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Can Your Doctor Help You Lose Weight?
Starting a diet plan to lose weight? First determine if you should see your doctor and learn how medical guidance may help your long-term success.
By Debra-Lynn B Hook
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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You’ve studied the health hazards associated with obesity and being overweight and now you’ve decided to lose weight. You’ve even come up with a plan. But before you get started, should you see a doctor?
That depends. “For some people, a registered dietitian can be very helpful,” says longtime obesity expert Cathy Nonas, who is director of the New York City Health Department’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Program. “For others, joining a well-established, scientifically sound program, such as Weight Watchers, will work. And some people are able to do it on their own.”
Plenty of people lose weight effectively without their doctor’s help and advice. If you have chosen a balanced diet plan, especially if you plan to lose no more than 25 pounds at a rate of 1 percent of body weight per week, you are generally safe to go it on your own.
How to Lose Weight: Plans That Should Be Monitored
In some cases, however, seeing your physician as you initiate your plan, and sometimes throughout your weight loss, may be to your health advantage. Your physician can help make sure your diet plan is the right one for you. More importantly, a physician can ensure your weight-loss plan is not putting you at further health risk. This is particularly true if you are:
- Diagnosed with any underlying medical condition, such as heart or lung disease
- At risk for any medical conditions; for example, if you have a family history of sudden death or heart disease
- Considering a diet that is lower than 1,000 calories a day, or is lacking in certain nutrients
- Considering weight-loss medication or surgical intervention
- Taking medications that may need adjusting as you lose weight
- Prone to yo-yo dieting; a doctor may help you develop strategies to guard against continued failure
- Obese or “severely obese,” which means having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or being 100 pounds overweight for women or 80 pounds overweight for men
“Being overweight puts a person at risk of many diseases and therefore, if there hasn’t been a physician visit in a long while, there should be one to ensure there is nothing undiscovered that needs to be monitored,” says Nonas.
How to Lose Weight: What a Doctor Can Provide
Whether you “need” a general practitioner or not, it’s not a bad idea to enlist the support of one while you are trying to lose weight. A physician can help you understand and monitor:
- How much weight you want or need to lose
- The optimal diet and exercise program for you
- Whether medication or surgery should be part of your plan
- Health issues that may come up as you are dieting
“We live in an environment that makes it too easy to be sedentary, that makes it too easy to get food 90 million times a day,” says Nonas, whose New York office has developed a program to help doctors understand the complexities of obesity, dieting, and losing weight. “A good doctor is cognizant of and sensitive to these issues.”
Your physician should not only be willing to work with you on the physical health issues related to obesity and being overweight, but also be willing to support you emotionally. Obesity and being overweight constitute a complicated condition affecting two-thirds of American adults. Losing weight safely and effectively, and keeping it off, requires patience and understanding.
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