If you need to lose weight, you stand a far better chance of succeeding if doctors offer you tailored tips rather than generic advice, new research has found.
Experts at America's Duke University assessed 134 overweight people, the majority of whom were female, for a new study and found that those who were given specific instructions on how to shed the pounds fared far better than those simply told to take more exercise or diet.
All the participants signed up to a year-long weight loss program that included behavioural goals, educational material, calls from coaches, weight loss tips and reports, as well as checking in to see medical professionals.
Some doctors and nurses simply told their patients to "lose weight" or "exercise more", while others gave specific advice and encouragement related to the plan. Those in the latter group lost on average seven pounds (3.2 kilograms) more than those who got no additional advice.
"Just telling somebody to lose weight or improve their diet or physical activity didn't work," Gary Bennett, a professor of psychology at Duke, who co-authored the research, said. "The doctor should instead encourage patient participation in a specific program."
Doctors' empathy also had an effect on their patients' ability to stick to their weight loss plans, as those who rated their doctors as caring also lost seven pounds more than those who did not.
Bennett's co-author Megan McVay, an assistant professor at University of Florida, believes their research shows those trying to lose weight should get check-ups with a doctor who shows they care but will still push them to try harder.
"Patients who enrol in a weight loss program should consider asking their health care providers to check in on their progress," she explained. "This can help keep them accountable. It is also important to have a provider that they feel cares about them and has sympathy towards how hard it is to lose weight."
The new research is published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.