Do Motivational Talks Improve Weight Loss Efforts?

Contrary to what you might expect, boosting motivation and confidence in one’s own abilities doesn’t appear to make a difference when it comes to weight loss efforts.

A recent analysis, published March 29 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that when healthcare providers engaged in motivational interviewing (MI) with patients as part of a weight-loss program, it added little to no benefit. On average, those people lost no more weight than people getting other types of help.

“I’m somewhat surprised by these results,” says Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, associate professor and obesity medicine physician scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Dr. Stanford was not involved in the review. “I feel like if you asked my patients if they have issues with motivation, there are a sizeable number that would say yes, they do,” she says.

That being said, motivation, or lack thereof, can often be traced back to the general public’s misperception around obesity, not the lack of desire or effort on the part of the patient, says Stanford. “I think it may be more a case of people with obesity feeling discouraged because other people don’t recognize that they have a disease that can be very complex to treat,” she says.

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