Guidelines recommend general practitioners (GPs) take every opportunity to talk to people living with obesity about their weight, and evidence shows even very brief advice is associated with weight loss. However, little is known about what GPs say when giving brief behavioural advice, and if it reflects evidence-based recommendations for people living with obesity. To understand what behavioural advice GPs give, we categorized the content and delivery of GPs’ advice during brief interventions.
Qualitative content analysis was applied to 159 audio recordings of consultations from the Brief Interventions for Weight Loss (BWeL) trial, where GPs gave brief weight-loss advice to patients with a body mass index ≥30 kg/m2 (or ≥25 kg/m2 if Asian) in 137 UK surgeries. Similar content was grouped into descriptive clusters.
The results comprised 4 clusters, illuminating different aspects of the advice given: (i) Content of diet and physical activity advice, showing this was highly varied; (ii) Content of “implementation tips” given to support changes, e.g. using smaller plates; (iii) Content of signposting support, either towards further clinician support, or other resources, e.g. information booklets; (iv) Style of advice delivery, showing GPs rarely gave personalized advice, or reasons for their advice.
Weight-loss advice from GPs to patients with obesity rarely included effective methods, mostly communicating a general “eat less, do more” approach. Advice was mostly generic, and rarely tailored to patients’ existing knowledge and behaviours. Effectiveness of brief weight-loss advice could be improved if GPs were given clearer guidance on evidence-based recommendations.

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press.