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Treating obesity

Obesity diagnosis and treatment: Why it’s important

Many people with obesity do not get an obesity diagnosis and treatment from healthcare providers. Find out what you can do to get the help you need.

4 min. read

For many people living with obesity, it can be hard to know when is the right time to seek help from a healthcare professional. 

As many as 35% of US adults who qualify as having obesity have never spoken to a healthcare professional about their weight. While it’s possible to manage weight on your own, having the support and guidance of a healthcare provider could make weight management easier.

Weight loss of just 5%-10% of total body weight can significantly improve the health and well-being of people with obesity. As little as 7% weight loss can decrease the risk of diabetes by 58%. Small changes could make a big difference to your overall health.

Talking to a healthcare provider about obesity treatment guidelines and best practices can help you to set realistic goals for weight loss and find a personalised weight management programme that works for you.
 

What stops people from getting medical intervention for obesity?

For many people living with obesity, there is a range of reasons why they might not seek treatment and assistance from their healthcare provider.

Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • 44% believe it’s their responsibility to manage their weight
  • 37% believe they already know what they need to do to manage their weight 
  • 23% don’t have the financial means to support a weight loss effort
  • 21% don’t feel motivated to lose weight
  • 15% are embarrassed to bring it up with their healthcare provider

It's common for people with obesity to experience self-doubt and self-blame that prevents them from seeking treatment.

While you might be hesitant to talk to your healthcare provider about obesity and managing weight, it can be a positive step towards better weight control. An obesity care provider can offer judgement-free advice on obesity diagnosis and treatment, as well as individualised obesity support.
 

Obesity treatment approach

Many of the strategies used by healthcare providers to help people with obesity manage weight are lifestyle-based interventions. These can include recommendations for:

  • Changing how you eat (like increasing fruit and vegetables in your diet)
  • Increasing your physical activity (like exercising for at least 1 hour per day)
  • Eating breakfast every day
  • Keeping a food diary

An obesity care provider may also suggest individualised obesity treatment depending on your needs, including adapting obesity recommendations to obesity-related conditions that you may have.  They might also suggest obesity medications or surgical interventions.

How does losing weight improve your health?

See how losing 13% of your body weight can lower your risk of developing certain obesity-related complications.

5 signs it’s time to get help for obesity

If you’re not sure if medical interventions for obesity are right for you, take a look at the signs below, including what an obesity diagnosis and treatment may be able to do for you.
 

1. You’re motivated to lose weight

If you’re feeling ready and motivated to lose weight, it’s time to talk to a healthcare provider or obesity care provider for guidance. 

Talking to a healthcare provider doesn’t have to be a last resort option. You might be seeking help to start losing weight for the first time in your life. Whatever your motivation to manage weight, receiving obesity treatment guidelines from a healthcare professional can help support you in your weight management journey.
 

2. Your weight is affecting your self-esteem

For some people living with obesity, low self-esteem and negative body image can be a motivation to start managing weight and seek out an obesity diagnosis and treatment.

If you find that your weight is affecting your self-esteem (for instance, you now avoid activities that you used to enjoy), talking to a healthcare professional could help. Weight management has been found to be effective in improving self-esteem and body image for people with obesity.

An obesity care provider might also suggest individualized treatment aimed at improving self-esteem and body image, such as behavioral therapy or hypnotherapy.
 

3. Your BMI is 30 kg/m² or higher

Body mass index - measured as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared - is one tool used to identify obesity in adults. For adults, having obesity is defined with a BMI of 30 kg/m² or higher.

While BMI is not the only factor that healthcare providers use to guide obesity diagnosis and treatment, it can be used as a rough guide for when you should seek help. If you have a BMI of 25 kg/m² or higher, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider or obesity care provider for their advice on strategies and methods for healthy weight management.
 

4. You’ve tried to lose weight many times before

While many people believe that they can lose weight on their own, it's common for people living with obesity to face barriers with weight management. 

Weight regain is a common occurrence. In many cases, people who are overweight and have obesity reach maximum weight loss 6 months after starting a weight management strategy. After this point, they often regain lost weight. 

This may be due to unrealistic expectations for weight loss, partly as a result of outside sources like friends, family, and social media.

Talking to a healthcare provider can give you guidance on the most effective methods for weight management. Regaining weight is often thought of as the result of poor eating and exercising habits. However, there are many reasons for weight regain that are beyond your control, like genetics, your hormones and metabolism, or how the body regulates feelings of hunger and fullness.

If you’ve struggled to manage weight in the past, talking to a healthcare provider might give you the tools and support you need to succeed.
 

5. You have obesity-related complications

If you've been diagnosed with obesity-related complications or are suffering from health problems that are impacting your quality of life, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider or obesity care provider.

Some obesity-related complications include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Obstructive sleep apnea 
  • Asthma
  • Stroke
  • Back pain
  • Weight-related osteoarthritis
  • Cancer (including ovarian, colorectal, pancreatic, and kidney cancer)
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Weight loss is linked to improving many obesity-related complications. Getting recommendations from a healthcare provider could help to reduce obesity-related health risks and improve your overall health long-term.
 

Taking steps towards obesity diagnosis and treatment

While it’s common for people with obesity to try to manage weight without support from a healthcare provider, talking to an obesity care provider could make your weight management journey easier and more effective. Whether you’re feeling motivated to lose weight, you're suffering from low self-esteem, or you’re concerned about obesity-related complications, these are all signs it’s time to talk to a healthcare provider today.
 

References
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  • Knowler WC, Barrett-Connor E, Fowler SE et al. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. N Engl J Med. 2002; 346(6):393-403.
  • Kaplan LM et al. Perceptions of Barriers to Effective Obesity Care: Results from the National ACTION Study. Obesity. 2018; 26(1):61-69.
  • Bischoff SC. Towards a multidisciplinary approach to understand and manage obesity and related diseases. Clinical Nutrition. 2017; 36(4):917-938.
  • Lazzeretti L et al. Assessment of psychological predictors of weight loss: How and what for? World J Psychiatry. 2015; 5(1):56–67. 
  • Chu D et al. An update on obesity: Mental consequences and psychological interventions. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews. 2019; 13 (1):155-160.
  • Apovian CM. Obesity: Definition, Comorbidities, Causes, and Burden. Am J Manag Care. 2016; 22:S176-S185.
  • Busetto L et al. Mechanisms of weight regain. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2021; 93:3-7.
  • Rueda-Clausen CF, Ogunleye AA & Sharma AM. Health Benefits of Long-Term Weight-Loss Maintenance. Annual Review of Nutrition. 2015; 35:475-516.

Find your local weight management provider

Talk to your weight management provider about treatment options that could prevent the weight you lose from coming back.

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