By Maria Fleet
By the time people see Dr. Megha Poddar, they’re nearly out of hope that they’ll ever reach a healthier weight.
“Ninety percent of the patients, by the time they get to me, they tried something on their own,” she says. In fact, she’s accustomed to hearing that they’ve tried many different weight loss programs before coming to her.
Dr. Poddar is an endocrinologist who specializes in weight management in Toronto, and she helps her patients understand that they can rely on her to partner with them on their path to sustainable weight loss.
She says it’s about looking at the full picture, your overall quality of life and health – not just the number on the scale.
“[Your quality of life] is the thing that you actually feel during the day, hour to hour. It’s actually independent of your weight itself. So when we focus just on the weight, it’s just a tiny little piece of you. It’s not looking at you as an entire person.”
Weight loss can be one of the most tangible measurements that shows you’re on the right track, but it’s important to take a holistic view to managing your overall health and weight.
While popular diets may work to help you shed pounds in the short-term, they don’t address the complex underlying causes of excess weight.
Those causes are becoming more and more clear. As Dr. Sean Wharton, medical director of a community-based weight management and diabetes clinic in Toronto, puts it, “The more we learn about obesity the more we realize that it’s really a lot about genetics and pathophysiology.”
And what does that mean – pathophysiology?
“It means that there are biological predeterminants as to why people struggle with elevated weight. The more that we recognize that, the less bias we have against the people who are struggling with weight problems, and the easier it is for us to implement proper treatments that can help these people who are trying to help themselves, but just can’t get there.” They just can’t get there – but not for lack of trying!
Dr. Wharton sees patients who have diligently adhered to all sorts of diets and tried every lifestyle hack – yet still can’t manage to keep the weight off. Like Dr. Poddar, he gets it.
“Everybody who’s in front of us [physicians] who’s asking for help – they’ve already done their part,” he says. “They’ve already tried lifestyle options, they understand the dietary components, they understand the exercise components. They want to engage in them. They’re trying their absolute best.”
His patients have done their part… now it’s time for a medical partner who can add the missing piece, to help people understand the biological principles that are keeping them from reaching their health goals.
A holistic approach to weight loss, managed by a health care professional, is much more likely to help you achieve long-term results. More and more doctors are recognizing that obesity is a chronic disease that has to be carefully managed like any other disease. A physician who specializes in managing weight will be able to address that constellation of biological mechanisms playing out in a person struggling with excess weight.
Dr. Wharton talks about weight loss being like a rooftop, held up by strong pillars of support – those pillars being a combination of treatments such as medication, surgery, and/or behavioral therapy, along with healthy eating and exercise – which will be different for each person.
Those supports need to be in place to help you reach and maintain your best weight over the long-run, as for many people struggling with obesity, willpower alone just won’t be enough.
It’s like trying to hold up a roof with just one post.
Dr. Poddar points to the strong evidence that there’s always been a missing essential component – evidence that has been hiding in plain sight for many of her patients.
She simply asks them to consider all the things they’ve achieved in their lives based on their own motivation. One thing not on that list… losing and keeping off excess weight. Why is that?
She helps them see that something more must be at play with weight management than just motivation, or they would’ve been successful with their weight, too.
“But the reality is that this is not just related to diets and exercise – because you would be able to achieve what you’re trying to achieve if that’s all it was,” she explains.
Finding the right doctor that understands all that’s involved in successfully managing weight is key. Check here for a doctor near you that gets it!