How Can I Help My Patients Lose Weight?
— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
Individualized approaches to weight loss that better reflect the “lived experiences” of each patient must be implemented.
With obesity reaching record high levels among Americans, it is clear that traditional approaches to weight loss (“eat less, exercise more”) must be revisited. Changes in populations affected by obesity further necessitate different and wider-reaching outreach. To meet patients’ needs and start reversing trends in obesity, individualized approaches to weight loss that better reflect the “lived experiences” of each patient must be implemented.
Do Incentives Help People Lose Weight?
Many organizations and insurance companies offer incentive programs to encourage members to lose weight. These have mixed results, with participants typically losing weight at the beginning of their program regardless of incentives, or regaining weight after a few weeks. A recent study of financial and behavioral incentives specific to people with obesity found comparable results. There was no significantly greater weight loss between participants who were offered a financial incentive, environmental strategies via weekly messages and tips, a combination of both of these, or usual care.
Individualized Programs Offer the Best Approach
The limitations of broad-based incentives, combined with an understanding of the root causes of obesity, reinforce the need for individualized plans that recognize lifestyle and socioeconomic differences of each patient. Research supports this approach through the use of a customized diet1, tailored nutrition counseling2 and individualized exercise training3, which leads to more effective weight loss and high compliance.
The Canadian Medical Association created new guidelines targeted at health care professionals that recognize that different patients face unique challenges. Their goal is to improve the standard of care for people with obesity, and the guidelines include sections specific to indigenous people, women of reproductive years and those with mental health issues, as well as recommendations regarding weight bias in obesity management, pharmacotherapy and commercial products.
Advanced technologies and social media platforms also offer opportunities to create awareness and to monitor patient progress. Apps and wearables can be useful tools during the weight loss process by encouraging users to track weight, food intake and activity. Some apps also offer recipes, support groups and exercise programs, and they even interface with other devices to allow their medical team to follow their progress.
How does a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) Fit In?
Most people with obesity have tried different weight loss programs throughout their lives. Slow progress, a lack of visible change and poor adherence can lead to frustration and discouragement. A Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD), such as Robard’s medically-supervised New Direction program, is a safe and effective option that provides quicker initial weight loss, which, along with ease of use, can lead to greater compliance.
Patients who follow the New Direction program also can access Robard’s mobile app, MyHealthyJourney, to track weight, meals, water consumption and exercise. It also can be used to schedule appointments, send messages to coaches and allows health care providers to check progress and can send alerts to help achieve goals. Ninety percent of patients find that this app simplifies the program and helps them stay connected to their doctor.
To support the greatest likelihood of weight loss success, patients should be informed about weight loss programs that focus on their specific needs. Individualized approaches, including those that incorporate a VLCD as part of a lifestyle change, can provide the results and encouragement many patients need to achieve their weight loss goals.
- Strength Plus Endurance Training and Individualized Diet Reduce Fat Mass in Overweight Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial
- Dynamic Macronutrient Meal-equivalent Menu Method: Towards Individual Nutrition Intervention Programs
- Effects of and Individualized Home-based Unsupervised Aerobic Training on Body Composition and Physiological Parameters in Obese Adults are Independent of Gender
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.