Ask LH: Do I Need To See A GP Before Changing My Diet?

Ask LH: Do I Need To See A GP Before Changing My Diet?
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Dear Lifehacker, In the past, I’ve assumed most doctors are charlatans, and only visited them in matter of dire emergency (needing a sick note for work, week-long flu, etc.). I am now reaching a point in my life where my body and mind are getting older and I am reconsidering past decisions.

I have a few health problems – I am overweight and I live a lifestyle that makes type 2 diabetes quite likely. I currently weigh in at about 120kgs and I am the largest person I know. About a year ago I went on a mission and managed to lose 20 kilos over four months – but then during a holiday I had that first bite of KFC in over a year and it was over! I did it the next night and the next til I went home. Fast forward to today and I have put even more weight on and I now have a closet full of clothes that no longer fit.

So here’s the thing. I have read on numerous fitness sites that you should see a doctor before embarking on a diet or fitness plan, to make sure you are not going to hurt yourself in the process. How important is it that I seek medical advice before trying again? And how do I find the right doctor for me? In the past, I’ve tended to see whoever was available at a medical centre. Any advice? Thanks, Weight Lifting

Dear WL,

Given your health issues and age, you should definitely seek out a health professional before you even think of hitting the gym. Start off by getting a general check-up to assess if there’s anything wrong with you.

A GP will be able to give you a complete health assessment so ring up the doctors’ clinics in your local area and find one who is willing to take on new patients. (To help your chances, mention your diabetes concerns during the call.)

During the visit, you’re going to get asked a lot of personal questions such as eating patterns, weight history, smoking/drinking habits, your family’s history of heart disease and any medications/drugs you’re currently using. From your post it sounds like you don’t particularly trust doctors, but these questions are designed to help.

We wouldn’t be too concerned about finding the “right” doctor either. If it turns out you do have type 2 diabetes or something similarly serious, you’ll probably be referred to a specialist who will be specifically trained to provide the best treatment.

To further put your mind at ease, a recent study showed that just three percent of doctors account for nearly half of all registered complaints in Australia. In other words, your chances of landing one of these bad apples are incredibly small. That said, it’s probably still worth asking local friends and family members for an unbiased opinion of the doctors in your area.

When you get down to it, the most important factor is how well they communicate — if you feel the doctor could be explaining things better or more warmly, simply move onto someone else.

As for weight loss itself, we’d suggest dietary improvements combined with a simple exercise plan to start with, such as walking more often. Your doctor will be able to offer more specific advice here, but as long as you don’t attempt a ludicrous Biggest Loser-style exertion fest, the risks should be relatively small.

If you’re serious about getting healthy, you might also want to hire a personal trainer or nutritionist who will be able to tailor an exercise regime and diet that fits your specific requirements. The more structure and guidance you have, the faster the results are likely to be.

For a more cost-effective approach, you can check out the scores of weight-loss tips on our website by clicking here. You can also find highly useful advice via the Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines (PDF). Good luck with it all!


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  • Seriously dude you need to get your blood checked at the very least. Not only for diabetes, also ask the GP for a test of blood count, liver and kidney function, triglycerides and lipid profile. Depending on your age your cholesterol levels might be quite high (or maybe not who knows) and if it is, it’s a good hint that you need to change your lifestyle to decrease changes cardiovascular problems.

    You can ask your GP if you should see a nutritionist that would transition you into a more healthy diet. Best of luck.

    Edit: I’m not a doctor btw, just an internet random, so feel free to ignore and def talk to your doctor 🙂

  • Good advice. The GP might not be the best option for specific help, but they’ll do a good enough job to know if you need help or not. Sometimes they waiver on doing the tests though, and make you think its not needed, but push them on it and get at least a HbA1c test for blood sugar levels. Anything over ~7 is a high reading.

    It took me years to push them to get one, and they only did because my optometrist wrote a referral (which was a ridiculous thing to need). Only to show that what they’d been telling me for years wasn’t a concern was actually type 2 diabetes. Was masked because I showed no other symptoms with cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.

    Once you show a high reading, they’ll refer you to an NDSS clinic in your area who will help with education, awareness, dieting, and some basic resources to start managing it. They’ll be your new regular source of information not the GP, who will just be doing the blood test every few months.

    Even then, its still generic info, so ask questions if you aren’t sure. Its your health after all. I was lucky that I could be diet controlled, and where I lived meant I was getting enough exercise, but be prepared for a few changes to what you do daily.

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