I always ask my new patients how they came to see me. More often than not, they say they asked their primary care provider for help to lose weight.
Your primary care provider (PCP) may not be an expert in weight management, but he or she is likely to be an expert in knowing about you and your medical history.
If you’re looking to lose weight and boost your health, I highly recommend you start this journey by scheduling a visit with your PCP.
Here are specific questions to ask to help guide you:
1-How much weight will I need to lose to improve my medical condition?
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 blood fats, improving sleep, reducing knee pain and heartburn, and helping you to generally feel better.
For someone weighing 180 pounds, losing just 9-18 pounds can be a realistic goal for improving one’s health.
2-What tools and resources do you recommend to help me?
Some PCP’s may recommend well-known commercial programs like WW or use specific food and fitness apps such as MyfitnessPal, LoseIt!, MyPlate or Fitbit that provide information and allow you to track your progress.
Many PCP’s can also refer you to a registered dietitian nutritionist for dietary counseling, 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.
They may also recommend a few books to help guide your journey such as my book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You! or The Shift: 7 Powerful Mindset Changes for Lasting Weight Loss, by Dr. Gary Foster.
3-Am I a candidate for a weight loss medication?
Battling an increased appetite is one of the most significant challenges to losing weight and keeping it off.
If the wanting, liking, thinking about and craving of food feels overpowering, prescription of a medication may be a helpful addition to your weight loss plan.
There are 6 FDA approved medications for chronic weight management that can help control your appetite and make it easier to follow a calorie-reduced diet.
Ask your PCP if you qualify for taking a medication and which one would be best for you.
4-If I need more specialty care, what are your recommendations?
Though many PCP’s may be comfortable seeing you back on a regular basis to help support you in your weight loss journey, you may find you need more help.
You can ask your PCP for a referral to an obesity medicine physician specialist, certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM), who is trained to provide you with a personalized and comprehensive weight management treatment plan.
Obesity medicine specialists are experts in weight management who offer targeted lifestyle management, weight loss medications when indicated as well as team-based approaches.
You can search for ABOM-certified specialists (called diplomates) in your community by using the Find a Physician search tool on the ABOM website. Note that some ABOM-certified physicians are also PCP’s.
If you have moderate or severe obesity complicated by medical problems that are impairing your health and are unable to control weight with lifestyle or medication approaches alone, you can ask your PCP for a referral to a bariatric surgeon at a Center of Excellence.
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