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Do you ask your doctor for weight-loss advice?

When I respond to e-mails asking me for diet and exercise advice, I always note that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I have a friend in med school who is working her ass off for that official doctoral degree. (She’s doing it figuratively, not literally like me.) I’m not going to pretend I crammed the name of every bone into my brain like she has. I tell people to consult a doctor or nutritionist dietitian in addition to whatever advice I give, stating that I am just a girl who happened to lose a lot of weight.

But I wonder, does anyone really ask their doctor for weight-loss advice?

Many overweight people avoid going to the doctor because they don’t want to talk about their weight problems. They don’t want to see the number on the scale when they’re weighed. They don’t want to deal with it. But if you are ready to do something about a serious weight problem, do you turn to your primary health provider or do you turn to Jenny Craig? Do you read diet reviews on the Internet? It seems more common for people to ask a friend for advice or join a gym and hire a trainer. Why is that?

It’s certainly important to consult your doctor if you have a medical problem that might make it dangerous to exercise, like a bum knee or asthma. But outside of that, I wonder how effective a general practitioner would be in dispensing weight loss advice. They are “general” practitioners after all. They know a little about everything, but I probably read more about the latest weight-loss breakthroughs than my doctor does. (Unless it’s bad news, since we all know I ignore that stuff.) I’ve heard stories of doctors who tell patients to join Weight Watchers, essentially outsourcing the problem.

So, did you consult a doctor before deciding to lose weight? Why or why not?

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128 Comments

Dinah Soar • August 6, 2008 at 12:24 am

Nope..didn’t ask my doctor. Likely he didn’t bring it up because I wasn’t fat..just thought I was…then after I got fat dieting, my doctors over the years did bring it up…one even referred me to his on staff degreed expert..put me on a low fat diet..that just made my cholesterol go up and I got fatter eating on the low fat no fat stuff…last I knew, that doctor was into low carb dieting..hahaha…they don’t know much more than we do, I’m convinced. Currently I’m doing Intuitive Eating. It deals with the “why” issue–why do I overeat. It’s been a great help to me…more so than any diet or diet program.

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s • August 6, 2008 at 12:52 am

my doctor brought it up, actually.

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ShanaOB • August 6, 2008 at 12:59 am

My doctor told me “diet and exercise.” Well, crap, I already knew that. Where the hell is my magic pill?

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Red • August 6, 2008 at 1:00 am

Hah, yeah, my old doc brought it up. But oddly they didn’t really give me advice on how to improve my situation aside from, you know, eat better.

I guess I’ve never really thought my doctor would know terribly much about nutrition.

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Short Cake • August 6, 2008 at 1:32 am

I did not consult a doctor. I decided it was not worth it to pay a doctor to spend 3 minutes in a cold room with me to say that I am in decent health considering my scary weight and if I want to lose weight to eat less and excersise more. Common sense tells me that last part for free.

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fspotting • August 6, 2008 at 1:38 am

My doctor brought it up, but didn’t really give me any advice other than diet and exercise.

But I mean, weight loss is a medical problem like any other, and like pretty much every medical problem, your PCD will refer you to a specialist. I think my PCD did give me a referral to a nutritionist, actually…I went to one, but I can’t remember how I got the referral.

If weight loss were simple, everyone would do it. I think a psychiatrist is probably the person who could suggest the best weight loss program designed to fit an individual’s particular neuroses, to be honest. Most people could probably benefit from some therapy along with their weight loss to examine the reasons why they were overweight in the first place. :)

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Catherine • August 6, 2008 at 2:00 am

Most doctors have NOT taken alot of nutrition coursework. For many they are only required to take the gen ed nutrition course to get into med school.

What doctors SHOULD do is refer you to a dietitian. A dietitian has a degree in nutrition and had passed the RD exam. They are certified by the American Dietetic Association.

The term “Nutritionist” does not mean alot. Some states do not even regulate it’s use meaning that any joe schmo can call themselves a nutritionsit.

So in semi-correcting your post. The medical professional you should be consulting is a registered dietitian. Very overweight people tend to have complications from their obesity like hypertension, and diabetes. Dietitians are educated about such conditions and can taylor a diet plan to address your problems.

I personally think it is much wiser to turn to a professional who has studied nutrition than a weight watchers meeting leader.

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Trace • August 6, 2008 at 3:19 am

Hi.

I went to my doctor in August last year to discuss my weight and depression issues. He gave me antidepressants straight away and referred me to a dietitian. I eventually got to see the dietitian in March this year.

She asked me what I ate in a normal day and how much exercise I was doing, so I told her. Her response was, “Well, your eating could be better and you need more exercise. I’ll see you again in 6 months.” No kidding, lady!

So I joined a local Rosemary Conley class (a bit like Jenny Craig) and my class leader has been more knowledgeable and supportive than my GP or dietitian. Even though healthcare in the UK is free, the class I go to is definately worth the weekly fee.

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Christine • August 6, 2008 at 3:39 am

I asked my doctor for an appetite suppressant (because that’s the only way I’d managed to lose weight and keep it off for years prior to this little escapade) and she told me no and to join Weight Watchers.

There wasn’t really all that much “advice” being handed out, but then again I’d already told her that I understood the basic principles of weight loss, I simply didn’t have the ability to handle it on my own.

I didn’t join Weight Watchers but I decided that since I’d failed to get an appetite suppressant from any doctor for the past 3 years, I’d better just find a way to do it on my own.

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Errin • August 6, 2008 at 3:53 am

I didn’t go to an MD for weight loss advice becasue I already knew what they would say: eat less crap, more healthy food in reasonable portions and exercise.

However, I did spend a lot of time with my therapist (who specializes in eating disorders, is a PE teacher and nutritionist) about what led me to overeating and what behaviors I could change. I’m in Weight Watchers now and also find the meetings very helpful as well.

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Marshmallow • August 6, 2008 at 5:43 am

Nope, I didn’t ask my doctor. And frankly, when I began weight loss, it wasn’t in the healthiest of ways, since I wasn’t aware at the time that you actually lost weight for health – I thought it was for appearance (give me a break, I was like, 9 when I went on my first diet.)

Though my attitude to doctors? I no likes them. This is the reason why.

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Xenia • August 6, 2008 at 5:53 am

I was told by doctors that I needed to lose weight, but I was only told to generally eat better and exercise more. I was offered a referral to a nutritionist, but I passed on that.

Most of the time I felt like doctors were kind of condescending about the whole thing, so I never wanted to encourage further discussion on it. I probably just ended up with some shitty docs, but it’s totally turned me off of seeking weight loss instruction from them.

Myself, I’ve joined WW and now go to the gym and run. WW was just a lot friendlier and a more supportive environment. I felt less stupid. We all know we need to eat better, it’s actually getting yourself to do that (and jump over all the hurdles that hold you back from it) that’s the tough part. Not really what a general practitioner is trained to do, I think.

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SeaShore • August 6, 2008 at 6:01 am

My doctor brought up weight loss in response to many issues I brought up: back pain? Diet & exercise. Depression & anxiety? Diet & exercise. Tired? Diet & exercise. She’s been recommending Weight Watchers for years; this year I finally went.

I think I would ask someone who has lost weight vs my doctor because she’s been a pencil since I started seeing her 10+ years ago (and in family photos in her office). You want the advice of someone who’s been in the trenches.

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Meghan • August 6, 2008 at 6:08 am

When I got serious about losing weight, I enlisted all the help I could get: medical doctor, nutritionist, and therapist. I want this time to work, and I don’t want to be in the same place doing this ten years from now. So I called ALL the experts!

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Boilergrad1993 • August 6, 2008 at 6:22 am

I actually have a very supportive MD, who is very open in discussing my weight. Her philosophy is ‘one lb at a time’ and feels every pound is a victory. Her concern is that I’m healthy, she doesn’t worry too much about me being thin. One time when I went to see her I had lost 5lbs and I was kicking myself and she said to me ‘Five pounds is a bag of sugar, lift a bag of sugar and see how heavy that is’. About two years ago she mentioned weight loss surgery and asked me how I felt about it. I told her ‘ABSOLUTELY NOT!! I put this weight on myself, I’m going to take it off myself or die trying’. She was relieved, she said she’s not an advocate of weight loss surgery, and was glad I wasn’t considering it.

PQ, I feel the reason people come to you is because you’re not just someone trying to TELL people how to lose weight you’ve ‘Been there, done that’. You understand what it’s like to be over 300 lbs. You know some of the the physical and emotional battles of being morbidly obese and people relate to that. I know personally, I’ve found your story very motivating. Since I’ve been reading your blog , book and seeing you on television, I’ve lost more weight than I ever have, and feel even at age 38 if I stay focused it can be done.

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still reading • August 6, 2008 at 6:33 am

my doctor told me “try harder”.

Ok then.

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cindy • August 6, 2008 at 6:39 am

When I first started, I was scared to let anyone know, in case I failed. After the first three months, when I had lost 40 pounds, I decided I had better go to my doctor and see how safe I was being, etc…

She was great! She met and listened to me—really listened. She did suggest I try a clinic that specializes in obesity, because she didn’t feel qualified to handle my case. But when I explained to her that I didn’t want that, that I’d prefer dealing with her, she agreed. I saw her again four months later, and by then I was dealing with the psychological issues of weight loss. I was angry—really enraged by how I was being treated so differently as I lost weight. Again, she listened for nearly an hour. What GP does that?! She helped me consider seeing a therapist and understood when I was hesitant. She told me I could come in every two weeks to be “weighed” and chat with her, if that would help. And she later helped me see that I needed a break (after the first 100 pounds). So I slowed down, ended up trying a therapist for a short time (not all that successfully—I have trust issues) and still get the best support ever from my primary care doctor. It has been over a year of maintenance and I struggle every single day—some are harder than others, but it is all hard. But I am glad I did it the way I did, using my amazing doctor and depending mostly on myself… because in the end, I am the only one who can make a difference. This is a walk that we mostly walk alone…

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Christy • August 6, 2008 at 7:23 am

Any doctor who I have ever seen about losing weight (whether that was the primary reason or just part of the general status of things) has always said, “Eat less. No refined carbs. Exercise more.” I could exercise the jeebies out of many of the docs and I, as a forever fat chick, no more about losing weight than the size 2 primary I have now. It isn’t about knowledge – it’s about ability and perseverence. They can’t give me perseverence and they aren’t with me when I face down the fourth straight birthday party in as many days (a hazard of having young kids). At some point muscling up and avoiding that root beer in favor of yet another bottle of water overwhelms me.

I will get there though. Slow and steady.

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April • August 6, 2008 at 7:28 am

My doctor brought it up when I was in there last because he was worried about the strain I was putting on my legs. I have a little disorder that causes my blood to clot for no apparent reason and the clots have always been in my left leg which has damaged my veins and obviously all the extra weight was making the pain even worse. I gave up on him though when his concern only seemed to stretch as far as prescribing me a weight loss drug. I already have medical problems, doc, I’m not trying to find out what kind of fun effects these drugs will have on my condition.

I came to the conclusion on my own that I just needed to eat better and move. No extreme diets or any drugs necessary.

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earthmamma • August 6, 2008 at 7:32 am

i decided to go along to my doctor on a monthly basis since i wanted someone to be accountable to. thats where i do my monthly weigh in and just have a massive chat about all things ‘weight loss’. my doc is super supportive and knows all about health and nutrition (which is really my main aim besides looking damn good in a pair of jeans).

so instead of giving money away to weight watchers or something similar i put twenty dollars aside each week and will then go on a shopping spree once the weight has come off.

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still reading • August 6, 2008 at 7:52 am

Do you have health insurance that pays for a doctor visit once a month to weigh you in? HOW WONDERFUL!! Mine would not, I would have to pay for it myself, and that would run a pretty penny, as I live in NYC and the doctors fees are astronomical…I really think health insurance should pay for visits regarding weight loss. My insurance company seems to think weight loss is for cosmetic purposes only.

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Lynne • August 6, 2008 at 8:03 am

The answer is YES, but my doctor at the time was a pencil thin, 4x mother, who simply said “I don’t know what to tell you… ” when I said I was having problems losing after my second child. That was it… I finally got up the nerve to discuss it, and was shot down… When I needed surgery later on she commented that I should get a post-surgery loss and that could help. Thanks.

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dietgirl • August 6, 2008 at 8:11 am

I consulted the mirror and that was traumatic enough.

The doctors never seem to say anything more than Eat Less Move More, arrgh!

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Carrie • August 6, 2008 at 8:13 am

I’ve never had a doctor tell me anything other than eat less, excercise more. The doctors I’ve seen are rude and arrogant. They are incredulous about the amount of excercise I do, and my bodies inability to lose weight. They basically call me a liar to my face. I hate doctors.

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maggieapril • August 6, 2008 at 8:31 am

I think these days anyone can become educated about weight loss using the internet and books. The trick, of course, is separating fact from fiction. Unfortunately, it seems that there are a lot of people out there that have a problem doing so. Otherwise, how would all these “miracle” weight loss solutions make money? That’s where I think the opinions and advice of persons like yourself are so helpful.

You are living proof that the South Beach Diet works. I am living proof that Weight Watchers works and I can tell you the pros and the cons of the system. And people are always interested in how others lose weight. It is rare that someone comments on my weight loss without asking “how did you do it?”

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Chrissie • August 6, 2008 at 8:57 am

No I didn’t ask my doctor. He probably would have just gave me a pill and that isn’t what I wanted. Sometimes I think he is a quack…don’t tell any one. He even gave my mom diabeties pills over the phone. But either way I wanted to lose weight on my own and not on a pill.

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Jill • August 6, 2008 at 9:05 am

I finally broke down and went to my doctor after trying for 10 years to lose weight on my own. He was great!! He gave me a low dose appetite supressant (I swear I think the thing is a placebo!)and a long talk about changing the way I eat. He gave me a plan that is similar to South Beach and told me to do something sweaty for 30-45 minutes every day. I go in once a week to get weighed and go over my food journal, and discuss any concerns. My experience has been really good and my only regret is that I didn’t do this 10 years ago. I’ve lost 14 pounds since I started this program (I had lost 8 pounds on Weight Watchers before this) and I am a happy camper!

I forgot to mention that I had a full blood workup done before he would start me on the program just to make sure everything was okay (it was). I would definitely recommend seeing a doctor and at least getting some tests run to make sure everything is okay before starting any kind of weight loss program.

OMG I’m so sorry this turned out to be such a long post!! This is one of those topics I could go on and on about, but I’ll just stop now! =)

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tjones • August 6, 2008 at 9:05 am

My old doctor who was three times bigger than me use to tell me I needed to loose weight. My new doctor never said much about it. She did say I was a healthy person already and weight loss may make me more fit and look better.

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Mich • August 6, 2008 at 9:12 am

Ask the doctor? Certainly not: on the general principle that I do not take weight loss advice from people who can’t do as many pushups as I can. :-)

One doc tried to refer me to WW, another suggested a 1000kcal a day diet. Neither could not give me a good reason why – my blood work was excellent.

Doctors and registered dietitians are useless in this regard. Their schooling is long behind them and they’re too busy or lazy to keep up with current research, so they parrot whatever low-fat high-carb mantra they were taught in the dark ages. And they’re disrespectful of your time, keeping you forever in their waiting rooms (at least in Canada, the US ones I’ve met are more punctual).

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psychsarah • August 6, 2008 at 9:25 am

I went for my annual check up last year, and the doctor asked me what I would like to weigh. I told him the number I have had as my goal for years (which would put me in the normal range on the stupid BMI, that I have never achieved as an adult, about 25 pounds less than I weighed last year). I told him that I although I was still overweight, I was 80 pouonds lighter than I had been two years ago. I said I was stuck at this weight, and couldn’t seem to lose anymore, despite careful diet and exercising 5-6 days per week. He asked if I ate a lot of bread and potatoes. I said no. He said, “well, keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll get there”. Well, gee, thanks, I’ve been doing it for 12 months without any significant loss, but I’ll just keep it up and it will magically fall off!

I knew that physicians have little in the way of nutritional training, so I didn’t go there with the intent of asking him, but when he asked me, I thought, oh, he’s interested, maybe he will be supportive. I was wrong. Now I’m worried about returning for my annual physical this year, since a job change and knee injury have led to a gain of about 25 pounds since I saw him last. I fear me will make some ignorant comment and I will want to give him a piece of my mind, but I won’t, because if he drops me as a patient (a distinct possibility), I’m up a creek. In my province there are a lack of family docs, so if you get one, you’re counted as lucky-you can’t be picky I’m afraid. Then I’ll be mad at myself that I didn’t give him a piece of my mind. It’s kind of a conundrum. If only I didn’t need a refill on my birth control pills, I wouldn’t have to go at all! (Don’t get me started on why a totally safe medication is only available by prescription! One rant a day is probably sufficient…)

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suzanne • August 6, 2008 at 9:31 am

My doctor told me “everything in moderation” and to walk :0 Okey dokey!!

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Wanda • August 6, 2008 at 9:32 am

Some of my best friends are doctors — so that makes it easy for me. I am always surprised by their advice — which is sometimes more drastic than you’d think.

I once had a pediatric cardiologist tell me to put my kids on Atkins. The only reason their blood pressure was elevated was because he was so scary.

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David Crowell • August 6, 2008 at 9:34 am

I had an appointment with my doctor, for unrelated reasons, several months into my weight loss. He’s a nice guy, and congratulated me on my progress, but didn’t offer any advice. Maybe he figured I was doing fine without advice *shrug*

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G.G. • August 6, 2008 at 9:36 am

I didn’t consult a doctor or a dietician in the beginning–I did read a variety of books and made an effort to educate/familiarize myself with the current weight loss wisdom out there and figure out the practices that might actually work best for me. For me, this better health process has been mostly about self-knowledge, exposing myself to a variety of information, and ultimately, common sense.

However, I wish I had consulted a doctor in the beginning because I had other legitimate, not-specifically-weight related health problems that had been having a detrimental effect on my body and probably had contributed to my weight gain and difficulty losing. If I’d gotten those problems taken care of before I got to the point I needed scary major surgery, things might have been a lot easier.

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musajen • August 6, 2008 at 9:42 am

Not to be a know-it-all, but I’m positive that in the 20 years I’ve been dieting and reading fitness magazines, I’m definitely more well-read and knowledgable on diet and exercise than my general practitioner. And when I visited a dietician, she didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.

But knowing and doing are two different things and I definitely haven’t figured out the doing part. Stumped on that one.

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Kimisha • August 6, 2008 at 10:18 am

Suprisingly, my doctor brought it up after I had already lost about 75 pounds since the last time I had seen him. I guess losing 75 pounds made me look fatter or maybe he just didn’t review my chart to realize the lose. He recommendad that I follow the DASH diet. When I asked him what that consisted of, he told me to look it up on the internet. Some advice.

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Mom • August 6, 2008 at 10:25 am

I happen to go to the same “family” doctor that PQ does. Currently that doctor’s weight loss advice to me is, “Listen to your daughter”. That same doctor is also handing out copies of Half-assed to other patients!

Smiles to everyone, Mom

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Marianne • August 6, 2008 at 10:33 am

I don’t ask my doctor for advice about weight loss anymore. When I was 15 or 16 and seeing a different doctor, and barely needed to lose weight, his advice was to “move more” – when I was walking 2k 2-5days a week, playing basketball 3-4 days a week, and dancing 2-4 times a week. Riiiight, good advice doc! ;)

Now if it’s been a while since I’ve been exercising, I make sure to get the go-ahead to exercise from my doctor, because I’m asthmatic. I don’t ask about weight loss, though, just my readiness for exercise.

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Laura • August 6, 2008 at 11:00 am

I’ve been seeing my current doctor for 2 years, and we’ve been talking about my weight since my first visit – each time I end up in tears. I explained that I’d lost 100 lbs and gained it all back, so I was pretty undone. His first suggestion was weight loss surgery. Eeek! Then he put me on an antidepressant, which kept me from crying and compulsively chewing gum and my nails, but kind of hampered my weight loss; I wasn’t seeing the usual results. I would see him every 3 months, and every time he would ask how I felt about surgery. He always admitted that he didn’t know a lot about weight loss principles. Gah!

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Jennifer • August 6, 2008 at 11:02 am

I asked every doctor I’ve ever been to in my adult life. None were especially helpful. I heard everything from “diet and exercise” to “some people need more support so join weight watchers.” I also heard all about “syndrome x” from my ob/gyn. While I completely agree with him that this effects my ability to lose weight, he was not helpful when I fell off track. “Eat vegetables and protein first until you are satisfied.” Duh.

So now I am working closely with my therapist regarding food issues, why I eat, etc. Focusing on one day at a time, working exercise into life, placing value on taking care of myself.

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Sarah • August 6, 2008 at 11:04 am

Hrm. My doctor was a very lovely woman who prompted my ah-ha moment. I had tingling in my fingers and she was all, it’s your weight Sarah. She referred me to a RD. I met with her one, learned a lot but didn’t like her personality. So never went back. But I continued to see my PCP and she and I talked about it, but her advice was also eat less (and BETTER) and move more. Which is what it comes down to. That is sound advice, but hard to follow after years of self medicating with food. It wasn’t until I started meeting with a therapist that I started to think about why I was eating. It was hard work changing those years of bad habits but my PCP was very supportive. We talked about it every visit and she continued to encourage me.

I have long since moved on from Colorado and that PCP, but her concern made a huge impact on me. Her advice was similar to what I am hearing from others, but it was compassion that made the difference.

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JEM • August 6, 2008 at 11:22 am

I never asked but every doctor I have been too has tried to give me advice or refer me to a weight loss surgeon. I do dread doctors for the most part except my endocrinologist which is the only one who seems to have any clue.

I have always kinda tried to find my way on my own. I have the head knowledge, I just need to find what works for me.

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Maxie • August 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

Actually, my doctor has “been in the trenches,” but his weight loss advice would never work for me. He lost a lot of weight following the Atkins diet and then gained some back and is now losing again. His philosophy is eat no grain products at all ever and never, ever deviate from your diet–No smalll slice of cake, no bread or rice or pasta ever even if it’s whole grain, no taking a night off to go out to dinner, no beer or wine ever, blah blah blah blah blah. I’ve done better with my weight loss than he has. It’s taken me much longer (about 5 years and I’m not done yet) to lose it, but I’ve never gained any of it back. I lose 15-30 lbs; stay that way for 6 months or so and then lose again; lather, rinse, repeat. I have about 40-50 left to go and I’m happy with the way it works for me.

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kqteaze • August 6, 2008 at 11:41 am

I almost envy anyone whose doctor would actually give thema a weight loss pill. My doctor, who normally is like a Pez dispenser with pills, would not even consider giving me anything to help with weight loss. His advice is the same as most doctors, eat less, move more. Gee, ya think? He is a pretty nice guy but he doesn’t have a lot of empathy concerning weight loss. As a matter of fact, he seems almost embarrassed to discuss my weight the one time I was willing to try and overcome MY embarrassment in discussing it. Same with my ob/gyn; she’s maybe 5 ft. tall and I’m guessing around 100 lbs, after 3 kids. She doesn’t “get” it either.

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Jen • August 6, 2008 at 11:42 am

You can read minds! Amazing! I asked my GP about weight loss and dieting. She said to join Weight Watchers.

Actually, I think it is good to consult the doctor to make sure there are no physical problems. But beyond that, I think weight loss is mostly a mental game. I KNOW how to lose weight and diet and exercise. But as most people, I am an emotional eater. When I can control my emotions or stop punishing myself for having emotions, then I will lose weight. That is the hard part.

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Laura • August 6, 2008 at 11:55 am

Doctors? LMAO. They are not any more educated on the means for weight loss than the general public. They will tell you to diet and get exercise, but rarely give you a plan. They may even recommend the wrong way to diet (too low calories, too low fat). Their medical education on nutrition is minimal.

People instead ask people who have been successful how they have done it (by example). Much more real information.

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deanna • August 6, 2008 at 11:57 am

No, I didn’t consult a Dr. before I made the plunge to lose weight. It never occured to me, when I think about it now at this very moment, the only WHY I can come up with is – because it’s obvious to me, the world and most likely my doctor that yes I have to lose weight and should eat better and exercise.

Good post.

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Lucrecia • August 6, 2008 at 12:08 pm

no, and I never even considered it. I have no health problems aside from being very over weight. They will tell me to eat less and move more. Gee, glad I paid you $25 co-pay for that bit of news flash.

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Shaw • August 6, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Nope. Why? It’s a massive pain to go in and see a doctor. Particularly when all I plan to do is eat less and move more. Do I need to get and appointment and waste half a day to have them say “sounds like a good idea?”.

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bridgett • August 6, 2008 at 12:16 pm

i have asked various doctors many different times and i have never felt that enlightened by the response. they usually say, “you know what to do. eat healthier, eat less, exercise more.” i may be overly sensitive but they make it seem so easy and like a no brainer.

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jae • August 6, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Even when my doc saw that my blood pressure was sky high he said nothing. He did hand me a bunch of pills and told me to take them. I asked him if losing weight would help (duh) and he said it might help but to take my pills. That was that.

My friend saw her doctor and the doc noticed that she was about 30 lbs heavier than what her BMI stated she needed to be. She gave my friend a ton of “clean and healthy eating/living” paper work and really pushes it on my friend.

The thing is that I work with both these doctors. It just goes to show you how different they can be even if they work in the same clinic.

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Lydia • August 6, 2008 at 12:21 pm

In Ontario, Canada, the doctors are so busy they don’t have time for that they send you to a specialist. Which also takes time. However my Doc is glad that I go to Weight Watchers and have lost 35 lbs….she’s supportive, and I think thats what counts.

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Flora • August 6, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I’ve had a couple of doctors bring up my weight. One said she had had a patient who lost 100 pounds by doing Weight Watchers and walking an hour a day. Other than that, the only specific advice I’ve ever gotten was goofy old-school stuff about a low-fat diet. I realize my doctors know more than I do about anatomy and diseases, but between my extensive reading and my nutrition-obsessed mother, I’m pretty sure I know at least as much about healthy eating as my doctors do. It’s just a matter of acting on what I know.

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Katie • August 6, 2008 at 1:01 pm

It is actually suprising how little MDs know about human nutrition (generaly speaking). I have a PhD in pharmacology and a lot of study in nutrition. My mother’s doctor gave her some bizarre advice about not eating past 5:00 pm.

There is so much good inforamtion available today via internet and library, I hardly think it is necessary to contact an MD and ask his/her advice anymore. I’d rather talk to a nutritionist (who has devoted more time studying and learning about human nutrition) than an MD if I had questions.

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EG • August 6, 2008 at 1:35 pm

No, ’cause it’s just not that hard to figure out. We’ve seen the food pyramid since elementary school (of course it’s changed) and there’s healthy-eating information everywhere we turn.

Unless you have a health problem preventing you from losing weight or to take into consideration while losing weight, it’s just not that hard to figure out.

It is, however, hard to do!

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GB • August 6, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Admittedly, most doctors are not so great with weight loss advice. That being said, I would say going to a doctor before you start a weight loss plan is a MUST, for a number of reasons. You need to find out first if you have a medical condition. If you do, it can either be causing your weight gain (and needs to be treated…which would then help your progress), or can be a red flag that hard exercise might actually kill you! (Which is good to know BEFORE you start.) Conditions like thyroid disease or PCOS can cause people to gain weight, as can taking antidepressants or birth control pills. It’s also good to get your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar checked so that you can monitor your progress. It’s actually quite motivating to know that the weight is doing more to you than just affecting your looks, and then watching those numbers go down. That’s almost as motivating as watching the numbers on a scale decrease. Finally, you can use it as a point of no return, a declaration of your determination and commitment to get healthy. If your doctor is a good one, he/she will be your partner in health, and a witness to your progress. If your doctor is not interested in this, you need to find a new doctor.

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Wryly • August 6, 2008 at 1:49 pm

My current doctor is pretty cool – he never pressured me to lose weight even though it was obvious I needed to. When I did ask about becoming a vegetarian he wanted to know if it was to lose weight or a lifestyle choice. For me it is a LS thing but the advice he gave would help with weight loss too.

I asked him about seeing a dietician but Ontario has delisted that service so if I want to see one I’d have to pay (I think it costs $200). If I were diabetic I could see the dietician and it would be covered but since I’m *healthy* I’d have to pay. (So I’m sort of being punished for not having diabetes).

Both my parents were diabetic, a bother is diabetic and a sister was recently diagnosed as bordereline. That really made me take the whole weight loss thing even more seriously. I’ve joined a gym and do cardio on non-workout days. Still working on the diet but am slooooowly losing.

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sweetes • August 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I have found that the doctors I have visited are not up on preventative care or weight management. I have been referred to nutritionists who only use the government’s recommendations and who do not work with me on my restrictions (no meat, low dairy, etc.). End result? I give up and go back to my usual lame habits. Although I don’t think that companies specializing in weight loss are a good alternative, I am not at all surprised at the numbers of obese and overweight Americans when we have such vague directions and support. I would just fall over if a doctor worked with me to find out what kind of exercise I *enjoyed* and what healthy food I *enjoyed*.

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Barb • August 6, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I didn’t check with my doctor for the basic reason that I’ve been going to him my whole life and he has never once said anything about my weight. The program that I signed up with (Sureslim Canada) is doctor regulated. You have to go for blood tests before you do anything. The tests are then sent to a doctor and an eating plan is created for each specific person based on what their body needs. If there are any concerns that arise from the blood tests, you are required to go to your regular doctor to deal with that.

When I started on this program, I made the decision that I was going to do it and I was going to do it right. I told everyone what I was doing and I started my own blog. Now I have many people every week who ask me how I did this week. I go to weigh in at the office once a week but my biggest source of accountability is all the people that know about what I’m working towards. When you know that anyone could ask you how you are doing, it makes you more wary of eating what you shouldn’t.

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Pam • August 6, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Yes. I spoke at length with my doctor about my difficulty losing weight. After explaining everything I was doing (strict 1200 calorie diet, exercising my butt off, etc.) he just patted my knee and said “just use more willpower.” I also spoke to my gynocologist because I have PCOS. He looked me in the eye and told me that it is nearly impossible for me to lose weight and not to expect much.

After coming to the end of my rope, I decided gastric bypass surgery was right for me. It was amazing the first time I spoke to the bariatric doctor – he understood my problems, knew why I couldn’t lose weight and had solutions that worked.

Most primary doctors have 1 or 2 nutrition classes during all their years of schooling. They don’t have a clue how to help someone who is obese. They are still recommending very low calorie diets and low-fat diets. There are too many factors they don’t even bother understanding.

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Rah • August 6, 2008 at 2:52 pm

I have found the medical community to be spectacularly unhelpful concerning weight loss. Most medical schools do not require that students take even a basic nutrition course to get a M.D. They are quick to suggest the obvious (you need to lose weight) but when you ask them for help, they are bumfuzzled. I looked through my health insurance company’s list of approved providers yesterday, and in the states of Kansas and Missouri, there is not one physician listed with a specialty of bariatrics or weight management! The most help I ever received comes from Overeaters Anonymous and one non-OA friend. You’re a writer PQ–how about penning an article about this for the mainstream media?

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Quix • August 6, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Last time I went to a doctor was 2006 (I know, I know, I need to go again). I was 262 lbs. He said I was healthy despite my size but I should probably lose some weight, I said, working on it, do you have any suggestions? The he tried to sell me his diet plan that he concocted for 300$, and said insurance wouldn’t cover it. I didn’t go for it, and the next year started on the road to where I am now (93 lbs lighter) by counting calories and exercising. I’ll be interested to see what happens when I go see a PCP here shortly for a checkup (I’ve moved states since I saw the last one).

So, it was nice to get the all clear that I was healthy, but that’s all I needed from my doctor.

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PurpleGirl • August 6, 2008 at 3:12 pm

It’s been probably ten years since I’ve asked a doctor about weight loss–but before then, every time I went to the doctor, I got the low fat diet lecture. I seriously doubt that many doctors have the slightest idea when it comes to actual, true nutrition, at least in the U.S. I know someone who’s a doctor in Australia, and he seems to be more knowledgeable about it. However, he’s also been listening to me talk about weight-related stuff for the last twelve or so years so maybe that influenced his study choices, I’m not sure.

I think most doctors will see weight as a problem, but beyond the “party line” of the Food Pyramid, low-fat diet, or whatever else the government sends out propaganda about, they don’t have the knowledge to help.

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Lisa • August 6, 2008 at 3:19 pm

What are these newest breakthroughs that you’re reading about online that your doctors don’t know about, though? Vegetables and walking? No cheetos, no cookies? Watch portion size? Calories in versus calories out? None of it’s news.

I think the problem is that we know the mechanisms for losing weight; it’s the actual, practical behavioral stuff that everyone has trouble with. And behavior in that sense isn’t a medical issue.

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kerry • August 6, 2008 at 3:52 pm

No I didn’t ask my doctor. In fact when I went to see them recently they actually asked me how I lost the weight… well gee let’s see now… ate less moved more head down and cracked on?

I have little faith in my doctor to be honest. I knew what needed to be done and did it.

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Miranda • August 6, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I’ve told two different doctors, at different times, that I was trying to lose weight. They asked what I was doing, nodded, and sent me on my way. I thought they might want to monitor my cholesterol or something or that they would refer me to a nutritionist, but they didn’t. I’m one of those rule-following types and since I had always heard that I should ask my doctor, I did. It turned out to be pretty pointless.

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Ellen • August 6, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Ugh, I try to avoid my doctor. She is a naturally thin person and every year at my annual exam she gives me the lecture about losing weight. She even has a graph that shows what my weight has done over the past few years (up, up, up!) and talks about the horrible future I have in my future if I don’t start losing weight. Her suggestions for losing almost half my body weight? “Don’t eat dessert at home. Only have it out in public, so you really have to make the effort to actually go get it. Don’t keep junk food in the cupboards. Focus on fruits and vegetables and limit processed foods.” WOW!! If only I had previously known that I should be eating fruit and veg! I wouldn’t have gotten so damned fat! Thank god she told me know before it was too late! And, really, eat dessert in public, is she crazy? Fat girl freak-out alert!!

Suffice it to say, I certainly did not go to her for advice, but she gave it anyway. Her advice? Pretty frickin’ unhelpful and/or obvious. If I didn’t need to get my lady-parts checked out yearly I would avoid her at all costs.

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Leigh Anne • August 6, 2008 at 4:41 pm

I did actually go to my doctor about my weight loss. I wanted her to test my thyroid due to my struggle to lose weight (along with a myriad of other symptoms and a family history). My thyroid is fine and her comment was that I would be fine if I followed the Canada food guide and exercised. And this is from a dr who noticed i had a stuffy nose at my yearly exam and spent 5 minutes discussing possible remedies for it.

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Barbara • August 6, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for so long now, I constantly look to see if there is a new post but I have not yet replied to anything. I shared the link with some friends as well and we all love your blog. My doctor never brought up my weight at all, I’m not sure if it’s because I’m ‘in perfect health’ as he says or what but he had never actually mentioned my weight, me being overweight or anything of the like. I brought up to him some of my problems such as lack of energy, trouble sleeping, headaches, stomach issues, I had him check my thyroid to be sure that wasn’t a problem as well as some other things. My blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and everything is ‘perfect’ according to him. I then brought up the fact that I WANT to lose weight even if I’m ‘in perfect health’ and asked about seeing a nutritionist. He asked what I had tried and as I sat listing off all the different diets I had tried over the years he told me a nutritionist probably wouldn’t help, that being overweight is in my genes and my best bet is weight loss surgery!!! Can you believe he’d rather me have surgery than see a nutritionist? I told him I’m only 25 and a LONG way away from having surgery for my weight issue. Maybe if I had health problems or I was older and had tried EVERYTHING else already to no avail but that’s not the case. So I’m on my own until I find another doctor who is more helpful and will refer me to see a nutritionist or something more helpful.

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still reading • August 6, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Hi Mom! you sure raised a nice girl! Congrats on that!!

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Pamela • August 6, 2008 at 6:53 pm

I never went to the doctor with the intention of discussing my weight. In fact, before I started losing weight, I tried to avoid them as much as possible, because I knew what I would hear. For the most part, the condecending tone of voice just wasn’t worth it. However, after I had lost quite a bit, I had to go see an endocrinologist, and the woman just raved about my weight loss when she heard how much I’d lost. She said that she uses me as an example that it can be done. So hearing praise from a doctor for the first time in my life made me feel wonderful. I look forward to seeing her now. But I still don’t think I would see a doctor to discuss my weight. As others have said, we all probably know more about it than they do. Also, each doctor probably has their “favored” method of weight loss that they like to push, and aren’t as familiar with the other options.

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susan • August 6, 2008 at 7:56 pm

I confessed to my doctor that I had an eating disorder (and broke down in tears). She was emphathetic and referred me to a support group and encouraged me to get therapy.

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karen • August 6, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Every year I consult with my dr about losing weight and every year he tells me there is one way to do it successfully – eat less and exercise more. Then he lists all the diet aids that are available and repeats that it comes down to eat less and move more.

A friend at work went to his doctor and the doctor told him he’d gained 30 pounds in a year. My fried said “yes, I know. What are you going to do about it?” :D

If anybody has been on a diet more than once I’m sure they know everything the doctor will tell you. Following his advice is another thing all together.

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Thumper • August 6, 2008 at 8:37 pm

I did ask my doc once. He stumbled verbally, then blurted out, “but you’re not that fat!” (sheesh, yes I am, we both knew it) and then sent me to the nutrition clinic (this was on an air force base.)

Nutrition tech: “Don’t eat so much.”

Yes, that was all very helpful, thank you.

:::rolling eyes:::

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Kate • August 6, 2008 at 11:26 pm

The only diet that ever worked for me was Atkins – this was back in ’99 when people looked at you funny for not eating bread and the American Medical Association was trying to pull Dr. Atkins in for congressional hearings while they put their stamp of approval on pop tarts.

I think in general we expect waaaay too much of our general practitioners. They are human beings with lives outside of their jobs, yet we somehow expect them to be up on all the latest medical research and have all the answers. I’ve heard from friends in nursing/medical school that nutrition is barely even touched on, let alone exercise (I had a doctor tell me once that I didn’t need to lift more than 5 lb. weights. My personal trainer and I had a laugh about that one).

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Christina • August 6, 2008 at 11:33 pm

When I was diagnosed with PCOS, my doctor referred me to the “Wellness Clinic” to see a dietician, and she said if I couldn’t afford that, I could try weight watchers. I tried the dietician since they have to be licensed and I thought it would be helpful; unfortunately, my insurance didn’t cover it and it was almost a completely wasted $120 to be told what I already knew – don’t eat mayo or drink soda, measure portion sizes, and put these elements together every day to make meals. Oh, and just in case that doesn’t work, they DO have a bariatric or lap band surgery program that lasts 6 months and insurance can cover it. As if I really want to be hacked into.

My doc diagnoses me and treats my symptoms, but when it comes to actual weight loss, I have to follow your lead. Although, I don’t know about that running thing…

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Sarah • August 6, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Hey Jenette,

I bought your book to take on vacation…it’s great. So much of what it says captures how I feel day to day.

My doctor would mention it when he saw me, “Are you doing anything about it Sarah?!!” and then we finally really addressed the issue because I confessed that my cycle has been out of whack since late high school–I was 24 when we had this conversation, I’m 26 now. Anyways, a gazillion blood tests later and I’m insulin resistant and had PCOS. I felt and still feel like doctors don’t treat fat people the same as other people. His attitude was, “Here peon, take these pills (metformin), lose weight, come back in six months.” He did suggest Weight Watchers though… I didn’t understand how serious my problems were until over a year later and some research on the internet. I did end up joining WW, but only because one of my chemistry profs. had a lot of success with it. On one hand it is outsourcing the problem, on the other hand, unless your physician has struggled with weight (I don’t even consider having a close fat relative good enough) they don’t understand and they won’t understand. They just lack the frame of reference. If you find a great group at WW, then the support is worth the money…maybe not the meetings, but the connection. So far I’ve lost just over 50 pounds and am now off of my medicine. I also made a good friend there! We were the only ones under 45, lol. My doctor is nicer to me now that I’m thinner but on one occasion I got mad at him and said something like, “Can’t you tell a difference?” and he said, “Well, yeah.” And I was like, “Well it wouldn’t hurt you to say something nice, bozo.” And last time I saw him, I flat out told him that if he had spent more time with me and helped me to realize how scary those problems were that he would have gotten my attention. I was careful to be tactful and I think it has helped the overall relationship.

Good luck to your friend! I take the MCAT in six weeks…aaggh!

P.S. For anybody in B’ham, Alabama, UAB has a great nutrition clinic. I shadowed there this summer.

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Lindsey • August 6, 2008 at 11:59 pm

I tried asking my doctor, even asked if there was an obesity specialist or if she could refer to a RD. She told me she didn’t know if anything was available like that and that maybe I could call a local hospital. wtf. I live in southern CA so I know there have to be RDs here, I just don’t know how to find one that my insurance might find one.

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Lindsey • August 7, 2008 at 12:10 am

PQ – thanks for asking these questions that we all care about.

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Kate (sortofgrownup) • August 7, 2008 at 12:38 am

I had just decided to jump on the bandwagon when my doctor decided to have THE TALK ABOUT BEING FAT. She listened to me talk about what activity I was doing, and suggested some helpful ways to fit in more. She also (cringe) recommended Mike Huckabee’s book. Lastly, she set me up with an appetite suppressant. It did help me jump start things a bit.

The best part about it has been the followups with her. Since there is some risk of elevated heart rate and blood pressure, I’ve gotten to see her frequently this year. She has heard all about the personal trainer, what we’re doing, and signed off on it.

The personal trainer is working wonders, though. Not just for the workout, but for the therapy (which is inexpensive, comparitively). He has much more extensive knowledge than the other trainers who I tried and didn’t stick around for. He’s familiar with my particular knee injury, and has meaningful but not crazy nutrition guidance. (Because wow, other trainers, I do not want your crazy and unhealthy tricks.)

That was rambly. My link goes to my discussion of my mixed experiences with the appetite suppressant.

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Christie • August 7, 2008 at 1:45 am

I didn’t specifically tell my doctor that I was interested in losing weight. He brought up the “I noticed you were overweight” talk once. He didn’t really offer much advice except eat less and move more.

I went with my husband once to see and endocrinologist and he had some paperwork that he gives his patients who struggle with weight and a huge lecture and generally made you feel like crap for being fat.

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Heather • August 7, 2008 at 5:33 am

My doctor seemed annoyed about my weight…and incredibly dismissive about any talk from me about losing it. Kind of like she’d heard it all before and wasn’t interested. Considering how much I have to lose… similar to yours… you’d think she’d be more supportive. But yeahh–’diet and exercise’ were all I could pull from her before she changed the subject…clearly uncomfortable. I felt like screaming, “HEY! I’m the uncomfortable one here… and -I- had to get the courage to bring it up.”

Seriously wanted to cram her stethoscope down her throat and ask for a refund.

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earthmamma • August 7, 2008 at 7:58 am

im super lucky..i live in south australia and my doctor is for FREE! i probably shouldnt tell you this but we sit and chat for ages and she just couldnt be more supportive. my friends just had a baby after three miscarriages and when they went to see my doc for the post birth visit…she had KNITTED THEIR BABY A JUMPER!!! so yeah – she is pretty damn special.

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Morgan • August 7, 2008 at 8:02 am

Because heart disease runs in my family, I was nervous to start exercising without talking to my doctor first. My doctor knows me pretty well, and knew I was serious about wanting to lose weight. She agreed that a stress test wouldn’t hurt. So, at age 28, I took a stress test with all the wires hooked up to me. I was only able to walk on the treadmill for 7 minutes before getting totally winded. The test came back negative for any problems, so I knew I probably wasn’t going to have a heart attack any time soon. I’m glad I consulted her. I say that if you don’t like your doctor, you should just keep looking until you find one you do like.

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Marla • August 7, 2008 at 8:46 am

OMG. This so touches a nerve with me. I have HAD IT with the medical profession regarding weight loss! If there’s such a huge obesity crisis, why are so few of them educated on the subject?

I first consulted my doctor when I reached 200 pounds and couldn’t seem to stop the gaining. I noticed she was VERY uncomfortable during the consultation, sitting kind of hunched up, and eventually she admitted that she had her own weight issues, weighed more than I did in fact. I never noticed, because 1. she always wears a lab coat and 2. I never looked past the title of “my doctor” to see the person. She sent me to a nutritionist whose advice was completely worthless. She looked at my diet/exercise diary and said “Yep, you should lose 1 to 2 pounds a week on this plan.” I explained that I’d been doing it for five months and had lost NO pounds. She just didn’t have an answer for that– she was obviously confused and didn’t know what to say. That’s the first time I realized that doctors don’t BELIEVE ME when I tell them things.

A few years later I consulted an endocrinologist, because again there was just no sense in what I did versus the results I got. He did lots of blood and urine work, and concluded that I was totally normal in all ways. All he could tell me was that “the human body is not a test tube,” something I’ve found to be all too true. Something else I noticed while sitting in line for almost two hours to get my lab results: the waiting room was FILLED with women who thought they had a physical condition that made them fat. Naturally, most of them weren’t even fat at all, they just thought they were. I think that doctor was knowledgeable and I believe his findings, but I couldn’t help thinking about the big business of convincing women they’re too fat.

My gynecologist has offered weight loss advice, though I’ve never asked her for any. Her brilliant words of wisdom: “Eat more broccoli! Eat raw vegetables instead of potato chips!” Oh gee thanks I never would have thought of that. Gaaaah! I haven’t eaten a potato chip in three years!

My current family doctor keeps advising me that I should lose weight. He is “concerned” about my weight and body fat percent. You know what he recommends? That I walk for 30 minutes a day. Because, again, it NEVER WOULD HAVE OCCURRED TO ME to consider… [drum roll]…. EXERCISE!!! I also showed him my diet and training log, and he also couldn’t accept the facts. He referred me to a nutritionist, and I said No Thanks. As I’ve said before, I’m fat, not stupid, and I can count calories and macronutrients as well as the next person.

The only professional advice I look for/accept anymore is that of fitness trainers. And I take even that with a grain of salt, because they are in it as a business and sometimes I think they get carried away with their own marketing hype. They have a lot invested in insisting that whatever-method will work for EVERYone, you just have to try hard enough.

Okay, I can’t fit any more sarcasm into this comment! I am going off now to punch something really hard and get the frustration out!

p.s. I know there are health professionals out there more conscientious and well-trained than what I’ve run into; I don’t mean to damn the entire profession.

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Deb • August 7, 2008 at 9:23 am

My doctor is the one who recommended the South Beach diet (though I had already read about it and thought about it). I’ll be forever grateful. I’ve lost weight and am healthier, too. Looking back, I don’t have much respect for the MDs who didn’t mention losing weight. Hooray for those who care enough about our health to help us.

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Kathy • August 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

Um….no offense, but that sounds like pretty good advice, and those suggestions match up with the information that I’ve found in my own research online. By not keeping the junk food in the house you have to actively go in search of it. Which means that whatever craving you’re having has to be strong enough to overcome the inertia of you sitting at home in front of the television (or whatever)? And let’s face it, people are lazy, and if I had to go make myself presentable to the outside world, hop in the car, and navigate the store, rather than shuffle to my fridge, that ice cream suddenly doesn’t seem worth it. Also, by eating the unhealthy food you’re craving out in public (her second suggestion) you are suddenly accountable to other people (because everyone knows that if no one saw you eat it then it didn’t really count). It will help with portion control if nothing else.

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Jess B • August 7, 2008 at 9:42 am

There are both good and bad health professionals.

Sometimes half the battle with a health issue is having someone to stand beside you, encourage you and validate your efforts. Their expertise may or may not be relevant. Even if your doc doesn’t know much about “weight loss”, he/she is at least likely to have some grounding in endocrinology/metabolism and may be in a position to check you for other health issues associated with weight and weight loss/gain.

Also, there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with offering ‘basic’ advice. Even if it is simple, like eating more vegies or exercising, we all need reminders now and then. A doctor is remiss if he/she doesn’t state the obvious. For example, we all know that surgery carries risks such as bleeding, infection, death. Your doctor would be seriously negligent if she didn’t inform you of these risks, just because you know them all already. If you ask for help with weight loss, as a doctor I will tell you that it is healthful to eat lots of vegies! Not to mention delicious, especially with yummy sauces…

Also, I work with fat doctors, skinny doctors, in-between doctors. I hope that what matters is professionalism and putting our patients at ease, not the size of our bodies (but I totally understand that it may be off-putting seeing a skinny doc…I am thin and I hate the idea that I might make someone feel awkward about his/her size.)

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SarahJ • August 7, 2008 at 10:03 am

mine said the same thing…

just do what you know you should be doing.

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susan • August 7, 2008 at 11:42 am

Although I read somewhere that a huge number of dieticians have eating disorders!

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JEM • August 7, 2008 at 11:54 am

Amen Marla!

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cady • August 7, 2008 at 12:13 pm

i went to my doctor after being on an exercise routine and counting calories for more than six months and going no where. i showed her what i had been doing, and she said i probably had a metabolism problem which is why i was doing everything right but not losing. now i’m trying new ways to exercise that might kick up my metabolism more than just the bike riding i was doing.

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Sally Parrott Ashbrook • August 7, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Doctors generally get one class on nutrition, if that. So they really are no more experts on it than the rest of us, and they sure seem just as likely to get caught up in fads. More than anything, I only ever had doctors be rude to me about weight loss when they thought I needed to lose weight. Now, none of my doctors bring up the fact that I’ve lost considerable weight. Sometimes I bring it up with them to make a point. ;)

I did consult a dietitian once I was on my weight loss journey–to make sure I was getting adequate nutrition in my vegetarian diet (she’s a vegetarian) and then once my food allergies were diagnosed (though she says I know more about that stuff than her, at this point). I visit her still if I get stuck and want the thoughts of a professional or if I need advice for a specific issue (like when my husband was recovering from a bad accident and had nutritional needs that skyrocketed).

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K and J's mom • August 7, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I talked to my PCP a few years ago. He said, “Yep, good idea. I hear WW or Atkins works well. Or I can give you a referral to a nutritionist.” Gee, doc. Here’s your $80.

I guess it comes down to me making the decision to do it. There are a lot of “ways” to get it done, but to change, truly change, it is me and my mirror. No doc, psych, or anyone else. Also, I blogged about you today and added you to my blog roll. I am on the weight loss journey too and wanted to share you as a big inspiration for me. Hope that is okay?

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scone • August 7, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Most doctors and nurses I have known are either fat, out of shape, smokers, or taking serious tranks/antidepressants– especially the people in critical care and ER. The extreme stress, including fear of liability, seems to generate all sorts of maladaptive behavior. The four nurses in my own family have been smokers, addicts, bi-polar, and OCD. Sometimes I wonder what sort of health care system we can have that doesn’t even take care of its own workers?

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Karen • August 7, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Folks, the doctor can’t do it for us – maybe that’s what they think we’re wanting when we bring it up to them. We all know that if everything is working correctly the answer to weight loss is eat less and move more. Whatever plan you use has to incorporate those two things. When I’ve done that I’ve successfully lost weight. I kept off 60 pounds for 3 years. When I quit doing that I gain back. It’s just not rocket science.

It’s not fun as PQ has shown through her writing, but it is successful.

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Pinky • August 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm

So when I went in to establish myself as a patient I had lots of lab work done. I came out with high blood sugar but not super high, like 100-110. She told me if I tried I could control it with my diet and it would help if I lost weight. She only referred me to weight watchers to help me lose weight and said it really works well. My hollistic medicine dr. also told me to lose weight for my health ailments. He gave some guidelines to follow, eliminate sugar, wheat, breads, eat more green veggies, & fruits. My gyn also told me to lose weight after I had procedure done and she said she had a hard time getting the needle through all the fat to see my woman parts inside. She told me what she did, eliminate red meats and eat more fruits & veggies.

They all say to lose weight but don’t give you more info than you don’t already know.

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Jessica • August 7, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Defining a plan for weight loss that will work for you is no easy task, but I can tell you that Jenny Craig has worked for thousands of people. It’s medically proven to work – check out published results from prestigious medical journals like Obesity’s April 2007 report (http://www.jennycraig.com/assets/doc…dTrial_1yr.pdf) or this article by the Cooper Institute (http://www.jennycraig.com/assets/doc…vesArticle.pdf) Qualified nutritionists are behind the Jenny Craig meal plan, which gets proven results. There’s also plenty of online support at the Jenny Craig forums. Good luck all.

Jessica

Jenny Craig Online Community Manager

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PastaQueen • August 7, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Your doctor should recommend my book instead :)

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Rachael • August 7, 2008 at 3:35 pm

I have gotten the worst weight loss advice from doctors – all unsolicited by the way. I’ve gotten “join Weight Watchers” several times. One doctor suggested I cut out all snacks. Another doctor suggested I fast for a week, then eat only vegetables the next week, then add in some chicken the third week and keep my food intake at that. The best was a dcotor who suggested I watch a reality show Shaq was doing to help kids lose weight last summer.

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Benita • August 7, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Actually, my husband’s doctor has been the best about the weight loss thing. He did a complete physical on my husband, determined there were a few things that needed looking into and set my husband up for a complete weight loss program. The catch? Our insurance won’t pay a dime of it. To quote the morons: “Covered charges will not include and no benefits will be paid for treatment or service provided for weight loss or reduction of obesity, including surgical procedures, even if the insured has other health conditions which might be helped by weight loss or reduction of obesity.”

Which is too bad, because my husband was actually looking forward to going and getting the guidance he needs to lose weight. But, we simply cannot afford it without insurance’s help.

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Gwendolyn • August 7, 2008 at 5:17 pm

It was brought up many years ago after I had my son and the PCOS was starting to make me gain 100 pounds pretty fast. He was pretty rude about it, basically asking how much fried chicken and pie I ate, which I wasn’t doing!

I quit seeing him.

Years later, another doctor diagnosed me with PCOS and type II diabetes, but didn’t give me much info on either. He sent me to an endocrinologist, who was all about me getting pregnant (um I was 300 pounds) and lectured me for not wanting to get preggers, even though he knew I was in an abusive marriage, a smoker, too fat, depressed and in horrible shape. I didn’t go back to see him either.

I’ve learned more about my health and how to treat the PCOS and celiac disease from the internet and books than I have from any doctor.

Two years ago I quit smoking, quit my stressful job at capital one, left my husband, moved to boston, started walking, ate healthier, avoided gluten and felt better without the advice or help of a doctor.

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Lilbet • August 7, 2008 at 7:54 pm

As a registered nurse, I know the importance of good communication with your doctor. So, in theory, I highly support talking to your doctor before you attempt any life changing endeavor. But, did I check in with mine before starting this? Um…NO!

If you’re doing it sensibly and with education behind you, then I think go for it. If you’re clueless, then by all means, chat with your doc about it.

My doctor is fantastic. I adore him. Every year at my physical he asks me, “What are you doing about your weight?” And we talk about it and he says, EVERY YEAR, “There is no magic solution. Eat less.” No diet plan is advocated, he doesn’t push exercise (in fact, he’ll drop me as a patient if I start running because he says the injuries from running just replace the ones created by obesity–interesting thought don’t you think?). Anyway, I’m thrilled to go in this fall to check in with hi because I’m finally doing something about it. I’ve lost 35 pounds since he last saw me!

Peace,

Lilbet

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bisous • August 7, 2008 at 9:18 pm

I’m a psychiatrist, so I’m a doctor and therapist (and I’m always amazed how people quote the “doctors don’t learn nutrition in medical school” spiel – how do you know what is covered in medical school if you haven’t been? My school curriculum did not have a class called “nutrition” per se, but you can bet it was covered a great deal in classes on healthy and diseased hearts, diabetes, and not to mention the hours and hours (and hours) of the biochemistry of vitamins… anyway, we get A LOT of nutrition, but we do not get the kind of nutritional training of setting up a balanced diet in a very practical way that RDs do.)

I don’t get a whole lot of questions about weight loss, except from those who are seeing me for binge eating disorders, and that isn’t helped by a nutritionist, not at first. I usually follow the concepts as outlined in “Intuitive Eating” in such cases.

But if the chance to discuss diet and exercise comes up, I jump at it. How could you not take the opportunity to discuss such a major aspect of good physical and mental health? And you would not believe how many people have NO clue what a carbohydrate is. Pastaqueen’s readers are an educated, interested, driven bunch – of course you will know zillions more about the practical aspects of exercise and weight loss than the average joe or jill.

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Michelle • August 7, 2008 at 9:24 pm

My doctor had me on medications and then referred me to two different surgeons about having a gastric bypass. He was all into that, like I was a science experiment to be watched. I chose NOT to have the surgery and went about losing weight with Weight Watchers, on my own terms….not out of fear which seemed to be my OLD doc’s habit. Never met a Dr. I liked. Ever.

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Lilbet • August 7, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Yes, doctors have nutrition training. My nutrition class was as hard as chemistry and all the premed students were right in there with me and all the nursing/nutrition majors.

We medical professionals have nutrition built into all of our course work as well as formal training. It was a requirement for my boards. That said, a good medical worker be it a doctor, nurse, whatever, will also have a great dietitian to refer to. A human brain can only hold so much–that’s why doctors, nurses, etc almost always specialize in one area. Dietitians are there to be a great resource for your medical team.

I think everyone needs to be a consumer when it comes to their medical care. There are great doctors and loser doctors just like there are great plumbers or bakers or contractors and loser ones.

Interview doctors just like you would interview anyone else that works with you and you should find a good fit.

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The Baroness • August 7, 2008 at 9:39 pm

I am currently between doctors. The last doctor I had was quite bluntly a bitch. I gained most of my weight on medication that she perscribed me, and everytime I walked into her office she would say “Wow, you’ve gained a lot of weight” or “wow, you look heavy!” She suggested that I join Weight Watchers right away, which sucks, because she knew that I could barely afford the meds she was giving me. When I had finally lost some weight – after I took MYSELF off of the meds she was giving me because I found out they weren’t really helping my conditions at all – she tried to give me the phone number of a plastic surgeon so I could get my loose skin taken care of. Just an outright lunatic with no tact. Now that I’ve lost 80 pounds, I almost want to go back to her and rub it in her face. :-)

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cindy • August 7, 2008 at 9:43 pm

OK, after reading all these comments over the last few days, I have a suggestion for many of you ~ FIND A NEW DOCTOR! It doesn’t have to be that way… And also, I think that maybe WE are the ones who are too sensitive sometimes. Eat less-Exercise more is not an insult. It is the right thing to say, but would be better if followed by “Of course, that is easier said than done.” It is HARD work to lose weight. No one can do this for us. NO ONE. It is our cross to bear and our journey to take all on our own, for the most part. Don’t look for easy answers or miracles and then you won’t be disappointed when you only get simple, practical advice.

I think I should send my doctor a thank you note. Clearly she is a rare find, according to most of your comments. I’ve never felt anything less than respected. And listened to…

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Suzy • August 7, 2008 at 10:05 pm

I once talked to an MD about why I was working so hard to lose and getting no where. I had been on Weight Watchers for months at that point. The MD hadn’t ever heard of Weight Watchers. Wow. I decided he must live under a rock.

I once asked another MD for help with my situation. He was sympathetic and listened carefully. He talked a bit about metabolism and that some people will just have to work harder. (true, true). Then he suggested I start running as that’s how he had lost weight.

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Rachel • August 7, 2008 at 11:31 pm

My hubby is a primary care physician. We both battle weight issues. He has tried several of the commercial diets himself and works with his patients to see what will work for them. Unfortunately, the stress of his job causes him to yo-yo diet himself, but it gives him the opportunity to try different things. He suggests everything from a calorie restricted diet, WW, Jenny Craig, Atkins, South Beach, and low level medication to kick start in extreme cases. He understands it can be a personal decision for each person and their lifestyle and health issues.

His office also has group classes/seminars in nutrition and lifestyle change lead by another physician, P.A. and a newly hired Dietician. The classes include BIAs (bioelectrical impedance analysis – Body Index) and other measurements and assessments. He works with insurance, or payment plan for the courses. But the office is not a weight loss clinic. It is a Family Practice office – if anything, they do a lot of Sports Medicine as a secondary thing. They just want to offer a basis for healthy lifestyle for their patients.

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scone • August 8, 2008 at 12:06 am

‘I’m a psychiatrist, so I’m a doctor and therapist (and I’m always amazed how people quote the “doctors don’t learn nutrition in medical school” spiel – how do you know what is covered in medical school if you haven’t been?’

Because (1) we’ve talked to many, many health professionals who are utterly clueless.

(2) We have many friends and relatives who have gone through nursing school/medical school and who talk about the process in excruciating detail.

‘…but we do not get the kind of nutritional training of setting up a balanced diet in a very practical way that RDs do.’

Well, exactly. And since weight loss happens in the real world, rather than the lab, we want real world info. And doctors aren’t always providing that. If they were, would blogs like this be half as popular, and necessary?

And don’t you think it’s the least bit strange that “amateurs” reading the Pastaqueen blog should often be better educated about losing weight than professional medical people?

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Sara • August 8, 2008 at 12:13 am

I didn’t consult my physician before I embarked on my latest and ongoing weight loss venture. We’d discussed the available options on several previous occasions (and by ‘discussed’ I mean ‘he talked about them and I nodded while pretending to listen and staring both intently and (I hoped) surreptitiously at the frolicking arctic animals on the wallpaper border placed convieniently at his eye level when he was seated) and I already knew what his recommendations were, I just wasn’t ready to follow them. One day doing so seemed to be an idea I came up with all on my own, and the rest is history. (insert your own ‘doomed to repeat itself’ joke here)

My doctor has been supportive and encouraging, and I’ve become much less reluctant to visit him when necessary–or even when NOT necessary. I had my first non-crisis related full physical last year…by choice!

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Christy • August 8, 2008 at 1:30 am

All I heard when I asked about going about losing weight was that potentially, i could get down as low as 114 lbs and still be healthy. At 5’6″ with a very muscular build… that’s my weight in lean muscle. My doctor essentially told me that getting low enough to *not have any body fat* would be healthy and possible.

So I gave up on that pretty fast.

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Karen • August 8, 2008 at 7:56 am

Reading these comments I realize how good my doctor is – he’s very compassionate and informative – and he battles weight himself as does his wife, so he knows what I am dealing with – he’s been my doctor for 33 years so he’s seen my weight go up and down many times.

A good doctor can offer information, compassion and even some diet aids, but that’s it. The rest is all up to us. I don’t think I would spend another dollar on a doctor who didn’t at least offer the first two of those things! I certainly won’t pay a doctor to insult or belittle me for any reason!

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Bree • August 8, 2008 at 10:25 am

(wow…lotta comments going on here). I personally asked my Dr if he could prescribe something or offer some help and he told me this: EAT SALADS AND SUBS FROM SUBWAY! EXERCISE. QUIT EATING JUNK! So, I haven’t been back to him since. He didn’t seem to hear me or understand that I admit I have a problem, but I CAN’T seem to put the junk down right now. Mine goes along w/depression and stress. I’m an emotional eater and I know it. He had no understanding that it MAY go deeper than “eat a salad”.

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sqib • August 8, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I believe a person who has dropped a lot of pounds by eating mostly natural foods knows a whole heck of a lot more about losing weight than most Doctors.

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Doc • August 8, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Sorry to tell you but a doctor is not the same thing as a magician. Just like my hair dresser does not have a magic wand. There is no magical word that your doctor can say that will give you the motivation to eat healthy and exercise. I wish that I could spend eons of time with patients but here in America if you don’t see a patient every 15 minutes you probably can’t afford to pay off your loans and feed your kids. Weight loss is about self discovery. And it is about knowledge. I think half assed is an awesome book and shows the real world struggles of a person wanting to lose weight. Also the bigghest loser is great motivation. Just make sure you don’t have any life threatening conditions (like a heart problem) before you start a diet and exercise program.

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Andrea • August 8, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I have brought weight loss up on the rare occasions my primary practice doctor has not. She’s clear on why losing weight would be a great idea for me, and the possible/probable eventual consequences of not doing it. I thought she was brave for talking about it; so many doctors I have seen treat it like the elephant in the corner that cannot be acknowledged.

My doctor was the first ever who tested my thyroid and decided it was low enough to supplement a little (not a miracle cure, sadly), and suggested I see a dietician, cut the carbs, watch portion sizes, quit drinking, and workout 5X a week. In short, she gave good, empathetic, sensible advice, but no amazing rescues and no in depth psych help. How to make myself do all that is left up to me.

Now, I could have told myself everything she suggested, and I have every day for decades. I sure would love it if my doctor came up with some miracle suggestion, but am I really expecting it? No. The health care system isn’t set up for that, and like you and I both noted, I probably do know as much as she does about all of thse. Referrals to RD’s, trainers, psychologists, programs, etc., are the best a primary care doctor can really do. Now, when I do become diabetic or develop some chronic disease, then the doctor’ll have something she can treat!

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John's Weight Loss Blog • August 9, 2008 at 10:37 am

I didn’t really consult with him, although obviously he told me I needed to lose weight. He gave me the usual lecture on eating less and exercising more and that was about it.

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Karen • August 10, 2008 at 10:14 am

I lost 80 lbs 5 years ago and I’ve kept it off ever since (though I’m not yet at “goal weight” I’m still working on losing more). Anyway, I never talked to my doctor ab my weightloss plans; I went to the doctor after I’d already lost about 60 lbs and she was pleasantly surprised. She asked how I did it and I told her, “Diet and exercise.” She said, “Well, good… keep it up.” And that was that.

Though, at the time I was 19-20 years old, and still very healthy despite being 264lbs when I began. If I were older or if I had a health problem like diabetes or high blood pressure or something, I probably would have consulted my doctor to see if there was anything I should avoid doing/eating.

I *AM* considering seeing a dietician to figure out why, after all the exercise I do and how healthy I eat, I keep getting “stuck” at 186lbs. But I see it as a last resort since i can’t seem to do it by myself. Also, the fact that I did lose so much on my own and kept it off for years will, I hope, make the dietician respect me and my abilities to care for myself.

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neimanmarxist • August 10, 2008 at 2:09 pm

a lot of doctors will just give the “eat less, move more” answer. which is well and good, but it is easier said than done. i think a lot of people turn to specialized weight-loss programs because there is a PLAN in place. sometimes, you know what needs to be done (eat less, move more) but you need STEPS in order to do it (like , attend a meeting, log your food, etc.) The imperative to “eat less and move more” is sort of like the imperative to “just write your dissertation.” It is a task so herculean and unappealing that it needs to be broken down,into a process.

Congrats on your amazing journey. You have quite the sense of humor :)

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mochamom • August 10, 2008 at 6:42 pm

My hubby is a doctor and he always says the same thing -diet and exercise. I can do the diet for a couple of days. The exercise is no problem. My appetite seems to always win out. I have begged for appetite suppressants but he always says no. I think he likes me fat. The problem is — I don’t.!

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Dr. Michael Snyder • August 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Jennette– first of all- I wanted to say that I love your site and am so happy for your success. I spend a small, but very useful, percentage of my life searching for what is “out there” to help me better understand the weight loss world. I am interested in helping you with your “no doctor can help” difficulties– as so often discussed on your site. I know that “diets do not work” AND that the medical establishment has failed so many of our patients who struggle with weight related issues. I am personally trying to correct that. So, please let me know how I may help and I promise not to sell or convince you of anything. The more people I can guide to safe, reasonable and humane weight control modalities, the better for everyone. The only thing worse thatn bad or no medical advice is unsafe “lay person” advice. I worry about all of that we see out there. So, please let me know how I may help. Keep up the good work. And, be well, Michael A. Snyder, MD, FACS, PC

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nolafwug • August 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm

Wow I can’t believe no one has said this yet: I didn’t think to consult a doctor because I have no insurance.

In fact, one of my main reasons for taking the time to figure out how to lose weight and improve my health is because I was starting to have a lot of scary health issues that I strongly suspected were due to carrying around way too many extra pounds (sleep apnea, hypoglycemia, plantar fasciitis, back pain).

I knew I couldn’t afford to see a doctor about any of these issues and god forbid if any of my parts or systems break down. I’ve lost 80 pounds so far and beat all the aforementioned issues. Say yay for being poor as a great motivator!

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alison • August 13, 2008 at 1:32 am

My doctor told me I needed to lose weight, and said that portion control was the way to go; which would have been great if that had been news to me. … but it wasn’t. I had been controlling my portions for a couple years. My mother was a Weight Watchers leader, I know all about portion control.

and portion control was getting me nowhere, or hardly anywhere at all, to be honest. What’s worked for me is increasing my exercise and general physical activity (which my GP told me I didn’t need to worry about since I was already walking over an hour a day). And even if I end up eating greasy, gross, protein-rich, white-flour-based cafeteria food in large portions (because of work), as long as I’m getting in a goodly amount of exercise or just plain low-impact physical activity, the pounds drop off of me.

As they say, muscle burns more energy than fat. Since I’ve moved close enough to walk to work, and the grocery store, and all the places I hang out, the pounds have dropped right off of me. My GP still stresses portion control. I want to hit her. :)

… But I think I’ve given up on her. She paid no heed to me and my nasty headache problems either, telling me that I needed to do something drastic about my inexplicable high blood pressure, or I would have to face some nasty consequences in the future. She hardly once thought there might be a link, or that the headaches were an issue worth looking into. Thankfully (if you can say that) this neurological disorder I’ve been diagnosed with actually causes high blood pressure, and suddenly we have an explanation, and a key to solving my woes. … no thanks to my GP.

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Yumicho • August 13, 2008 at 7:12 am

I’ve had really mixed results talking to doctors about weight loss. Years ago, I had lost about 50 pounds with calorie restriction, fell ill with an infection, and had a doctor repeat about 5 times that I needed to lose weight. I explained that I realised I was still obese but mentioned my weight loss. She was just really insensitive and acted like she didn’t believe it.

Another time I had lost over 100 pounds. I went for an internal and the PA who was doing it glanced at my belly, asked if I recently lost weight, and after I said yes, she said “Someone needs to do some crunches”. Yes, my feet were still in the stirrups.

I’ve had other experiences with doctors that really has lead me to believe that the only reason to consult them about weight loss is to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition or a risk factor.

I will not take dietary advice from anyone who hasn’t read Gary Taubes’ book. They don’t have to agree with it, but they had to have read it. Right from the beginning he points out that treating obesity as a disease of too much food is like treating alcoholism as a disease of too much booze.

I started 2007 at a weight so high I couldn’t weigh myself on my scale (highest weight it records is 335). I considered going to the doctor’s office to get a good weight, but I didn’t want lectures (plus I was afraid I might not be able to be weighed at the office). I know I weighed over 350, but I have a suspicion I might have been closer to 400. May 2007 I started low carb (Atkins). By mid-June I could weigh myself on my scale. This morning I weighed 255.5.

Sometimes I wish I had the “clinical record” of my start weight and proof of the drastic improvement in my blood panels. But going to a doctor for weight loss advice? I’ve lost so much weight over the course of my life (at least 4 times I’ve lost over 100 pounds). I know about eating less and exercising more. Weight loss is not a moral issue, but unfortunately many doctors and many thin people view it as such.

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fatfu • August 14, 2008 at 7:50 pm

MY GP: “Eat popcorn” (as diets go – not bad. I lost over 30 lbs eating popcorn).

My endocrinologist: “Whoever figures that out will win a Nobel Prize.”

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Healthy Hobgoblin • December 2, 2008 at 7:26 pm

My doctor said “Yes, it appears that you could lose some weight.”

That’s it, nothing more. Well, DUH! I came to THAT conclusion without medical school or the white lab coat!

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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