Published on November 7, 2023, 12:54 am
Doctors’ Optimism Linked to Success in Weight Loss Programs
When it comes to weight loss, having a doctor who is optimistic and positive may make all the difference. New research suggests that patients are more likely to participate in a weight loss program and succeed in losing more weight when their doctor takes a positive approach.
Obesity is a serious disease that can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dementia. In both the UK and the US, a significant number of adults are obese. However, this study reveals that patients whose doctors present obesity treatments as positive opportunities tend to lose weight more successfully than those whose doctors focus on the negative impacts of obesity or do not address its effects at all.
The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed conversations between patients and doctors during a 12-week weight loss program conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford. The researchers categorized the doctors’ language into three different approaches: “good news,” “bad news,” and neutral.
Doctors with a “good news” approach presented the weight loss program as an opportunity and rarely mentioned obesity or weight as problems. Their talking style was described as smooth, fast-paced, and conveying excitement. Patients with these doctors lost an average of 4.8 kg (10.6 lb) after 12 months.
By comparison, patients with “bad news” doctors only lost 2.7 kg (6.0 lb). These doctors spoke about obesity as a problem, positioned themselves as experts, and focused on the challenges of managing weight. Researchers noted that their communication style expressed regret and pessimism.
Surprisingly, patients with neutral doctors – those who did not make positive or negative comments about obesity treatment – experienced even less weight loss, averaging only 1.2 kg (2.6 lb).
The researchers concluded that greater enrollment in the weight loss program was behind the positive impact observed with optimistic doctors. Of all participants, 87% with positive doctors enrolled, while less than half of the patients with neutral or pessimistic doctors signed up.
However, once enrolled in the program, weight loss did not significantly vary between patients in the three different groups. This suggests that getting patients to start a weight loss program is the most critical step.
These findings emphasize the importance of a doctor’s attitude and communication style in motivating patients to pursue and achieve their weight loss goals. A positive, optimistic approach can make a significant difference in helping patients succeed on their weight loss journey.