By Pamela Hammonds
Just yesterday it seemed we were flipping the calendar to 2014 and, with that motion, we vowed to lose weight, move more, get healthy. If you’ve seen the pounds melt away, then congratulations! If you’ve struggled to see any significant improvement, don’t despair.
Being overweight or obese can cause serious health issues commonly referred to as comorbidities. A scary-sounding word and rightfully so. If you’re currently seeing a physician for any condition associated with excess weight such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, try this tactic. Instead of asking for a prescription refill, ask: How can you help me lose weight and get healthy?
“Your personal history is the most important factor,” said Maria Flaquer, M.D., a family physician at Crescent Family Medicine in Allen, Texas. “If you have two or more weight-related conditions, the risks increase exponentially. It’s no longer one plus one equals two. Now it’s, ‘I have diabetes and hypertension and have exponentially increased my risk for coronary artery disease—higher than if I had each individual disease.’”
A physician who knows your medical history should be honest with you about your future risks. You should also feel comfortable discussing your personal goals and weaknesses as well as asking questions. Ask him or her to calculate your body mass index, or BMI. (Several online sites can calculate this for you if you know your height and weight.) This number is key to understanding how much weight you need to lose.
If your doctor suggests you walk three miles, three days a week, and you know you won’t, then discuss alternative exercise options. If he or she proposes a diet of lean meat and fish plus veggies with no dairy, admit that your refrigerator has a drawer just for cheese.
“Even if you do surgery on a patient, order prescriptions for a patient, or recommend diet and exercise only, the weight-loss process is about a year to a year-and-a-half,” said Dr. Flaquer. “When you tell that to a patient, he or she says, ‘Hmm… not what I’m looking for.’ Everybody wants a quick fix.”
While surgical options such as lap-band and gastric sleeve procedures can help obese patients (BMI of 30 or above) lose weight, significant lifestyle changes have to occur for long-term success. The FDA has approved prescription medications to assist in weight loss, but each comes with side effects you have to consider before taking. “There are prescriptions that will help curb appetites or make you feel fuller, faster,” said Dr. Flaquer. “Others help you metabolize your food a little better or help you to lose weight quicker. For example, Phentermine decreases your appetite and increases your metabolism, but the FDA advises against using it for more than 12 weeks because you open the door for pulmonary hypertension, coronary artery disease and other complicated issues.”
For long-term success, find a physician who can partner with you on your weight-loss journey. “What I usually ask my patients is: ‘Are you really ready to lose weight?’” said Dr. Flaquer. “And when they’re really ready to lose weight, that’s when we proceed forward. It’s similar to quitting smoking. You can’t tell someone to quit smoking if they’re not ready.”
If you’re ready to lose weight and need a professional to help you get there, ask your doctor for help. If you don’t have a physician, call your closest hospital and ask for a referral. Many hospitals also offer free nutrition seminars, exercise programs and weight management classes.[