The leading cause of death in the United States is unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity. Every year, an unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths nationwide.

With such staggering data, a healthy diet should be a top priority for us all. However, there are countless diet trends with conflicting advice. Which diet should you choose?

If you’re interested in starting a diet, doctors who are trained in nutrition and know your health history will be your best guide.

Here are seven important questions to ask your doctor if you’re ready to make a healthy change

1. Should I Diet to Lose Weight?

It’s important to know that everyone’s diet will differ depending on their individual needs. If you’re ready to begin a new diet, it’s important to know that losing weight may not be the main goal for everyone. One of the first questions to ask your doctor is “Should I diet to lose weight?”

The answer you receive may be a quick and simple “yes” or “no,” or your doctor may want to test your Body Mass Index (BMI). Your BMI is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. This can help doctors accurately determine if you should diet to lose weight.

Depending on your doctor’s answer to this question, you might be placed on a diet to help you lose weight or simply add nutritional value to your everyday eating habits. Remember that the weight that we want isn’t always the weight that we need. Be sure to listen to and follow your doctor’s recommendations.

2. What Is My Ideal Weight?

Fad diets and workout plans have long been a popular New Year’s resolution and post-holiday trend. An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet every year to lose weight. If you’re looking to lose weight by dieting, be sure to ask your doctor, “What is my ideal weight?”

In some cases, a small amount of weight loss can have significant benefits for your health. In others, patients may need an intense change to effectively diet and lose weight. Unique circumstances like genetics, lifestyle, and health history affect which diet is right for you.

Talking to a doctor about your diet and weight can sometimes feel intimidating or overwhelming at first. However, your doctor should make your visit as engaging, personal, and comfortable as possible. Advanced technologies like this medical scribe are hard at work to make sure your visit is exactly that.

3. Will Any of My Medical Conditions Affect My Diet?

If you have any preexisting medical conditions, this can be the main factor in the number seen on the scale. Some medical conditions that affect weight fluctuation may include but are not limited to Hyperthyroidism, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or even depression and anxiety.

Be sure to discuss any preexisting medical conditions with your doctor before starting a new diet. Not only will these conditions influence which diet is right for you, but the diet may also influence them. Certain conditions have different nutrition requirements, so it is important to work these into a new diet.

4. Should I Be Eating Fat-Free Foods?

A common misconception when people start a new diet is that cutting out all fat will cause weight loss. This is not always the case.

While low-fat options can help reduce calorie intake, it’s important to remember that fat is an essential nutrient. Dietary fat supplies essential nutrients that help a variety of bodily functions like the absorption of protein and vitamins. Fat is necessary to maintain a healthy diet and the right ones can be a catalyst for weight loss.

Be sure to consult with your doctor about whether or not you should be eating fat-free foods. Your doctor or nutritionist should be able to advise you on how much fat you should consume daily.

5. How Can I Avoid Excess Sodium?

90 percent of Americans consume too much sodium in their diets. Excess sodium can sometimes lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Since this is such a widespread issue, be sure to ask your doctor how you can avoid excess sodium in your new diet.

Many packaged and processed foods have an extremely high amount of sodium. When starting a new diet, your doctor may find it beneficial to reduce the amount of packaged and processed foods you consume. Your doctor may also be able to advise you on how to use salt appropriately when cooking at home.

6. How Long Should I Diet For?

Different types of diets will have different time requirements. Whether you’re looking to lose a small amount of weight or maintain a major weight drop will also influence the type of diet you follow. Ask your doctor to suggest a realistic time frame in which you should follow your diet.

Many health experts suggest that only one to two pounds should be dropped per week when losing weight. Others suggest three to five pounds if the patient is looking to lose a significant amount. Your doctor may be able to help you develop monthly weight loss goals that stem from a healthy diet.

7. Am I Able to Perform Intense Exercises?

Often times when people choose to diet, they pair this with an intense exercise regimen. Before you buy an in-home gym and tie up your running shoes, make sure that you’re healthy enough to do so. Ask your doctor, “Am I able to perform intense exercises?”

Many health conditions, like heart issues, may not allow for extreme workouts. However, there are many effective ways of working out that may be safe for you.

Your doctor should be able to advise you on how to work out or may even suggest that you hire a personal trainer. A personal trainer can guide you on healthy ways to exercise that will perfectly align with your diet.

Consult With Your Doctor Before Starting A Diet

If you are interested in starting a diet, be sure to consult with a doctor first. Your unique health history and needs will determine which diet is best for you.

Remember, your weight is a number on the scale that is not always indicative of your health needs. A doctor, nutritionist, and personal trainer may be able to work together to cultivate an effective and healthy lifestyle for you.

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