The past two weeks on my Clinical Nutrition elective have been a blast! I am interested in pursuing a career in obesity medicine/bariatrics, so counseling patients on diet and exercise regimens with or without the plan of surgical intervention down the line has truly been a rewarding experience for me.
The enormous amount of weight some of these patients carry can be debilitating, not only physically, but also emotionally. Aside from the medical complications and risks of obesity, there is often some psychological component to each patient’s obesity. Every if not nearly every obese patient I encountered in clinic also carried some sort of mental health diagnosis: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more that have often directly contributed to or be an unfortunate ramification of the patient’s obesity.
Brainstorming with each patient about simple changes in their diet and exercise program focusing on one pound, one meal, or one small change at a time has been an exciting experience to be a part of. Their bodies change, but there are even greater changes in their self-esteem and self-worth. I’ve seen patients walk into the exam room feeling totally defeated and leave with a renewed positive outlook on their situation and life. A lot of how successful a patient is in their weight loss attempts depends on them, but another large part of it is how the health care provider team can encourage these patients to adopt healthier lifestyles for whatever reason motivates them.
My hope is we can empower these patients to hone sound diet and exercise habits to lose weight without the need for surgery down the line (bariatric surgery is not an easy road or guaranteed and is nothing more than another tool to help patients lose weight), but until then, I’ll keep doling out the, “You are doing a great job.” “You are worth it,” and “Don’t give up” like it’s my job.
Because one day hopefully it will be!