Weight is a sensitive subject for most people, especially those who would like to lose a few pounds. Even in a clinical setting, being told to shrink your waistline can be a difficult pill to swallow. It’s a physician’s responsibility to encourage them to choose healthy lifestyles while also providing them with an environment that feels safe and accepting. Of course, striking this balance with such a delicate topic can be much easier said than done.

Read on to discover useful tips for navigating weight loss conversations with diabetic patients.

Use the right language

When approaching the topic of weight loss, it’s vital for physicians to know which words to use and which terms to avoid. According to research from the National Institutes of Health, most patients prefer their care providers to use terms with clinical connotations like “weight” and “body mass index,” as opposed to more stigmatized phrases like “fat” and “obesity.” Notably, these preferences were found to transcend all economic and social groups.

According to the STOP Obesity Alliance, it’s also good to use “people-first” language that separates patients from their weight and frames the conversation in a more motivational light. For example, this more appropriate language might appear in a phrase like, “The woman affected by obesity may enjoy walks in the park.” This is preferable to verbiage such as, “The obese woman rode the bus,” which uses obesity as an adjective.

Reinforce the connection between weight and health problems

One of the reasons weight is such a sensitive topic is that many people think of their size as a cosmetic issue as opposed to a medical condition. Patients can feel attacked or self-conscious when they’re told to shed pounds when it’s not delivered within an honest, respectful dialog about how their weight is directly impacting their health.

Because diabetic patients need to be even more aware of their waistlines in order to effectively manage their health, clinicians must touch on the serious problems that can stem from carrying around extra weight. For example, Healthline noted that heavier diabetic patients are at a higher risk for developing diabetic ulcers on their feet due to body weight pressure.

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