Consequences of receiving weight-related advice from a healthcare provider: Understanding the varied experiences of people with higher weight

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Healthcare providers regularly give weight-related advice (e.g., behavioral weight loss counseling) to patients with higher weight (BMI ≥30 kg/m2). The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends this practice on the basis that behavioral weight-related advice can motivate patients to attempt weight loss; however, it is also possible that this advice has adverse consequences (e.g., negative psychological reactions). In this study, we examined people's reported reactions to a recent experience of receiving weight-related advice from a healthcare provider. U.S. adults (N = 189) with higher weight who reported having received weight-related advice completed an online survey via Prolific. They answered questions about their most recent experience of receiving weight-related advice, including the purpose of the visit, characteristics of their provider, and characteristics of the advice itself. They also provided demographic information and indicated their trust in healthcare providers and the healthcare system. 90.5% of participants (n = 171) reported having one of three types of reactions to their provider's weight-related advice. Participants (1) felt motivated to change their behaviors and weight; (2) felt bad or guilty about their behaviors and weight; or (3) felt both motivated to change and bad or guilty. Using chi-square tests of independence and one-way ANOVAs, we examined how various participant characteristics and characteristics of the visit, provider, and advice itself differed across these three groups. We found significant demographic differences across the groups and found that a disproportionate amount of people in the “motivated” group reported having requested the weight-related advice and having had a two-way discussion about weight with their provider. Whereas some people feel motivated after receiving weight-related advice from a healthcare provider, others are left feeling bad about themselves or ambivalent. Understanding these varied reactions may provide insights into how healthcare providers can deliver advice that is motivating without eliciting negative psychological reactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116784
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Healthcare providers
  • Higher weight
  • Obesity
  • Weight loss counseling
  • Weight stigma
  • Weight-related advice

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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