Weight loss is more successful when doctors offer specific tips

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Researchers found that clichés just don’t cut it

For consumers looking to shed a few pounds, there is no shortage of tips and tricks to help the process along. However, for those going to their doctors for some tips, specific advice is the best advice.

Researchers from Duke University recently conducted a study and found that when doctors offer their patients weight loss advice, offering specific bits of wisdom -- as opposed to general, generic tips -- is more effective in patients’ actual weight loss.

“Just telling somebody to lose weight or improve their diet or physical activity didn’t work,” said researcher Gary Bennett. “The doctor should instead encourage patient participation in a specific program.”

Getting to the heart of it

To see how doctors’ roles affected their patients’ weight loss journeys, the researchers conducted a year-long study with over 130 overweight participants.

For one year, the participants enrolled in a weight-loss program that was suited to their needs. They frequently checked in with weight-loss coaches, received educational materials on how to better their chances for success, received updates on their progress, and set weight loss goals.

The second component of the study involved communicating with doctors. Participants were required to check-in regularly with their physicians, and this is where the researchers spotted the biggest difference.

While some of the doctors offered their patients specific actions they could take to bolster their weight loss, others offered typical diet clichés, like “exercise more” or “lose weight.”

The researchers found that the participants with the more hands-on physicians were losing more weight -- nearly seven more pounds on average -- than the doctors offering superficial advice.

Moving forward, the researchers hope that consumers can have their doctors be active participants in their weight loss journey, as it might make a difference on the scale.

“Patients who enroll in a weight-loss program should consider asking their healthcare providers to check in on their progress,” said researcher Megan McVay. “This can help keep them accountable. It is also important to have a provider that they feel cares about them and has sympathy towards how hard it is to lose weight.”

Reaching weight loss goals

Losing weight can be a very difficult process for many consumers, and some recent studies have shed light on some things to consider when trying to achieve that goal.

For starters, it’s not all about counting calories. Researchers actually say eating at the right times of the day -- and avoiding eating at the wrong times -- is important when considering weight loss. Consumers are also more likely to be successful in their weight loss endeavors if they track the food that they eat.

“Free and low-cost weight loss apps have changed the ways that Americans manage their weight,” said researcher Gary Bennett. “However, we knew little about whether these tools worked very well on their own. We’ve shown that commercial smartphone apps can be a helpful way to get started with weight loss.”

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