Weight Management: Distracted Eating Adds Inches To Your Waist
Written by: Gurdip Kaur
Dietetic & Food Services Manager
“You are fat!” – A good way to discuss weight issues?
Weight management is one of the challenging tasks for a dietitian. We often meet clients who are not very cooperative or compliant to our nutritional advices. So why are some clients not motivated at all to change while some were so motivated? Well, the way you address a clients’ weight status from the very beginning of the counseling plays a big part in determining this. During weight management counseling, dietitians often start with addressing the client’s weight issues before discussing about how they can achieve better weight. The term that we use in addressing body weight status can have impact on clients, either positively or negatively. If you use the wrong term, your clients will feel stigmatized and blamed, but if you use the right term, they will feel supported and empowered to change.
Studies have been conducted to examine patients’ preferences for terms that describe their body weight and it was found that the least desirable terms are “fatness” and “excess fat”. A recent study in the United States assessed patients’ perceptions and reactions to the language that healthcare providers use when discussing body weight. The following 10 terms were used:
|· Weight |
· Unhealthy weight
· Weight problem
|· Obese |
· High body mass index
· Morbidly obese
It was found that neutral terms such as “weight” and “unhealthy weight” were the preferred terms for discussing weight, whereas the least favourite terms were “morbidly obese”, “fat”, and “obese”. The study also found that “unhealthy weight” and “overweight” were most encouraging, whereas “fat” and “chubby” were least motivating. These findings were similar across socio-demographic factors regardless of the participant’s own body weight.
So what if you use those negative words on your client? Responses that were reported in the study included feeling bad about oneself, upset and embarrassed, seeking new provider, avoiding future medical appointments, feeling depressed that causes one to eat more. All these factors interfere with effective weight-loss treatment.
To increase the effectiveness of counseling, it would be better to use terms that patients prefer and feel comfortable with. Despite the findings mentioned, it is still important to recognize the variance in patient’s preferences. Start the conversation by asking about how the client feels about his/ her weight using neutral terms, e.g. “Could we talk about your weight?” Ask the client what words they would feel most comfortable when discussing his body weight.
Weight is a sensitive issue. In addition to understanding your client’s choice of addressing his/her weight, it is also important to understand about his readiness to change and not to make any assumption about the client’s lifestyle and motivation.