Working with a Doctor Who Specializes in Obesity

Working with a Doctor Who Specializes in Obesity

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Working with a Doctor Who Specializes in Obesity

Some doctors focus on treating people who are obese. They are called bariatric doctors or bariatricians. Some may also be bariatric surgeons. These doctors are trained to do surgery that aids in weight loss.

A general doctor can offer some treatments for weight loss. But a bariatric doctor has more training in how to treat obesity. These doctors have had special training after medical school. Many of them take extra exams to earn board certification in bariatrics. Some of them have training to do weight loss surgery.

What is obesity?

Obesity is when body fat is above a certain level. Body mass index (BMI) is a common way to measure obesity. BMI is a measurement that compares a person’s height and weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 means overweight. A BMI higher than 30 means obese. Your doctor can calculate your BMI for you. You can also ask your doctor to teach you how to calculate BMI yourself.

Why see a doctor who specializes in obesity?

If you are obese, it’s important to you get treatment. Obesity can lead to a number of serious health conditions, including:

  • Diabetes

  • Arthritis

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Sleep apnea

  • Liver disease

  • Certain lung diseases

  • Certain cancers

You may begin your treatment with your primary health care provider. But if you need more help, you may want to see a bariatric doctor. He or she may have new ideas or methods for weight loss that can help you. Some bariatric doctors can also serve as a primary health care provider.

What to expect at your first visit

During your initial visit, your bariatric doctor may:

  • Take a medical history, including your history of nutrition, exercise, and weight loss

  • Do a physical exam, including BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure

  • Look at your health problems related to obesity

  • Look at you for other medical problems that might cause weight gain

  • Find out how ready you are to begin an exercise program

  • Find out if you need tests

  • Help you make realistic weight loss goals

  • Give you a nutrition plan

  • Tell you to keep a food diary

  • Find out if you need a weight-loss medicine

Your bariatric doctor will also give you information about:

  • Healthy eating habits

  • Healthy exercise habits

  • How to change health behaviors

  • How mental health affects obesity

  • The complications of obesity

  • The benefits and risks of medicines

Creating a treatment plan for you

Your doctor will create a treatment plan for you based on your medical needs and preferences. At each follow-up visit, your doctor will check your progress. He or she will make changes to your treatment as needed. If you aren’t losing enough weight, your doctor will advise other changes. As you lose weight and your health improves, your doctor might change some of your medicines.

Your bariatric doctor may order some tests to check health factors related to obesity, such as:

  • Tests for diabetes, like fasting blood glucose

  • Lipid and cholesterol levels

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels

  • Liver blood tests

  • Kidney function blood tests

  • Vitamin D levels

  • Electrocardiogram, to look at your heart rhythm

  • Exercise testing, to see how well your heart works during exercise

  • Resting metabolic rate, to look at how many calories you burn at rest

Your doctor will also talk with you about your changing needs. For example, if your weight loss stops or you regain weight, he or she may talk with you about weight loss surgery.


How to find a doctor

Talk with your primary health care provider. He or she may be able to refer you to a bariatric doctor. The American Society of Bariatric Physicians has an online listing of doctors. You can search for a doctor in your area.