If you’re looking to lose weight and boost your health, I highly recommend you start this journey by meeting with your primary care provider (PCP).
This is a topic I’m passionate about as I have spent a bulk of my career training PCPs on how to take on a bigger role in helping their patients manage weight.
In fact, my new professional book on the subject, Primary Care – Evaluation and Management of Obesity, was just released.
Though most PCP’s may not be trained as experts in weight management, they are expert in knowing about YOU and your medical history.
Here are ways your PCP can help you:
1 – Listen to your ‘Why Now’?
It can be helpful to think about and share with your PCP why this is the time for you to embark on a weight loss program.
Whether you’re having trouble climbing stairs, fitting into clothes for an upcoming event, keeping up with your children or grandchildren, or concerned about your blood pressure or diabetes, this discussion can help your PCP get to know you better and support you.
2 – Discuss your Medical History and Impact of Losing Weight
Your PCP can shed light on other important aspects of your health such as:
-If any of your current medications are causing weight gain and, if so, what other medications can be used instead
-Which medical problems and lab tests will get better as you lose weight
-How much weight you need to lose to start seeing some health benefits
People are often surprised to know that losing just 5-10% of their body weight can lead to meaningful health benefits in terms of lowering blood pressure, blood sugar and improving cholesterol and other blood fats, improving sleep, reducing knee pain and heartburn, and helping you to generally feel better.
3 – Offer Help to Get Started
Here’s where there is lots of variability in the knowledge and comfort level of PCP’s in offering specific dietary and physical activity advice for losing weight.
At a minimum, many PCP’s can advise you on general healthy nutrition guidelines such as eating less processed foods, smaller portions and more vegetables and fruits; they can also share any precautions you should be taking when starting an exercise program.
Some PCP’s may recommend well-known commercial programs like WW or specific food and fitness apps to try to help you stay accountable such as MyfitnessPal, LoseIt!, MyPlate or Fitbit.
Many PCP’s can also refer you to a registered dietitian nutritionist for meal planning help, to a physical therapist or personal trainer for developing a safe exercise program or to a health psychologist if stress and low mood are preventing you from following through with your healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Some PCP’s may be comfortable prescribing a weight loss medication. Ask if you are a candidate.
Depending on your weight and health status, some PCPs may decide to refer you to an obesity medicine specialist certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine who is trained to provide comprehensive weight management.
4 – Be Your Ongoing Coach
Some PCP’s will want to see you back on a regular basis to help support you and monitor labs as you progress in your weight loss journey.
Having someone you can trust and feel accountable to can also help you stay on track.
Know that if you’re ever made to feel shamed for your weight, this is never acceptable. If this happens to you, here are things you can do to fight weight bias.
Your PCP is your gatekeeper for your overall health. Managing weight will be easier when you can partner with someone you trust and don’t have to go it alone.
Robert Kushner, MD