A Clinician’s Guide to Discussing Obesity with Patients

My book provides clinicians and educators with the latest science on obesity and evidence-based treatment, as well as practical step-by-step guidance for initiating respectful, productive conversations about weight and health.

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In my newly published book—A Clinician’s Guide to Discussing Obesity with Patients—I draw on my years of clinical practice as an obesity medicine specialist, leader, and educator to provide clinicians with practical strategies for discussing this important health condition.

This book equips clinicians with the ability to confidently discuss weight with their patients with knowledge and compassion. It provides the latest science on obesity and evidence-based treatment, as well as practical step-by-step guidance for initiating respectful, productive conversations about weight and health.

It speaks to the real-world limitations that clinicians operate within by demonstrating how to have effective conversations in just a few minutes.

Each chapter provides useful tools and information about how to move the conversation forward in a respectful, skillful manner.

Real life clinical scenarios provide examples of short, productive conversations that incorporate the tools into clinical practice.

A Clinician’s Guide to Discussing Obesity with Patients is also for educators. It provides tools for teaching students about the most common chronic health condition that they will encounter in their clinical practices—obesity. The book is a convenient, easy to read resource for both educators and students.

I brought my years of experience and knowledge together to create this easy to read guide book that outlines the science of obesity and provides real-world, practical strategies that clinicians can implement with their patients.

Here’s what leaders in the field are saying about

A Clinician’s Guide to Discussing Obesity with Patients

“Poetic, compassionate, science-driven, and practical. This book is a pleasure to read and motivates me to be a better clinician and communicator. It is an excellent guide on how to initiate and continue a respectful, skillful discussion about obesity with patients. The examples and clinical scenarios illustrate a clear picture of how to apply the valuable information Sandra shares with the reader.

The topic of obesity cannot be ignored or avoided any longer. The conversation must be had with patients, and importantly, it must be done in a compassionate, skillful manner. This book teaches you to do just that.”

Karli Burridge, PA-C, MMS, FOMA

President, PAs in Obesity Medicine / Trustee, Illinois Obesity Society / Founder, Gaining Health

“As a team member at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, I have worked on several continuing education activities on obesity. Most clinicians report that the number one issue is their lack of knowledge and confidence to effectively discuss weight with their patients. This book offers many solutions to real problems, from creating a friendly environment to addressing bias and barriers to discussing weight. Each section of the book provides practical tips, tools, resources, and scenarios that put the concepts into real-life situations the reader can apply. I wish I had this back when I was practicing!”

Michele L. McKay, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, CHCP

NP Education Specialist, American Association of Nurse Practitioners®

Sandra Christensen is a thoughtful, warm, and wise clinician and a leader in her field. She has written an excellent guide for clinicians who work with patients who struggle with weight. In a practical and productive style, she outlines valuable ways to think about, interact with, and support our patients. This is sorely needed, especially in general medicine and primary care, where clinicians traditionally have little or no formal training in obesity management. I wish this was required reading for every medical professional, regardless of specialty or field.

Scott Kahan, MD, MPH

Director, National Center for Weight & Wellness, Faculty, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

“Sandra has very nicely presented a concise evidence-based guide to discussing the disease of obesity with our patients. All clinicians at all stages of training and all specialties would benefit from this insightful, case based overview. Obesity is a growing epidemic in our country and the world. Many clinicians were not trained in how to discuss the disease without bias and stigma that currently societally accompany this disease state. Having this guide as a starting point can educate those new to treating the disease and help those who have been specializing in it for years to improve our communication skills. With over 100 million people with obesity in our country we need everyone in the medical community to be knowledgeable in discussing obesity in a non-biased and stigmatizing way as delivered in this wonderful resource tool.”

angela fitch, md, facp, foma

Internal Medicine/Pediatrics/Obesity Medicine, Co-Director, Mass General Weight Center President-Elect, Obesity Medicine Association Instructor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

“This book provides a very comprehensive review for providers related to obesity management. The book includes detailed treatment guidelines and excellent resources for reducing obesity bias. The book also provides practical strategies for discussing weight and creating an environment for effective conversation. Detailed guidelines are provided for motivational interviewing. Practical clinical scenarios are provided with helpful recommendations.”

Sharon M. Fruh, Ph.D., RN, RNP-BC, FAANP

Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Evaluation, and Development at the University of South Alabama, College of Nursing

Table of Contents:

Preface (Download a Preview)

Recognizing Obesity as a Disease

Recognizing Weight Bias

Reducing Weight Bias in Healthcare

Barriers to Discussing Weight

Creating an Environment for Effective Conversation

Creating a Framework for Effective Conversations

Clinical Scenarios

Taking the Next Step

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A Clinician’s Guide to Discussing Obesity with Patients

Available at any of these online retailers. Bulk discounts available from the publisher (details here).

The Purpose & Story Behind This Book

After years of hearing stories from patients about negative conversations they’d had with their healthcare providers about their weight, I knew I needed to do something.

These conversations were not just emotionally painful for the patients, they were negatively affecting their physical and psychological health. And they were all too common.

The approach that many clinicians were taking created a rift between them and their patients and prevented them from providing the care that they really wanted to give their patients.

As a result, patients would not get their annual wellness exams, diabetes check-ups, cancer screenings, or evaluations for injuries or emergent issues out of fear that they would be lectured about their weight or told that every health problem they had was because of it.


This was clearly a significant problem, but not one that couldn’t be solved.

As I thought more deeply about it, I realized that clinicians were trying to help their patients, but they simply didn’t recognize the complexity of obesity, or have the skill set to discuss it with knowledge and compassion.

Because of this, they would avoid the conversation, feel frustration with the patient, or provide simplistic solutions.

That’s when I committed myself to changing the tide so that those affected by obesity would have better experiences with their healthcare providers—and ultimately better health.

I began speaking more frequently at professional conferences.

I taught clinicians that obesity is a chronic health condition that is influenced by numerous physiologic, metabolic, genetic, and environmental factors and provided them with information about effective treatment.

I explained that people with obesity are subject to weight bias and stigma in society—and in healthcare settings—and the deleterious effect they have on health. I taught them the importance of initiating and continuing conversations about weight and demonstrated how to do so effectively and efficiently.

After witnessing their changed hearts and minds, I decided that I needed to do something on a larger scale…

My hope is that this book finds its way into the hands of all clinicians and that it will become required reading in all clinical education programs.

If you are a clinician or an educator, I encourage you to get a copy and share it with your colleagues and students.

If you are a person with obesity, take a copy to your healthcare providers and ask them to read it. Tell them how important it is for them to know how to discuss one of your health conditions with you.

“About 15 years ago, before I received any education in obesity medicine, I told a long-time patient that his BMI was over 30 which made him obese. His response was “Doc, if I didn’t like you so much, I would punch you in the face!” Clearly, I did not handle that well. The message was clear. This is a sensitive issue and needs to be handled carefully.

In the world of obesity treatment there is plenty of information on how to treat obesity with dietary and physical activity interventions. Wegovy is now the 5th medication approved for treating obesity with more in the pipeline. So, the options for treating obesity are there, but those options are pointless if we don’t know how to effectively communicate with patients who have obesity.

Sandra Christensen’s new book, A Clinician’s Guide to Discussing Obesity with Patients, fills a void that desperately needs to be filled. In her book, she starts with a discussion about obesity as a disease, a foundational concept emphasizing that this is a metabolic disorder and not an absence of willpower. Understanding that obesity is not a conscious, willful choice helps address the next issue, stigma and bias. Shame, judgment, and guilt inflicted on people with obesity by family and healthcare providers create huge barriers to addressing obesity, compromising success rates.

Creating an office environment that avoids embarrassing or stigmatizing the patient along with building a framework of effective communication allows providers to effectively communicate with patients who have obesity. Building strong, supportive relationships is essential for long-term success. The book ends with a series of case scenarios providing practical application to concepts which may be unfamiliar to most providers. Sandra Christensen provides an excellent roadmap for effectively communicating with patients who are struggling with obesity. These concepts and tools rarely taught in healthcare and even more rarely applied in patient care. Here, they are presented in a clear and coordinated fashion.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to improve their communication skills through creating an effective and supportive environment for the treatment of obesity.”

Nicholas Pennings, DO, FOMA

Associate Professor, Chair of Family Medicine, Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Education Director, Obesity Medicine Association