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How to Talk to Your Doctor About Your Diet

Six tips for a fruitful conversation


Before your meeting, consider doing some homework to prepare. Here are some things to think about:

1. Have goals: How much do you want to lose, and in how much time?

2. Be realistic about your goals and limitations. An acceptable goal is losing 5%-10% of your current weight. Anything more than that may be unrealistic, or even unhealthy. Your doctor can help you come up with a realistic plan that can give good long-term results.

3. Don't be shy -- initiate the discussion. Some doctors may not feel comfortable broaching the topic of weight, fearing that they'll hurt the patients' feelings. Perhaps during a previous visit with you or another patient, the topic was an awkward one. Doctors also may avoid the topic because they don't feel experienced enough in counseling weight management.

4. Don't be intimidated by numbers, or get caught up in labels. Pounds, BMI, and waist circumference, and words like "overweight" and "obesity," will come up in any discussion about weight.

5. Talk about diet and exercise. Long-term success usually requires a combination of lifestyle changes. Think about what you can do to increase your activity level, and share your ideas during your office visit. If you have a pedometer, keep a record of your steps in a typical day as a reference point to improve upon. Have your doctor write out a "prescription" for exercise. This plan will be added to your medical chart and monitored during follow-up visits.

6. Bring in a food diary. This might cover two or three days, and should include everything you consumed during those days -- which foods and drinks, and how much of each. Keeping a diary may give you some immediate ideas on where to "cut the fat," and the information will be useful for your doctor as well. A written diary is more specific and accurate than any discussion of eating habits will be. Have your physician write down dietary suggestions or give you a handout on what you should be eating. He or she may also refer you to a nutritionist or dietitian.

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