Working with a Healthcare Provider Who Specializes in Obesity

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

A general healthcare provider can offer some treatments for weight loss. But a bariatric healthcare provider has more training in how to treat obesity. These healthcare providers have had special training after medical school. Many of them have additional 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 method of screening for a weight category using height and weight for calculation. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 means overweight. A BMI higher than 30 means that the patient is obese. Your healthcare provider can calculate your BMI for you. You can also ask your healthcare provider to teach you how to calculate BMI yourself.

Why see a healthcare provider who specializes in obesity?

If you are obese and have other related medical conditions, it’s important for you to 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 healthcare provider. But if you need more help, you may want to see a bariatric healthcare provider. He or she may have new ideas or methods for weight loss that can help you. Some bariatric healthcare providers can also serve as a primary healthcare provider.

What to expect at your first visit

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

Your bariatric healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider

Talk with your primary healthcare provider. He or she may be able to refer you to a bariatric healthcare provider. The Obesity Medicine Association, formerly known as American Society of Bariatric Physicians, has an online listing of healthcare providers. You can search for a healthcare provider in your area.