Discussing Weight vs Health with your Patients

A diagnosis of PCOS can cause a patient to accumulate unwanted pounds and not be in an ideal state to begin treatment or carry a pregnancy. As a result, the medical team is often in tasked with the difficult job of asking the patient to shed some unwanted pounds, and the nurses are often on the frontlines of this.

It is widely known that infertility causes stress and patients undergoing fertility treatment are often depressed and self-critical and feel that their illness or hormones are powerful forces that they cannot overcome. Accordingly, any comment about losing weight can be looked upon as critical and the messenger may be seen as being hurtful or mean.

Many of us have had similar experiences. When you are trying to quit smoking, drink more water, exercise more or get more sleep, hearing unsolicited advice such as, “you know you would be so much healthier and feel so much better if you…” can ring as annoying rather than helpful. Understanding this dynamic can help your patients feel better and help you feel better about delivering the message. It has been said that it is not what you say but how you say it. The information can also be couched in language that conveys a sense of caring and compassion. One example can be to let the patient know that you would like to help them have a healthier lifestyle and lets the patient know that you care about their overall health, rather than simply focusing on their weight. The patient may be very self-conscious and take it the wrong way no matter how you say it, so making this point clear with an offer for follow up by a call or a referral to a nutritionist can help. Nurses are on the front lines with these situations. Keeping in mind that you are delivering news the patient does not want to hear and using language that does not feel critical can be a huge gift to your patients at a time when they can use the support the most.