If there was one issue with that conversation with my doctor, it was simply that I did not know what to do next. She gave me a target number of calories to consume each day, and sent me on my way. To be clear, my doctor is pretty amazing, and I trust her implicitly. She is an incredibly committed physician, and I don't blame her for not giving me more specific advice. The reality of her world does not easily afford the opportunity to provide nutrition counseling for her myriad of patients. Further, it's not obvious that this kind of weekly counseling would be the best use of her (or her nurse's) time. What she did provide was a much needed push. What she also provided was a reason for me to come back with better numbers: my next physical. In other words, my doctor played a critical role in my weight loss process in creating a sense or urgency and a sense of accountability to lose the weight.
The "doing" part of losing weight did not happen until I joined Weight Watchers as employee and member. The week-in and week-out of participating in the program, keeping track of my points, attending my meetings and measuring my progress (or not) on the scale was what generated the actual results. This is the Weight Watchers zone of excellence, and it delivered for me big time.
For me, the combination of my doctor and Weight Watchers is ultimately what made the difference.
So what does this have to do with Stockholm, Sweden? For the past couple of years, a team of highly regarded academics in the UK, Germany and Australia have been working on a multi-country, large scale (n = 772) randomized clinical trial (RCT) efficacy study. Here is how the study worked:
- Doctor sees patient who is overweight and talks to the patient about the importance of losing weight.
- Doctor randomly assigns patient either to 1) the "standard care" that ideally they would normally provide or 2) Weight Watchers. In this case, "standard care" is defined by government public health guidelines that typically include having a nurse or nurse practitioner teach the patient how to follow a healthy diet and then have follow-up coaching visits. Sadly, "standard care" does not always happen, often due to time pressures faced by over-burdened doctors' offices.
- The study was done over a 12 month period