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How to Talk to Your Primary Care Doctor About Your Weight

Woman on a scale

If you’re concerned about your weight and want to make some changes, your primary care doctor can be a valuable partner in creating a weight-loss plan. You may feel anxious or embarrassed to talk to your doctor about weight. Or you may not know what to expect during the conversation.

Here are some tips to work with your primary care physician or nurse practitioner on weight management and get the most out of your conversations. If you don't already have primary care, find a provider near you who is taking new patients.

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1. Prepare for your visit.

Before you go to your primary care provider, write down any questions you have about your weight, such as:

  • What is a healthy weight range for me?

  • How long should it take me to reach my goal weight?

  • How will losing weight affect my health conditions or medications?

  • Could any health problems or medications be affecting my weight?

Remember to write down all the medicines you take, including supplements and over-the-counter drugs, or bring them with you to your appointment. Some medications may affect your weight or interact with weight-loss treatments. Bring your lists to your appointment and ask for clarification if something is unclear.

2. Be honest about your lifestyle and eating habits.

Your doctor or nurse practitioner will need to know some details about your diet, physical activity, sleep, stress and emotional well-being to tailor a weight-loss plan to your needs and preferences.

You can initiate the discussion by saying something such as:

  • I've been thinking about my weight lately, and I would like to get to a healthier weight. What goal(s) should I set to achieve that?

  • I'm worried about how my weight is affecting my health. Can you help me with that?

  • I'm interested in making some lifestyle changes to improve my health and weight. What suggestions, resources and weight-loss programs do you have for me?

Be as accurate and truthful with your doctor as possible, even if you feel ashamed or guilty about some of your choices. Remember, your doctor is not there to judge you, but rather to help you improve your health and quality of life.

3. Set weight-loss goals.

Your provider can help you determine a safe and realistic weight-loss goal for your age, sex and lifestyle. A general guideline is to aim for losing no more than 1-2 pounds per week, or 5-10 percent of your body weight, within six months. This may depend on your individual situation. Losing even a small amount of weight can have significant health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

4. Find the weight-loss tools that work best for you.

Your doctor can also help you choose the best strategies and tools for losing weight, such as:

  • A balanced diet that is low in calories, fat, sugar and salt, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and fiber.

  • A physical activity plan that is safe, enjoyable and suitable for your fitness level and preferences. Aim for at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or more if you can. Move by BJC offers free videos for cardio, mindfulness and more. Explore these workouts.
  • A program to help you change your behavior by identifying and overcoming obstacles that may stop you from following your plan. This may include setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals; tracking your progress; rewarding yourself; coping with stress; managing cravings; and seeking social support.

  • Weight-loss medications or weight-loss surgery may be options for some people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, or 27 or higher with obesity-related health problems. You should only use these treatments under your doctor's supervision and in combination with lifestyle changes.

5. Listen to your primary care provider’s advice and feedback.

Your doctor or nurse practitioner will check your weight, height, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and other indicators of your overall health status. They may also ask you about any medical conditions or family medical history that could affect your weight or weight-loss efforts.

They will use this information to help you set a realistic and safe weight-loss target. They will also provide lifestyle, diet and exercise strategies and tools to assist you in reaching your target. These may include:

Lifestyle changes

  • eating a balanced diet

  • increasing physical activity 

  • managing stress

  • getting enough sleep

Other interventions

  • self-monitoring

  • goal setting

  • coping skills

  • medication

6. Follow up with your primary care provider regularly.

Losing weight is not a one-time event. Long-term weight loss is a process that requires ongoing support and guidance.

Your primary care provider will want to monitor your progress and adjust your plan as needed. They may refer you to other health professionals for additional help and information. These professionals may include a registered dietitian, physical therapist or psychologist.

If you continue to struggle with excess weight and have not been successful through diet and exercise or if it is due to certain health conditions, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist or general surgeon. They can help determine if you are a candidate for other weight-loss solutions including endoscopic procedures or bariatric surgery.

Stay connected with your primary care provider and follow their recommendations as well. If you have any concerns or questions along the way, don't hesitate to contact them.

It can be challenging to talk to your doctor about weight, but it can also be rewarding. By being proactive and honest, you can get the best care possible and achieve your weight-loss goals.

Don’t have a primary care provider to partner with to navigate your weight-loss journey? BJC Medical Group is here to help. Use our online search tool to find a doctor or nurse practitioner near you who is taking new patients.

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A BJC primary care provider is your partner in health. Your primary care team is here to handle routine health needs and treat illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions. A primary care provider can help you reach your wellness goals. Learn more.

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