Empathy goes a long way in weight loss discussions

J Fam Pract. 2007 Dec;56(12):1031-6.


Purpose: This study explores how weight-related topics are discussed between physicians and their overweight and obese female patients.

Methods: We surveyed and audio-recorded preventive health and chronic care visits with 25 overweight and obese female patients. We coded both for quantity (content and time) of weight-related discussions and quality (adherence to Motivational Interviewing [MI] techniques). We then tested correlations of these measures with patients' reported attempts to lose weight, change diet, and change exercise patterns 1 month after the visit.

Results: Weight was routinely addressed (19 of 25 encounters). Patients usually initiated the topic (67% of time). Physicians' use of MI techniques resulted in patients attempting to lose weight and changing their exercise patterns.

Conclusion: Physicians may benefit from MI training to help patients lose weight.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Empathy*
  • Family Practice / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Physician's Role
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Treatment Outcome