Overweight and obesity represent serious health problems in the United States, affecting about 69% of the adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Having a healthier lifestyle and lower body weight can increase energy and overall welfare, as well as reduce the risk of developing a series of diseases related to obesity, such as metabolic disease, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. However, in a high-paced and high-stress society, losing weight is not always easy.
Many patients attempt and fail to lose weight on their own. In order to improve health and help patients address overweight or obesity issues, medically supervised weight loss programs are now giving patients the tools they need to lose weight and keep it off. The main purpose is not only to help patients lose and manage their body weight, but also to maintain a healthier lifestyle, improve quality of life and decrease the risk of diseases such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, abnormal blood fats, metabolic syndrome, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, reproductive problems or gallstones.
What Kind of Doctor Oversees Medically Supervised Weight Loss?
When a patient acknowledges difficulty in losing weight, the first step is to search for a specialized weight loss program. In the United States, there are private practices specialized in medically supervised weight loss throughout the country as well as public and private programs integrated into hospitals and clinics. All of them share a similar system, applied to each patient’s needs.
Medically supervised weight loss programs are designed to offer treatment to overweight or obese patients who are closely followed by licensed healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered dietitians and psychologists. One patient may not need to consult with all of these professionals, but the programs tend to provide them in order to respond to every patient’s individual needs.
During the initial consultation, a specialist in obesity will evaluate the patient to understand the underlying causes for obesity or weight gain and whether the patient suffers from other diseases related to obesity (often referred to as “comorbidities”). The physician will also request a weight history, including past diet attempts, and a psychological history. Since there different techniques for losing weight, the initial examination will help determine the most appropriate method to be conduct.
Similarly, the costs associated with a medically supervised weight loss program also depend on the services required by the patient and there are health insurance companies that cover either part or the total costs from the treatment. Getting health insurance coverage is usually easier in cases when in addition to weight problems, the patient also suffers from weight-related health conditions.
Techniques Used in Medically Supervised Weight Loss
There are a wide range of approaches to medically supervised weight loss, ranging from changes to one’s diet and exercise to invasive surgery. The choice of which approach to use is usually determined between the patient and physician, based on the health needs and goals of the patient. For more moderate weight loss, less invasive methods may be used, while in morbidly obese patients whose life is at risk, a more invasive surgical procedure might be favored.
The following are some of the most popular techniques used in medically supervised weight loss:
One of the options for losing weight is based on behavior modifications, which focus particularly on changes to diet and exercise. Most of the time, this is the first option and even when accompanied by other techniques, these alterations are crucial to the success of any medically supervised weight loss program. With the help of nutritionists and technology, patients can monitor what they eat and deal with deprivation from food they are used to eating, while engaging in exercise that is custom tailored to their bodies and fitness level, as is particularly important to maintain long-term weight loss.
Pre-packaged Meal Replacement Plans
A medically supervised weight loss program based on pre-packaged meal replacement plans provides patients meal replacement products that will help them lose weight, in addition to counseling on behavior changes. It works through phases and also includes education and support on transitioning back to self-prepared meals. Among the currently available programs are OPTIFAST, Health Management Resources (HMR), Advanced Health System (AHS), New Direction (Robard Corporation) and Medi-fast.
Despite the fact that diet and exercise are the most accepted and recommended options to lose weight, in cases of difficulties with the other techniques or of medical conditions, medically supervised weight loss programs may resort to pharmacotherpy. Medication can help patients are there currently several products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including phentermine products (Adipex-P® or Suprenza®) for short-term use, and orlistat (Xenical® or alli®), lorcaserin HCI (Belviq®), naltrexone HCI AND bupropion HCI (CONTRAVE®), phentermine- topiramate ER (Qsymia®), and liraglutide injection (Saxenda®) for chronic use.
Surgical Weight Loss
Surgical weight loss has gained in popularity over the past few decades, with improved surgical techniques and patient outcomes. Termed “bariatric survey,” it usually includes three different types: gastric bypass (a sectioning off of the stomach), sleeve gastrectomy (where the stomach is narrowed to that of a long sleeve), and gastric banding (where an artificial band goes around the stomach temporarily and inhibits the amount of food one can consume).
While bariatric surgery is a more extreme technique included in a medically supervised weight loss program, it is typically used for patients who struggle with obesity or morbid obesity and other diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Gastric band surgery has made major strides in the past decade and can be performed through a minimally invasive procedure, during which a band filled with saline solution is placed by a surgeon around the upper part of the stomach, increasing the feeling of satiety with less amounts of food.