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  • Julia Axelbaum

Do you Need Obesity Medicine?


If you’ve tried traditional approaches to weight loss and been unsuccessful in the past, it’s time to integrate something new. Changing your diet and increasing exercise are both vital when trying to lose weight, but the combination alone doesn’t always work. At Form Health, we offer a medical weight loss solution delivered by specialized professionals, all through your phone. One-on-one video visits with doctors and dietitians who have training in medical weight management can help people get lasting results, even when other strategies have not led to success.


“A central tenet of obesity medicine is that obesity is a medical condition (in contrast to lack of willpower or other such viewpoints which society, and even the medical community, held until not too long ago). As obesity medicine specialists, we approach obesity in a comprehensive way — meaning we consider all of many factors that have resulted in an individual’s weight gain, the consequences of their weight on their health and quality of life, and the best treatment or treatments within this broader context,” according to Form Chief Medical Officer Dr. Florencia Halperin.


How is obesity measured?


Obesity is measured by Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. A normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9, while anyone with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI over 30 defines obesity. If you aren’t sure what your number is, click here for a BMI calculator.


The field of obesity medicine

When dieting and exercising aren’t enough to achieve weight loss goals, some turn to medical professionals to manage the disease. Some doctors focus on and receive special training in obesity medicine to learn to comprehensively treat patients with obesity, and use science-based approaches to individualize treatment plans, which can lead to better outcomes. These specialists can get certification from the American Board of Obesity Medicine; they’re likely to have the latest information on the most effective nutritional approaches and behavioral strategies that help people stick with lifestyle changes over time, as well as FDA-approved weight loss medications and other medical interventions.


Form doctors and dietitians look at the full social, emotional and medical picture for each person, in order to create an individualized plan for each patient. Our physicians may prescribe FDA-approved medications, when necessary, to complement the other aspects of the weight loss program, and help patients achieve optimal results on their journey towards better health.


“Because obesity is such a multi-factorial process with such broad implications for health, we have to look for weight-related health complications as part of the evaluation and treatment plan,” Dr. Halperin said. “Because obesity has implications for people’s health across the life cycle, we have to focus both on current weight-related health issues, and on prevention of future ones. The reality that when we lose weight, the body physiology changes to fight the new lower weight, also means that we have to be focused not just on strategies to lose weight, but on strategies to maintain the weight loss over the long term.”


How is Form different than other things you may have tried?


At Form, we are increasing access to medical weight management. Our multi-disciplinary team can address all aspects of lifestyle change and weight-related medical care, and we leverage technology to bring this to patients through their smartphone, so that people can do this in a realistic and convenient way.


We work with our patients on personalized plans for healthy nutrition, physical activity and behavior changes, which are intended to make new habits stick over time. We provide the very close support and accountability that we know it takes to be successful. If these strategies prove insufficient, we may consider weight loss medications to see if suppression of appetite and cravings help make the difference and lead to success. All of this expert care is delivered online.


Do I need weight loss medication?


Most of the weight loss medications available suppress appetite and cravings. While weight loss medications are scientifically proven to be effective, they only work in conjunction with nutritional, exercise and behavioral changes. They have the power to “amplify adherence to behavior change and may improve physical functioning such that increased physical activity is easier in those who cannot exercise initially,” according to The Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism.


To qualify for prescription medications, a person has to have a BMI that falls into the obesity category, or close to it. Those who have a history of being unable to lose weight, and/or keep it off, are most often the candidates considered for weight loss medication, along with those who have obesity-related issues, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. There’s no clear way to know in advance if someone qualifies for an obesity medication; this requires a full evaluation by a licensed physician or other independent practitioner. Form physicians take prescribing medications and patient safety very seriously, and look at the whole patient and their history before prescribing anything. And since there can be a lot of variability in how one person responds to a given medication, it is essential to have ongoing follow ups, to continue to assess if the medication is working and safe. Depending on many factors, sometimes the choice of drug needs be changed.


OTC vs. prescription medications


There is a very big distinction between FDA-approved weight loss medicines and over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, which may claim weight loss benefits, but are not regulated by the FDA and are not supported by scientific studies. In fact, many of them have been associated with adverse health effects, so people should take great caution when considering their use.


Could you benefit from medical weight loss treatment? Consult with the Form Health medical team and receive intensive support along with an evidence-based individualized treatment plan, all through your phone.

 
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170 Lincoln Street | 4th Floor

Boston, MA 02111

617-505-1520