It’s no secret that the weight loss industry is a $60 billion a year industry but did you know that less than half of the products and services in the weight loss arena are effective or safe? Unfortunately, most of the weight loss programs and supplements advertised as weight loss solutions are fake with exaggerated claims. Exploiters of the industry know that individuals suffering with weight are desperate to lose weight quickly at any cost. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that individuals consult a doctor for weight loss if they have more than 15 pounds to lose, 1 or more weight related diseases, or taking 1 or more medications.

If you want to lose weight the safe and effective way, consulting a weight loss doctor is the best and most reliable option.

# 1: Ensure that your weight loss doctor is indeed a weight loss doctor

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A weight loss doctor or bariatrician (sometimes called an obesity specialist) is a medical doctor who specializes in overweight, obesity, and the diseases associated with excess weight. These doctors are licensed and board certified and often well versed in nutrition, behavioral health (related to weight and eating disorders), chronic medical conditions, and pre and post bariatric surgery. The majority of bariatricians are internal medicine doctors followed by family medicine, gynecology, and endocrinology, but any licensed medical doctor can complete additional training to practice obesity medicine.

When researching a potential weight loss doctor be sure to Check the “about the doctor” section of the website for credentials, experience, and medical training.

Red Flags:

  • Unable to find the doctor or their information on the clinic website
  • Credentials and training are vague, or licenses are from illegitimate or unknown organizations
  • Non-medical professional providing clinical services illegally
  • Unable to find the doctor outside of the website (i.e. Healthgrades or WebMD)
  • Website is a “carbon copy” or identical to several other websites as part of a national chain or franchise
  • Staff members listed on the website change constantly due to high turnover
  • Website with no contact information

It’s important to note, that a bariatrician is more likely to use effective, safe, and evidence-based methods for weight loss. If the  weight loss solutions are not FDA approved such as HCG shots, lipotrophic injections, or non-FDA approved medications, the office may be more interested in making money than your health.

Some weight loss clinics are supervised by a physician who is not physically present in the office or actively seeing patients, it is important to know this beforehand. When scheduling the appointment be sure to clarify whether the doctor will be on-site and an active part of your care.

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#2 Ensure that the weight loss program is personalized

It is true that there are various weight loss options ranging from multiple diets, fitness programs, and weight loss medications but the only weight loss program that matters is the one that is especially suited for you! A weight loss program with only one treatment option is not personalized. For example, Weight Watchers works for a lot of people but not everyone just like the FDA approved weight loss medication phentermine works for a lot of patients but not everyone. A weight loss clinic with only one method for weight loss increases the chances of failure.

#3 Weight Management is a Priority or Significant Part of the Clinic

There’s nothing worse than being a low priority customer. What is the real focus of the business? Is it a gynecology office that has agreed to see you on the side for weight loss or a spa that specializes in facials and massages with a sliver of space for weight loss patients?  The true intent of the business will be obvious in the name, the services offered, lobby paraphernalia, the wait time, and the type of professionals working in the business. If the business specializes in skin and hair, obviously weight loss is not their real forte. Does the clinic have the proper accommodations for overweight or obese patients (appropriately sized furniture, weight related reading material, and a proper body composition scale that can measure fat mass and extremes in obesity)? Many businesses add weight loss services for additional income, and they have no interest in treating patients with obesity or the related medical conditions. Don’t allow businesses to exploit you! If you are serious about losing weight only invest in weight loss programs that fully invest in you.

#4 The weight loss professional offers support not judgement

You’ve decided that you not only need to lose weight but are open to help. You are excited and nervous and vulnerable. You discuss your concerns only to be told that your weight is your fault and you should move more and eat less. What a waste!

Obesity is one of the only diseases where patients are blamed for the disease. Yes, individuals may overeat or dislike exercising; however, weight is much more complicated than mere eating and drinking and partnering with a weight loss doctor who understands this is essential. If you feel guilty or uncomfortable during the weight loss process, you are in the wrong place! If you are unable to receive weight loss treatment from your primary care doctor, ask for a referral to a bariatrician (a non-surgical weight loss doctor) or skip the referral and request an appointment on your own.

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#5 The Approach to Weight Loss is Comprehensive

Obesity is a chronic disease that can be successfully treated but this does not mean there won’t be relapses, plateaus, and other challenges along the way. Weight is complex and multifactorial; it combines genetics, physiology, behavior and habits, emotions, education, nutrition, and environment. If a weight loss program fails to explore these facets of weight management, it is likely due to ignorance or lack of resources. A one-dimensional view of weight loss may impede long term success so be sure to join a program that addresses the entire patient and not just how much one eats or drinks.

#6 The weight loss doctor listens to you and addresses your concerns

how to choose a weight loss doctor

The most important resource that a doctor will use in her career is the ability to listen. Weight management is not just about weight loss, it’s about the journey. It’s the struggle, growth, the learning experiences, the ups and downs, setbacks and triumphs. Weight loss is personal and should be done with a medically competent and supportive doctor who understands the science of weight loss and how to execute a plan to get the results you desire and deserve.

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