What Worked For Me: A Doctor Shares Her Experience With Weight

Blog, Wellness

By Maddie Ortiz

Dr. Kristin Terenzi, a practicing family doctor in Canada, has been treating patients for almost thirty years. Over the past 27 years, she’s diagnosed just about every ailment imaginable, talked with thousands of patients, and has continued her research and education. For almost that same amount of time, she also struggled with her weight. Dr. Terenzi says that she would work incredibly hard to lose weight and then watch herself gain the weight right back. She was stuck in a frustrating cycle of yo-yo dieting.

As difficult as it was for her to manage her weight, she couldn’t help but think of her patients. She had personal experience with how challenging weight management was (and “she was supposed to know more!”), so she deeply empathized with how discouraged her patients felt. In addition, she had been noticing obesity, depression and other chronic diseases steadily rising within her practice. Dr. Terenzi knew she had to start asking why? And to start finding real solutions… and that is exactly what she did. Not only has she maintained a 30 lb weight loss for a little over three years, she is now happily helping patients find the same success.

According to a recent study done on obesity in Canada, 74% of people living with obesity think the management of their condition is their sole responsibility. The reality? Very little of how much we weigh has to do with our lifestyle. “This is way more complicated than eat less and exercise more,” says Dr. Terenzi. Our bodies are designed to keep us at our heaviest weight, because for most of human history, heavier meant healthier. When we try to lose weight, we aren’t just battling cravings… we are battling our biology.

When we lose weight, Dr. Terenzi tells us, our body fights back. Our metabolism starts to slow down and hormones are released that not only make us hungrier, but also make us enjoy our food more when we eat it. If we do manage to lose weight, our body immediately starts to try and put it back on. This reality is what makes obesity a chronic disease. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only non-controllable factor we have working against us. Dr. Terenzi states our genetics, psychological factors, eating habits we developed as children, and even the way we learned to cope with stress all affect our weight.

Changing our physiology may not be possible, but Dr. Terenzi promises that getting healthy is something that can be done. “I don’t want my patients to feel discouraged,” she says, “I want them to feel empowered to take control of their health.” The first step is talking to a healthcare provider. Currently, only half of people with obesity have discussed their weight with their healthcare provider. Dr. Terenzi knows part of this has to do with patients feeling shame, but she also suspects it’s because many providers are still treating patients based on old data.

If your doctor doesn’t believe managing weight is more than diet and exercise, if they’re saying that you just need more willpower, or they just don’t feel comfortable treating obesity– find a different doctor. “They’re out there,” insists Dr. Terenzi. They might not be easy to find, but there are healthcare providers that can not only offer tools and guidance, but also be a lifelong partner in weight management. Click here for our physician locator tool.

When we find the right provider, notes Dr. Terenzi, just one question can open up a long and important conversation about weight and obesity management… and learning is one of the biggest steps we can take towards getting healthy. It’s important to have a thorough conversation with a healthcare professional, because there’s no one technique that can fix everything and there’s no one solution that can help everyone. What worked for Dr. Terenzi and many of her patients, a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication, may not work for everyone.

Dr. Terenzi even suggests calling the office prior to an appointment and letting the secretary know it might be a longer than average visit. That way it won’t feel rushed as treatment options are discussed. Ask about therapists, dietitians, cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, surgery, physiologists, support groups, online resources, and really anything else that comes to mind. Check with providers to see what might be covered and how treatment options can be made to work within a budget. Take notes and continue to research more at home. Feel confident, advises Dr. Terenzi– you are in charge of your health and your treatment journey.

Success is out there. Dr. Terenzi sees patients at her practice finding success every day. Countless patients who had spent years struggling, yo-yo dieting and who were ready to give up trying are now in control of their diabetes, for example. Others are virtually free of chronic knee pain or even able to become pregnant after being told they never could. And Dr. Terenzi herself is 30 lbs lighter and feeling healthier than ever before. “You can get a hold of the condition and you can lose the weight,” encourages Dr. Terenzi, “There is always a way. One pound at a time. Don’t give up. There is something that can be done.”

Dr. Terenzi’s Four Tips For A Successful Conversation With Your Doctor

  • Make sure that you have enough time for the appointment– notify the secretary ahead of time that you may need additional time

  • Research your options. Know the science about what’s been proven to work and be ready to discuss with your doctor where you’d like to start.

  • Once you have a plan of action with your doctor, figure out what will be covered and where you might be able to get assistance. Check out this Obesity Canada article for ideas.

  • Stay persistent. If the initial conversation with your doctor or your insurance doesn’t go well, look for other options for getting the referrals or treatments you need.

Treatments That Have Been Proven To Work For Successful Long-Term Weight Management

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

  • Meal Replacements with Medical Supervision

  • Medications

  • Bariatric Surgery 

To learn more about obesity and excess weight as a chronic disease click here.

To find a weight management physician in the United States near you, click here.

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

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