Talking about obesity: 10 questions to ask your healthcare professional

"You’ve been doing it alone for years. Trying new diets, old diets, fad diets, working out, losing a bit, becoming encouraged, regaining a bit, and becoming discouraged. It's a vicious cycle, and you always blame yourself when you don’t lose a significant amount of weight. If this sounds familiar, maybe it's time you talked to your healthcare professional about a comprehensive obesity treatment plan?"

Pam Davis, Disease Experience Expert, USA

Break the cycle of frustration

We all feel discouraged when we just can't shift that weight, but self-blame can be counter-productive. Ask yourself this question: would you feel the same way if you were unsuccessful in trying to treat diabetes or high blood pressure on your own, and without guidance from a healthcare professional? Or what if you were diagnosed with cancer? Would you choose your own treatment? Of course not. So why do we so often go it alone when treating obesity, a complex chronic disease?

Here are 10 questions you can use to start a conversation about a comprehensive obesity treatment plan with your healthcare professional.

1. I’ve been trying to lose weight on my own for several years without success, when can we schedule an appointment to develop a treatment plan together?

Bear in mind that this is no five-minute consultation. For this discussion you will need a dedicated appointment.

2. Do you feel knowledgeable and comfortable discussing currently available treatment options? If not, is there an obesity specialist you can refer me to?

We can’t expect our healthcare professionals to be experts in all matters. But we can expect them to know what they don’t know – and when they should refer us to a specialist.

3. Do you have different approaches and treatment options for the different stages and types of obesity? What would you recommend in my case, and why?

This is an important question, because when it comes to obesity there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Testing, evaluation and treatment options can vary based on the level of obesity, the existence of health complications, and previous treatments.

4. What types of treatment are available?

If your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail. An obesity specialist will therefore offer multiple forms of treatment, including combination therapy. A multi-disciplinary team with a registered dietitian and a behavioural health specialist is the ideal set up.

5. How many of your obesity patients reach and remain at their target weight over the long term? How can we set realistic goals?

This not only indicates how successful a healthcare professional's approach is, but also whether he or she sees patients long-term or just for "one and done" appointments.

6. How do you transition patients to weight maintenance, and what support is available?

Ongoing visits with the multi-disciplinary team are extremely important for long-term success. So are onsite and online support groups.

7. How frequent will my appointments be?

The more frequent, the better. Appointments may be for support, accountability and to adjust treatment as necessary, and may not always be with the physician. Appointments with support staff are also extremely valuable and should not be overlooked.

8. How much will the treatment cost? Will this cost be covered by my insurance, or through the public health service?

Systems for covering medical costs vary tremendously country by country. Knowing your financial commitment upfront will prevent unpleasant surprises later on.

9. What happens if this plan doesn’t work?

Obesity is a complex chronic disease that requires an individual treatment plan based on your specific needs. It also demands a detailed programme for you to follow (not just, “eat less and move more”) and ongoing evaluation towards your set goals. This means any treatment plan may need to be adjusted depending on your progress. You need to know that your healthcare professional has more than one approach – and more than one tool – to help you succeed.

10. Are you partnering with me, or just working for me?

This is a question you should consider yourself when deciding whether your healthcare professional is offering the right plan for you. Remember, when someone works for us, we pay them for a service (such as a diet, or prescription) and there is little obligation or duty after that service is provided. However, when someone partners with us, there is a joint responsibility and an ongoing dialogue.

For a comprehensive list of obesity care providers in the United States, please visit the Obesity Action Coalition’s free resource:



Novo Nordisk's Disease Experience Expert Panels (DEEPs) bring together individuals living with serious chronic diseases, including obesity, to provide insights and advice based on their experiences.


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Treating obesity

Obesity is a serious chronic disease that requires treatment. Lifestyle therapies including diet and exercise are important, but are not always enough to maintain weight loss. For some people, medical treatment options, such as medicines or bariatric surgery, may also be considered.

Learn about obesity treatment

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