Ten Essential Facts about Obesity and Medical Weight Loss

The beginning of the New Year means people make resolutions to better their life, one of the most common being a resolution to lose weight. Here are 10 must-know facts about obesity and medical weight loss that can turn your weight loss resolution into a reality.

1. Obesity is a nationwide problem
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis found more than one-third (34.9 percent or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are considered obese. Not a single state had a prevalence of obesity lower than 20 percent. Only the District of Columbia and five other states had a prevalence of obesity between 20 to 25 percent. Utah ranked in the middle of the pack with a 25 to 30 percent prevalence of obesity.

2. Is weight gain a choice?
Dr. Rohn Rigby, M.D., a Family Medicine Physician and Obesity Medicine specialist at Ogden Clinic in Layton, Utah, acknowledges that many people do overeat and are less physically active than they should be, but there are factors that people can’t control. From genetics to social pressures, he draws a comparison between people who are obese and addicted to drugs.

“As a society we don’t always blame drug addicts for their addictions,” Dr. Rigby explains. “These same addictive behaviors and tendencies can manifest in addictions to food.”

Dr. Rigby wants to remind people that obesity needs to be treated with kindness, support, respect and understanding, just like any other medical condition. It is never too late to seek help. Every person deserves to enjoy better health.

3. The origins of obesity
Dr. Rigby believes there are multiple reasons to explain the United States’ obesity problem. He points to factors that include:
• High consumption of simple carbohydrates and low consumption of protein and healthy fat
• Readily available and inexpensive fast food
• Decreased activity
• Lack of adequate sleep
• Increased stress levels
• Hormonal imbalances
• Weight-positive medications
• Individual genetics

Dr. Rigby states it’s not just about the calories being taken in versus the calories out. It is just as important to monitor the quality and type of calories consumed as they directly impact the digestive system. Food should be considered fuel for your sports car (body). Don’t put in too much fuel, or low-quality fuel. High-quality fuel produces high-quality performance.

4. Symptoms of obesity
Symptoms of obesity can vary, but Dr. Rigby lists common concerns as:
• Fatigue, even after proper amount of sleep
• Depression
• Shortness of breath
• Joint pain
• Bloating, other digestive issues
• Fertility issues
• Decreased libido

5. Obesity leads to more health risks
Obesity is linked to numerous different health risks, including:
• Heart disease
• Stroke
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Cancer
• Gallbladder disease
• Osteoarthritis
• Gout

In addition to the added health risks, the medical costs of people who are obese are an average $1,429 higher per year than those of normal weight.

6. What is medical weight loss?
Medical weight loss is defined as a physician-supervised weight management program based on medical science. The big difference is that medical weight loss doesn’t use commercially available diet pills, surgery or fad diets. Instead, it focuses on the primary causes of weight gain and obesity by considering a person’s entire medical health profile.

7. The medical weight loss process
Dr. Rigby explains that patients begin by filling out a questionnaire recording past medical problems. The questionnaire “includes questions about family medical history, stress and activity level, eating habits and social issues. This helps us to understand each individual’s unique health challenges,” Rigby says.

Basic lab work is ordered for patients to determine their current health status. Dr. Rigby explains that by using a bio-impedance machine, doctors can get a better idea of what percentage of the body is fat versus muscle. With the help of this machine, doctors will be able to focus on dangerous fat around the organs.

Doctors and their patients then review the questionnaire and lab results to create an individualized program. Dr. Rigby explains that the programs consist of prescription medications, antidepressants, nutritional supplements, dietary changes, activity levels, behavioral changes and sleep recommendations.

8. Is medical weight loss safe?
Dr. Rigby says the process is safe because it’s less about medication and more about trying to retrain the body to work more effectively and provide the highest quality of life possible.

Medications aren’t always used, but if prescribed, they are used as an aide to the overall process. Dr. Rigby goes further and states that he uses FDA-approved medication with his patients. He stresses the main goal of medical weight loss is to address behavioral changes in diet and lifestyle that lead to weight gain and loss.

9. Potential risks
Some risks include:
• Intolerance or adverse reaction to medication
• Loss of too much weight resulting in electrolyte abnormalities
• Possible worsening of other medical problems for a short time
• Regaining the weight

10. Long-term benefits
Medical weight loss benefits include:
• Higher quality of life
• Lower incidence of disease
• More energy
• Increased libido
• Less joint pain
• Better sleep quality
• Decrease in medical and financial burden
• Lower insurance premiums
• Increased confidence

Dr. Rigby says that even with a 5 percent weight reduction, patients are able to enjoy some of the benefits listed above.