How Doctors Treat Obesity (Beyond Lifestyle Changes)

It’s not one size fits all.

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You might think treating obesity is as cut and dry as employing a healthy diet and regular exercise. The truth is, there are many factors that can contribute to your weight, and not all of them have to do with lifestyle. For that reason, there are various options to treat obesity. Most likely, it won’t just be one thing that will “cure” you. You’ll probably have to try and combine a few treatments in order to manage your weight long term.

Diet and Exercise

The first thing your doctor will probably tell you to do is change a few habits. Together, you’ll look at how you eat and manage your time. They might refer you to a registered dietitian, who can help you learn how to build a healthy eating pattern based on your preferences, culture, and budget.

There’s no single diet that is guaranteed to result in weight loss. A generally healthy diet refers to one with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Next, being more active will help you burn calories, build muscle mass, and reduce stress. Even daily walks can be helpful. You might benefit from participating in a weight-management program for the benefit of peer support. Some may also offer meal plans, group exercise classes, or other perks that can keep you on track.

Medications to Treat Obesity

When healthy eating and exercise isn’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help you lose weight. Some may help you feel fuller sooner or generally less hungry. Other medications will make it difficult for your body to absorb fat from the foods you eat.

Remember, medicines can’t replace healthy eating and exercise. Studies show it is most effective when used in combination.

Surgery for Weight Loss

If you find that these methods aren’t working, then perhaps you would be a candidate for surgery. Weight-loss surgeries involve changes to your digestive system, such as:

  • Gastric sleeve: This is a procedure where surgeons remove about 75 percent of your stomach.
  • Gastric bypass: A surgeon changes the stomach so that there is a small pouch to hold food, which then goes into the small intestine. Not only does this make the stomach smaller, but the body will absorb fewer calories by skipping (bypassing) part of the small intestine.
  • Lap band: A surgeon puts a small, adjustable belt around the upper portion of the stomach, which restricts the size of the stomach.

You would also be a good candidate if you are dealing with other serious health problems related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea.

Getting Help to Treat Obesity

If you are having problems with your weight, talk to your primary care provider. They might then refer you to a bariatric physician, endocrinologist, and/or a nutritionist. These specialists can help you get to the root of the problem and come up with a treatment plan that is right for you.