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  • Paige Smathers

How to Translate Upsetting Advice from your Doctor



It can be very upsetting to work on letting go of restriction and diet culture only to be given blanket weight loss advice from the doctor. Challenging diet culture means letting go of the alluring lies that say that your weight is completely, 100% in your control. This simply isn't true. There is no study to date that shows that weight loss from diets is maintained long-term.


Being told you need to lose weight for your health can bring up doubt, confusion, and stress when you start to wonder if letting go of diets and restriction is the right thing for you.


I empathize with physicians. They work long hours and don't typically have the luxury of having plenty of time to ask questions about a person's self-care (including their nutrition or how they move). They need to be in and out of appointments quickly. There is unchecked weight bias in the medical field at large and it's harming our collective health and wellbeing. There is also a huge lack of training in nutrition for doctors (which ultimately is why dietitians exist). But I do believe that the majority of physicians want what's best for their patients and care for them deeply. They want to help and to promote health. I get it and I'm so grateful for so much that goes right with doctors.


AND, weight loss advice is plain old not helpful. We do not have any solid evidence to date for any weight loss intervention yielding long-term weight loss. In fact, we see that long-term weight loss diets lead to weight gain, not loss. When patients are told to lose weight by their doctor, they earnestly follow recommendations, only to eventually see the diet failing.


If you have had an upsetting visit with the doctor where you were told to lose weight, I invite you to translate that advice into reflectively looking at how you might adjust how you care for yourself. When weight loss advice is given by a doctor, most of the time it's steeped in weight bias, a product of not having adequate time to assess your eating, and/or just plain old lazy medicine. This post isn't intended to make excuses for weight stigma from doctors or medical providers—we can and definitely should do better. But, there's a way for you—the patient‚to let go of anything that's not serving you in moving toward honoring yourself, your autonomy, and your health.


Ask yourself if there's any room for improvement with sleep hygiene, stress management, rest, movement, regular meals, hydration, etc. Can you care for yourself in a way that feels good to you? Start with your sleep and keep working on the next right thing—the thing that feels good in your body to care for yourself.


I believe that weight loss advice from physicians is often a short cut. It's often given out without considering what that means on a practical level. If it's helpful to you, I invite you to translate weight loss advice from the doctor to this: is there any room for improvement in how I care for myself? And whatever that question yields for you is a great place to start.

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