What Kind of Doctor Can Help You with Your Weight Loss Journey?

Weight loss no longer has to be a journey you take on your own, reliant on your willpower and mental toughness. There are healthcare providers who understand that excess body weight can result from a variety of underlying biological factors, and they are trained to treat patients with overweight and obesity using evidence based tools, just like any other medical condition. From your primary care professional to a specialist trained in obesity medicine, or from a team at your local health center to a reputable online weight loss doctor, there are a number of different options that could help you achieve success. Read on to find out more about what to consider when seeking medical help with your weight loss journey. 

Why Should I Consult a Doctor for my Weight Loss Goals?

If you’ve been trying to lose weight on your own but not having much success, it may be time to see a medical professional. In the medical community, we now understand overweight and obesity to be chronic conditions influenced by biology, environment, and behaviors, with potentially serious adverse health effects. The treatment of these conditions is important, but challenging. 

For many people, lifestyle interventions alone are not enough, and it’s not until the underlying biological factors are addressed that they achieve their weight loss goals. This is where a medical professional comes in. We can conduct a thorough assessment of your health to determine if there are medical reasons why you’re having difficulty losing weight. Using knowledge gained from the assessment, we can use science-backed tools to assist your efforts. Additionally, excess body weight can adversely affect your health in many ways, such as elevating your blood sugar and blood pressure, so you want to make sure you are assessed and appropriately treated early for those potential complications, as well. 

What Kind of Doctor Should I See? 

Primary Care Professional 

Your primary care professional (PCP) is always a good place to start. This is the healthcare provider that knows the most about you, so they will be able to guide you to the appropriate next steps based on your health history and your goals. Some general practitioners are also trained in Obesity Medicine and may feel comfortable discussing the use of FDA-approved weight loss medications that could assist your efforts. If not, they will likely be able to refer you to a provider who has that expertise. 

Obesity Medicine Physician 

These are physicians who have specialized training and knowledge in the treatment of excess body weight. They understand the complexity of overweight and obesity and treat these conditions as any other chronic disease. When consulting with an Obesity Medicine Physician or provider such as a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant with obesity medicine training, they will take a thorough history to understand your medical background and evaluate for underlying medical problems or medications that could be contributing to your weight. They will ask you about your weight history – what has contributed to your weight gain, what you’ve tried that has or hasn’t worked, and what your goals are. Based on all of this information and your health history, they will come up with a treatment plan that is individualized to you. This plan may include lifestyle interventions, the use of science-backed tools like prescription weight loss medication, and/or referral for bariatric surgery as appropriate.

In addition to training and knowledge, obesity medicine providers often work as part of a team that provides accountability and support for some of the most challenging aspects of lifestyle change, like how we eat and our mindset. Seeking specialty care often gives you the opportunity to work with a team where everyone’s expertise is leveraged to help you achieve success! This is the case at Form Health. We take a team approach by pairing each patient with an Obesity Medicine Physician and a Registered Dietitian. All clinicians are board certified and trained in Obesity Medicine, so you can feel confident they have the expertise to help you with your weight loss journey. 

Endocrinologist 

An endocrinologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to hormones. This includes disorders related to metabolism. As a result, they often see patients for the treatment of obesity and conditions related to obesity such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Some endocrinologists have specialized training in Obesity Medicine, as well. 

Bariatric Surgeon

This is a physician who is trained in the surgical treatment of obesity. Bariatric surgery is indicated for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater with at least one weight-related medical problem or a BMI of 40 or greater. Most people who see a bariatric surgeon have tried other less invasive weight loss treatments first.  

Are There Online Weight Loss Doctors?

Yes, there are online weight loss doctors! Patients and providers agree that virtual care is a valuable method for delivering healthcare, and obesity treatment is no exception. Research on using telehealth in obesity care has confirmed that the telehealth model can be very effective for providing a comprehensive obesity management program. Form Health is a personalized medical weight loss program delivered 100% through a virtual platform. Form Health patients are paired with a Registered Dietitian and board certified Obesity Medicine Specialist who create a personalized comprehensive weight loss path that uses tools like nutrition, physical activity, mindset shifts, and FDA-approved medication, if appropriate, to help patients achieve meaningful and lasting weight loss. The success of Form Health patients is evidence that obesity management delivered via an online platform works. They lose an average of 15% of their starting body weight over 12 months. 

What Should I Look for in an Online Medical Weight Loss Provider?

There are a number of factors to consider when looking for an online medical weight loss provider. You want to make sure this provider is knowledgeable about the treatment of overweight and obesity and using only research-backed tools. Unfortunately, there are places that advertise themselves as medical but then sell unproven weight loss supplements, which are not regulated by the FDA and can be unsafe. Finding a physician who is a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine is one way to feel confident that you are seeing a physician who has expertise in the management of obesity and focuses on evidence-based approaches. 

Dr. Lauren Lemieux is one such provider with Form Health. She advises, “Look for someone who understands weight loss is not about willpower and that our goal is not just a number on the scale but to create sustainable, long-term healthy habits that improve quality of life and health.  It’s about working with someone who gets to know you and your unique background and needs, and together you form a collaborative team to achieve your goals using evidence-based treatment strategies.”

Along those same lines, you want to look for a physician who is part of a comprehensive program that provides counseling and support for changing our health habits in addition to tools like prescription weight loss medications. Weight loss medications are far more effective when used in combination with a healthful diet, regular physical activity, and long-term behavior changes, so a program that incorporates both is really the standard of care. This will help you to not only lose the weight but keep it off. 

Having accountability and regular check-ins is important as well. Research on effective weight loss shows that more frequent visits / counseling sessions produce significantly more weight loss. Additionally, if you are taking a weight loss medication, ongoing regular follow-up visits with your provider is important for closely monitoring the effects of the medication. At Form Health, patients have video visits with their virtual clinical care team 2-3 times per month and have the ability to message their clinical team between visits via the easy-to-use app. This helps to not only provide accountability for behavior changes, but also allows patients to develop a meaningful relationship with their clinical care team over time. Board certified Obesity Medicine Physician Dr. Maria Maldonado of Form Health agrees, saying, “It’s essential that patients develop a relationship with their team over time where trust is built and compassion is palpable. As the journey progresses, needs change, and there may be challenges that arise. Your team is there reminding you of the wins you’ve had along the way and can help address those challenges and pivot accordingly.”

And lastly, finding a provider that accepts your health insurance is a way to make it more affordable for you. This makes it more likely that you will be able to continue with treatment for a longer period of time. Overweight and obesity are chronic medical conditions, so fad diets or short stints of treatment don’t work. A long-term commitment with a healthcare professional will make it more likely that you’ll achieve long-term success and improve your overall health. Along those same lines, it is not uncommon for health insurance carriers to require additional paperwork or have coverage exclusions for prescription weight loss medication, so a provider that understands the complexities of insurance coverage and is willing to work with your insurance carrier is important for getting you coverage for the recommended treatment. 

How Form Health Doctors Can Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals

We’ve outlined many reasons why working with weight management experts can make the difference in reaching your weight loss goal. If you’re looking for professional help, with the convenience of telehealth, Form Health may be a great fit for you. Our clinicians are diplomates of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and take an evidence-based approach to building personalized weight loss paths for every patient. Our insurance-covered medical weight loss program uses tools like nutrition, physical activity, mindset shifts, and FDA-approved medication, if appropriate. Get started today by taking our quiz to find out if you qualify! 

Questions about our online weight loss practice ? Schedule a free call with an enrollment specialist to learn more.

About the Author: Brooke Marsico, PA-C, completed her physician assistant training at Midwestern University in 2011. She began her practice in the field of Obesity Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago where she practiced from 2016 to 2021. She went on to treat patients living with obesity at Cleveland Clinic from 2021 to 2022 prior to joining the team at Form Health. Brooke is passionate about helping patients living with obesity achieve meaningful weight loss and improve their health. Her practice focuses on individualized behavioral and pharmacological intervention to help patients reach their goals. She is also experienced in managing patients who have a history of bariatric surgery.

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