In Weight Management, Knowledge is Power

By: Maria Fleet

People struggling with weight have a common lament. They often say they know what to do, but they just are not able to do it. This feeling of personal failure leads to a cycle of self-blame and shame for not being able to manage their weight successfully. They put the responsibility all on themselves – but it isn’t that simple, say doctors who work in the field of obesity. 

Dr. Jessie Watkins is a weight management expert in Kingston, Ontario. For patients who feel a sense of failure that they haven’t been successful reducing their weight on their own, Dr. Watkins reminds them of the latest findings about obesity.

“I really try to emphasize that obesity is a chronic, complex genetic and hormonal disease,” she says. “Basically, your genes and your hormones predispose you to be a certain weight in the environment that you’re in. And that environment doesn’t just include diet and exercise. It includes other things like sleep, stress, medications that you’ve been on. And even we’re looking at bacteria in your gut now as a role player.”

She says it’s often the first-time patients have ever heard these concepts.

This knowledge is powerful, because it allows patients to stop blaming themselves for carrying extra weight. It’s liberating when they realize that there are potent physiological drivers at work that can’t be quelled simply by willpower alone.

As patients work with a weight management expert to find ways to regulate some of their behavior – they have a clearer picture of how they can achieve, and sustain, a healthy weight.

The new anti-obesity medications are a welcome new tool doctors have to help their patients manage excess weight. The drugs have been widely labeled as “game-changers.” But all the buzz around them may have generated some misunderstanding. 

“The key with medications is that a lot of my patients, because of the stigma that they’ve suffered, they really feel like it’s cheating,” Dr. Watkins says. “And I remind them that that’s like someone with asthma saying, ‘I shouldn’t really need my puffers’ or someone with high blood pressure saying, ‘I should be able to just relax.’ So, when I make that analogy, it often drives home the point that this is a medical issue that can derive benefit from a medical intervention.”

The new anti-obesity medications work by mimicking a hormone that can affect hunger and satiety. 

Trained obesity specialists point out that a combination of medication, lifestyle advice about exercise and nutrition, and behavioral therapy all can work well together to help patients achieve their health goals.

“Obesity medicine is relatively new to the scene of medicine. And your physician may not even realize that there’s clinics out there that can help you,” Dr. Watkins says.  “So don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to request a referral and to seek out a clinic that’s a good fit for you,” she stresses.

Weight expert Dr. Megha Poddar echoes that view. “When you’re seen every two weeks by health care providers that understand the science of obesity and understand how to help you with different modulators and coping strategies around behavioral therapy, we know that people tend to be successful more long term, as well as have greater confidence to be able to keep their weight off.”

For Leslie Doyle, a person living with obesity, being a part of a medical weight management program was not only educational, but motivating as well. She was prescribed a weight loss medication, and over the six months of her treatment plan she worked with a dietitian who helped her recognize and interrupt patterns that could impede her health journey. “Previously, if I had one failure, I dropped the whole thing,” Leslie explains. “Now I can find things that do work for me and that will continue to motivate me to prioritize my health.”

Dr. Poddar emphasizes the added benefits of specialized obesity care. “We know that the more often you’re seen in any weight management program, especially in that first sort of 3 to 6 months, the more successful you’ll be to be able to keep that weight off long term.” 

To find a physician near you who specializes in weight management, click here.

To learn more about Leslie and her husband’s weight management journey, click here.

This article was sponsored by Novo Nordisk. All content is created independently by My Weight – What To Know with no influence from Novo Nordisk.

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