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How is obesity treated?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The method of treatment depends on your level of obesity, overall health condition and readiness to lose weight. Treatment may include a combination of diet, exercise, behavior modification and sometimes weight-loss drugs. In some cases of extreme obesity, bariatric surgery may be recommended.

Remember, weight control is a life-long effort, and having realistic expectations about weight loss is an important consideration. Eating healthier foods and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week have important health benefits. Sixty minutes of physical activity a day may be required to prevent gradual weight gain in adulthood. Individuals who were previously considered overweight and obese individuals are encouraged to get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a day to sustain weight loss.

Although most adults do not need to see their health care professional before starting a moderate-intensity physical activity program, men older than 40 years and women older than 50 years who plan a vigorous program, or who have either chronic disease or risk factors for chronic illnesses, should speak with their health care provider before starting a physical activity program.

The first step is medical management which consists of  diet and exercise, as well as medications. Medication results haven't proven great in terms of long-term weight loss. Although programs like Weight Watchers, counseling and Jenny Craig do work, a big part is monitoring what you eat, and also having a good support network.

If you think you may be obese, and especially if you're concerned about weight-related health problems, see your healthcare provider about treatment. You and your provider can evaluate your health risks and discuss your weight loss options. Setting realistic weight loss goals is an important first step to losing weight.

Try to lose 5 to 10 percent of your current weight over six months. The best way to lose weight is slowly, aiming to lose one to two pounds a week. If you've lost 10 percent of your body weight and are still overweight or obese, you may want to consider further weight loss.

Dietary changes, increased physical activity and behavior changes can help you lose weight. Prescription medications and weight loss surgery are additional options for treating obesity.

Maintaining your weight loss over time can be a challenge. The key to losing more weight or maintaining your weight loss is to continue with lifestyle changes. Adopt these changes as a new way of life.

It's important to adopt an approach of looking at obesity as an endocrine disease. If you think about obesity as an energy problem—just eat less and exercise more—this will not solve the problem. The future holds the use of multiple approaches in combination with medication and surgery.

The reason losing and maintaining weight is so difficult is not that people lose their willpower or interest; it is simply more difficult. Weight loss produces changes in hormones that encourage weight regain.

Morbid obesity can be treated both medically and surgically. Medical management involves tactics such as a very low calorie diet, exercise, anti-obesity medications (such as appetite suppressants and fat absorption blockers) and behavior modification. These are all overseen by a doctor or a healthcare professional, but do not have a very high long-term success rate.

Surgical management of morbid obesity involves bariatric (weight-loss) surgery to bring about enough weight loss to reduce obesity-related medical complications to acceptable levels. Options for bariatric surgery include adjustable gastric banding, vertical sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass procedures.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.