De-Myth-Defying Weight Loss
Misinformation on a variety of health conditions and remedies is very common in the digital age, and weight loss is no exception. Unfortunately, it is easy for patients to fall victim to fad diets, unregulated supplements, and empty promises of quick weight loss with little effort.
After pouring their hard-earned money into ineffective and unregulated diet plans and supplements, many patients may eventually come to their providers with concerns that they have “tried everything” but cannot seem to successfully lose weight. In this era where misinformation is increasingly common, how can providers help patients separate myth from fact when it comes to weight loss?
Consultant360 spoke with Christopher Still, DO, director of Geisinger Obesity Institute, who shared common questions from patients about weight loss, as well as the impact of fad diets, unregulated supplements, and online misinformation.
Consultant360: What are the top questions you receive from your patients about weight loss, and how do you answer them?
Dr Still: Patients often ask me: “which diet is best?” For the most part, the best diet is a diet that patients can adhere to. Regardless of diet type, patients can lose weight as long as they reduce their daily calorie intake by 500 to 700 calories. A 500-calorie-per-day deficit over a period of 7 days equals a deficit of 3,500 calories per week, which translates to a loss of 1 lb per week and 4 lbs per month. This is a realistic weight loss goal that often results in longer-lasting changes compared with a short-term fad diet. Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Patients tend to have more success with weight loss when they make small changes over a longer period of time.
C360: How do fad diets, unregulated supplements, and other online trends and misinformation contribute to myths around weight loss? How can providers help address the spread of such misinformation?
Dr Still: There is a lot of misinformation, especially on the Internet, and patients are very vulnerable to this. Overall, I find that the main reason patients often fall victim to misinformation is that they are looking for a quick fix, but this is not a realistic expectation. Millions, or even billions, of dollars are spent on supplements, which are not regulated by the FDA. However, most supplements and over-the-counter options are not effective, and they can sometimes cause harm, especially if they interfere with prescription medications. There are safe, FDA-approved medications that can help, and providers can discuss these options with their patients.
C360: What clinical takeaways would you like to leave with our audience?
Dr Still: Obesity is a chronic and relapsing disease, and it is important to help patients set realistic expectations regarding weight loss. Usually, it is helpful to set weight loss goals in 5% to 10% increments. For a patient who needs to lose 100 pounds, for example, setting goals based on 5% to 10% increments at a time is much more achievable and less daunting. Once that patient reaches that first 5% to 10% weight loss, he or she can aim to lose another 5% to 10% until they reach their ultimate 100-lb goal. Furthermore, a 5% to 10% weight loss has been shown to reduce medical issues and the need for medications, as well as improve mobility and quality of life.1
Christopher D. Still, DO, is the medical director of the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management, director of Geisinger Obesity Institute, and editor of the 2014 American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Textbook of Bariatric Surgery, Volume 1.
- Ryan DH, Yockey SR. Weight loss and improvement in comorbidity: differences at 5%, 10%, 15%, and over. Curr Obes Rep. 2017;6(2):187-194. doi:10.1007/s13679-017-0262-y.