It's All in the Words

The doctor-patient relationship is an important and essential component in successfully helping your patients form and live a healthy life. As a healthcare professional, it is important that you learn to feel comfortable bringing up uncomfortable topics, such as weight management.

In a growing trend, many patients say their doctors don’t talk to them enough about their weight. A sensitive subject, many professionals say they don’t bring it up because patients become defensive when there is the slightest mention about their need to lose weight.  

So how can you broach this sensitive subject in a helpful, non-offensive manner?  The International Journal of Obesity believes that it’s a matter of terminology. Words like morbidly obese, obese, and fat are some of the most often used terms by doctors when talking to their patients, but are also some of the most stigmatizing and blaming words that can be used, resulting in a patient’s unwillingness to hear what you’re saying. Instead, use world like unhealthy weight or overweight, as they are more encouraging and have a more positive connation in the patient’s mind.

We’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” As a professional, try to make the situation as comfortable as possible in hopes that they are more responsive to what you’re saying, especially in the matter of their weight.

Do you have any other ways of talking to your patients about their weight and discussing this topic with them? Feel free to leave a suggestion in the comment box below.


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