“Findings suggest that weight-related conversations do not reflect the preferences of the youth they are designed to benefit,” the study said. “Youth recommended that clinicians focus on health and sustainable behavioral solutions, avoid stigmatizing language and comparing them to others, and be aware of the potential harm associated with making assumptions that conflate weight with health behaviors, morality, or appearance.”

The study was authored by Kendrin R. Sonneville Sc.D., R.D; Lakshman Pulpuri; Ivana Khreizat; Lauren P. Nichols; Melissa A. Plegue M.A.; and Tammy Chang M.D., M.P.H.
 

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