“I know what I need to do to lose weight… I just need to DO it.” That’s what we hear so often from people trying to reach a healthier weight. They blame a lack of willpower or their inability to “stick with” a diet or exercise regimen, and say that if they could just “get it together,” they would be successful with losing weight and keeping it off.
The truth is that for many people living with obesity and excess weight, diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to reach a healthier weight. Medical treatments (including medications or surgery) may be required, but those treatments aren’t the only thing that seeing a weight management physician can help with. Many healthcare professionals also work with their patients on psychological interventions (like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT) and other strategies that can make it easier to do those behaviors that we all know we SHOULD do.
Many of the obesity management physicians in Canada help people living with excess weight develop essential weight management skills like meal planning, managing emotional eating and habit hunger, developing good sleep habits, dealing with setbacks and more. This is beyond what foods to eat and which ones to avoid, but instead involves more practical skills, like learning how to plan ahead so that you have a delicious healthy meal prepped and ready to go into the oven when the work day is over so that you’re not tempted to visit a fast food joint nearby.
A physician can also investigate whether medicines you’re taking are causing weight gain, if there are underlying conditions making weight loss more challenging, and he/she can also refer you to a healthcare professional who can make overcoming common obstacles easier. A psychologist could help you develop strategies for managing stressful social gatherings, for example– or a dietitian can help you plan your meals to help prevent nighttime cravings.
Finally, a physician can prescribe medications that can help address the common biological responses to weight loss (increased hunger, decreased fullness, etc.) that can often lead to a plateau or weight regain, even among those who are the most dedicated to a healthy lifestyle.
Here’s how Dr. Shahebina Walji of the Calgary Weight Management Centre explains how a physician can help: “Physicians that have expertise in obesity management have a really good understanding of how the body works. They have a good understanding of the biology around body weight regulation and the factors that govern our eating behavior.” That’s why people who work with a physician can lose up to five times as much weight as people who don’t. NEJM SOURCE
To be sure, healthy lifestyle choices (keeping a food journal, planning and prepping healthy meals, getting exercise, etc.) will always be necessary but with the help of a doctor, you’ll have customized recommendations and support based on the latest data around weight management. And that can make all the difference…
To find a physician near you who specializes in weight management, click here. (If there’s no one near you, or you don’t feel comfortable visiting a doctor’s office because of COVID-19, don’t worry! Most of the physicians on this list offer virtual visits.)