Telehealth visits offer you greater access to a variety of weight loss experts, and all from the comforts of your own home.
If you struggle with healthy meal planning, following through with an exercise program or finding the right weight management treatment options to boost your success, maybe it’s time to consider seeing health care providers through video or phone telehealth visits.
Almost overnight, the Covid-19 pandemic has radically changed the way weight management clinical care is being provided as many in-person office visits have been replaced with telehealth visits.
In fact, my recently published Perspective in the journal Obesity is about this very topic.
My patients tell me they’re enjoying the convenience of ‘seeing me’ from the comforts of their own homes.
And though there is a tradeoff as I’m not able to get their vital signs, weight or do a physical exam, I do end up having more time for actual counseling which patients say they find helpful.
Though I now have one day a week for in-person visits for those patients who need more hands-on care prior to decision making regarding weight loss medications or bariatric surgery, I’m hoping telehealth visits will be here to stay long after the pandemic is over.
Since long-term weight management really is a team sport, here are 4 types of telehealth visits that you may find helpful:
1 – Telehealth with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN)
An RDN is an expert in providing guidance on eating better, planning healthier meals and helping you put into place a personalized week-to-week meal plan. The RDN will also take into account your personal history, social situation and medical problems that can impact your food choices.
Just this week, one of our dietitians told me that telehealth visits have allowed her to do more intensive counseling as she’s able to get a ‘peek’ at the patient’s pantry and refrigerator.
Anyone struggling with weight would benefit from a visit with an RDN. To find an RDN in your area, you can ask your primary care provider for a referral or use the ‘find an expert’ tool on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
2 – Telehealth with a physical therapist or personal fitness trainer
If you have questions about exercising safely at home or have an injury or condition that limits your ability to exercise, some physical therapists (PT) and personal fitness trainers are offering telehealth options.
Through a video telehealth visit, you can show the PT or trainer what you are currently doing and let him or her weigh in to help you develop a home program that is safe for your condition. Often they will email you pictures of different exercises to do and even observe you doing them.
Check with your state to see if you need a doctor’s order for physical therapy. For trainers, you can check local fitness facilities to find one that’s credentialed by the American Council on Exercise, National Academy of Sports Medicine or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
3 – Telehealth with a health psychologist
When it comes to managing weight, health psychologists provide guidance on managing stress, anxiety, depression or lack of focus that can impede a weight loss plan, challenges that many are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They can also address body image and negative self-esteem issues or assist with eating disorders.
If you find yourself struggling with life stressors or emotional issues that are impeding your ability to manage your weight and focus on improving your health, making a telehealth visit with a psychologist can be quite helpful.
You can check with your health care system, insurance plan or primary care provider to find a health psychologist with experience in weight management.
4 – Telehealth with an obesity medicine physician specialist
Obesity medicine specialists are physicians specially trained to assess and manage patients with excess weight or the disease of obesity. They can give you specialized guidance on available treatment options such as targeted lifestyle modification, weight loss medications and other team-based approaches; this may include referral to a bariatric surgeon if you have moderate to severe obesity complicated by medical problems that are impairing your health or are unable to control weight with more conservative approaches.
If you have difficulty managing weight on your own, you can look for a credentialed obesity medicine physician (called diplomates) through the American Board of Obesity Medicine website.
To make telehealth visits work best, I recommend you do the following:
- Complete online pre-visit questionnaires before your visit
- Keep a scale at home so you can track your weight
- Opt-in to doing a video visit if you’re able to since communication is enhanced when you and the health care provider can see one another
- Be prepared to take notes during the visit so you can remember important details
Stay safe and be well!
Robert Kushner, MD