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Open Access Research article

A cross-sectional study assessing the self-reported weight loss strategies used by adult Australian general practice patients

Sze Lin Yoong13*, Mariko Leanne Carey13, Robert William Sanson-Fisher13 and Catherine D’Este23

Author Affiliations

1 Priority Research Center for Health Behavior, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, 2308, Australia

2 Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, 2308, Australia

3 Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, Australia

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-48

Published: 30 May 2012

Abstract

Background

Obesity is a significant public health concern. General practitioners (GPs) see a large percentage of the population and are well placed to provide weight management advice. There has been little examination of the types of weight loss strategies used in Australian general practice patients. This cross-sectional study aimed to describe the proportion of normal weight, overweight and obese general practice patients who report trying to lose weight in the past 12 months, the types of weight loss strategies and diets used as well as the proportion consulting their GP prior to trying to lose weight.

Methods

Adult patients completed a touchscreen computer survey while waiting for their appointment. Responses from 1335 patients in twelve Australian practices are reported.

Results

A larger proportion of obese patients had tried to lose weight in the past 12 months (73%) compared to those who were overweight (55%) and normal weight (33%). The most commonly used strategy used was changing diet and increasing exercise in all BMI categories. Less than 10% used strategies such as prescription medication, over the counter supplements and consulted a weight loss specialist. Low calorie and low fat diets were the most frequently reported diets used to lose weight in those who were normal weight, overweight and obese. Overall, the proportion seeking GP advice was low, with 12% of normal weight, 15% of overweight and 43% of obese patients consulting their GP prior to trying to lose weight.

Conclusions

A large proportion of overweight or obese patients have tried to lose weight and utilized strategies such as changing diet and increasing exercise. Most attempts however were unassisted, with low rates of consultation with GPs and weight loss specialists. Ways to assist overweight and obese general practice patients with their weight loss attempts need to be identified.

Keywords:
Primary health care; Obesity; Weight loss; General practice; Australia