GPs should stop worrying about offending patients who are clearly overweight and send them to Weight Watchers!
I often tell clients straight out they need to lose weight, and what must be done to make it happen and researchers at Oxford University have confirmed that GPs can make a difference by spending just 30 seconds of appointment time talking about the effectiveness of attending weight loss programmes.
In a study published in The Lancet, they found that patients attending the 12-week Weight Watchers courses lost twice as much weight as those who tried dieting on their own.
The Oxford researchers studied 1,882 men and women who had visited their GP for reasons unrelated to weight loss. All those patients were urged to think about losing weight and half were referred directly to slimming clubs, while the remainder – in effect the control group – were left to diet alone.
After 12 months they were weighed. Those who had attended courses lost an average of 5lb compared to only 2lb lost by members of the control group.
Lead author Professor Paul Aveyard suggested GPs broach the subject by saying something along the lines of ‘while you’re here, I just wanted to talk about your weight.’ Canny hypnotherapists do this sort of thing a lot. Perhaps cynically, for some hypnotherapists, it’s a way of getting more sessions, and money, out of their client. I do not approve of this practice, but it does go on.
Doctors on the other hand are wary of offending patients by discussing their weight, but evidence from this trial shows they shouldn’t be. On the contrary, the study found that the brief, 30-second conversation, followed by help booking the first appointment on a community weight loss programme, is actually welcomed by patients.
Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley and other locally run 12-week courses are available free on the NHS for patients classified as obese. These courses cost about £100 and typically involve weekly meetings with a weigh-in followed by healthy eating and exercise advice.
Critics have questioned why the NHS should pay for slimming clubs when it’s so short of money, but in the long run, the courses save money by preventing patients developing Type 2 diabetes and other debilitating and costly conditions. Obesity and weight-related health problems clog up GP’s waiting rooms.
Britain has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe – a quarter of adults obese with another 40% overweight. The researchers received grants from Weight Watchers and Slimming World, but insist that this did not influence the study’s conclusions.
Talking to patients in the right way, for just half a minute, should do the trick!
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserve