By now, most people are aware of the basic formula for maintaining a healthy weight: eating low calorie, nutritious food and exercising regularly. But obesity continues to be a major health issue worldwide, and it seems clear by now that there’s more than a knowledge deficit at the root of the problem. That’s why when I worked in primary care I was always frustrated by orders to give patients a handout on low-fat diets (and two minutes of explanation) and send them on their way. Once, a patient came in with back pain; she’d fallen out of a chair that broke when she sat on it. While her eyes glazed over, I spent a few minutes going over the diet the doctor ordered for her. At the end of this painfully futile exchange I asked her if she had any questions. She responded, “Have you ever thought of cutting your hair short?” Something tells me she didn’t run right out to buy vegetables and join a gym.
In a recent AJN editorial, then editor-in-chief Diana Mason wrote about her struggles—and successes—with weight loss. This was a follow-up to an editorial from 2006, in which she’d written, “Nothing has worked for more than a few months. . . . [T]o what lengths should I go to lose weight? Bariatric surgery? Purging? Drug therapy? Fasting?” She now credits her recent weight loss to working with a nutrition coach.
When I first heard about the nutrition coach a year or so ago, I suggested to my father that he try it out. He has tried to lose weight on his own, on and off, for as long as I can remember. But in recent years it’s been more off than on, and I was concerned about his health. For months we had a back-and–forth exchange: Yes, he would go; no, he’d changed his mind. Right around the time that Diana’s editorial came out in May, he went to a physician for his usual battery of tests. At that appointment he mentioned my nagging him to see a nutritionist. The physician replied, “It’s really not necessary,” and said something along the lines of the standard “eat less and exercise more.” When he told me this, I e-mailed him the editorial.
I’m happy to say he’s been seeing the nutritionist for six weeks now. He writes down everything he eats and walks two miles a day. So far he’s lost 20 pounds. I think it’s about the accountability of sending in a daily food log. As is true with any sort of motivational intervention, the personal cheerleader has really made a difference to my father.
—Christine Moffa, MS, RN, AJN clinical editor