5 Ways Clinicians Can Help Patients Lose Weight


As Americans finish their Thanksgiving leftovers and turn their thoughts to the holiday season, many have resolved to shed a few pounds after New Year's Day.

As Americans finish their Thanksgiving leftovers and turn their thoughts to the holiday season, many have resolved to shed a few pounds after New Year’s Day.

A number of these patients will also attempt to squeeze in visits to retail clinics before the end of December, giving physician assistants and nurse practitioners an opportunity to help them reach their weight-loss goals.

Here are 5 recommendations clinicians can give to patients looking to kick start a new weight-loss routine:

1. Change Daily Dietary Habits

Making some simple yet importantchangesto dietary habits can help patients both lose and keep off weight, according to Yvette C. Terrie, BSPharm, RPh.

These dietary changes include:

  • Eating a variety of food, such as whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits.
  • Making sure to eat breakfast every day and avoid skipping meals.
  • Consuming smaller portions.
  • Avoiding or limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  • Replacing high-calorie snacks with vegetables and fruits.
  • Drinking an adequate amount of water.

Terrie added that these dietary modifications should be accompanied by other changes to a patient’s routine, such as maintaining an exercise routine and allowing for a sufficient amount of sleep.

2. Join a Weight-Loss Program

Patients can also be encouraged to join a weight-loss program, which can help participants structure their diets while providing them with community support.

Patients who go this route should choose their program carefully, however, as some programs have demonstrated better results than others, according to Kimberly Gudzune, MD, MPH.

“Some important aspects that they may want to consider would be whether the program has scientific evidence to prove that it works, as well as the costs, structure, and time commitment required with the program,” she toldPharmacy Timesin apreviousinterview.

In a recent study led by Dr. Gudzune, Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers yielded particularly noteworthy results after 1 year, with the programs resulting in a 4.9% and 2.6% greater loss of weight, respectively, compared with control programs.

Additionally, Nutrisystem and very low-calorie programs such as Medifast and OPTI-FAST were found to produce short-term weight loss, but further evidence is needed to verify their long-term effects.

3. Commit to Daily Weigh-Ins

Another recommendation that clinicians can make is for patients to track their weight every day.

In a recent study published in theJournal of Obesity, 28.6% of overweight patients who adhered to the Caloric Titration Method, which entails daily self-weighing and visual feedback, experienced a weight loss of ≥5% after 1 year, compared with only 10.8% of those in a control group.

“Though for weight loss there is no 1 magic solution, daily self-weighing and tracking of one’s weight appears to be a behavior that can help some lose a small amount of weight and maintain this loss,” lead author Carly Pacanowski, PhD,previouslytoldPharmacy Times.

The Caloric Titration Method had a notably greater effect in men, as men in the intervention group generally lost weight while those in the control group tended to gain weight; comparatively, women in both groups succeeded at losing some weight.

4. Consider a Weight-Loss Medication

A number ofprescription drugsindicted for weight management in overweight or obese patients are currently available on the market.

These include:

  • Lorcaserin (Belviq)
  • Naltrexone and bupropion (Contrave)
  • Phentermine and topiramate extended-release (Qsymia)
  • Orlistat (Xenical)

Patients who feel that medication therapy is needed should be encouraged to speak with their primary care provider to determine which treatment plan would work best for them.

Many of these weight-loss drugs should be discontinued if a patient has not lost a certain percentage of body weight (usually 5%) after 12 weeks, though this change should also be discussed with a health care provider.

5. Take Care of Mental Health

While most patients are aware of the importance of diet and exercise in losing weight, clinicians should emphasize that psychology can play a key role, as well.

For example, previous studies have indicated that issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression are linked to higher body mass index.

The potential impact of mental health on weight is not widely recognized among patients. In a recent survey of over 1000 individuals commissioned by Orlando Health, only 10% of participants named psychological well-being as their greatest barrier to weight loss.

“That's not surprising,” said researcher Diane Robinson, PhD, in a press release. “Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise. But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook, and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”

Explaining that many foods can trigger an emotional response in their consumers, Dr. Robinson recommended that patients keep track of their food and mood so that they can identify their reasons for eating other than satisfying hunger. Then, they can begin conditioning themselves to view food not as a reward or a coping mechanism, but simply as nourishment.

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