Medical Column: Weight Loss - It's Actually Possible!

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By: Ethan McBrayer, D.O.

Do you feel losing weight is an impossible goal to achieve? Have you ever wondered if you are overweight? Do you feel like you don’t know where to even start with weight loss? I hope by reading this article you will have a better understanding of the medical definition of obesity and what steps to take on beginning weight loss. Doctors use body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference when screening patients for obesity. BMI is calculated by factoring in height and weight. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) a BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight and greater than 30 is obese. A waist circumference in men greater than 40 inches and in women greater than 35 inches is consider high risk for obesity related conditions. Therefore, a 5ft 11in male weighing 190 lbs, with a 40 in waist is considered overweight and at risk for obesity related conditions. As a family medicine doctor, I screen patients for obesity related conditions which include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, sleep disorders, and thyroid disease.

Changing unhealthy lifestyle habits is the first step toward weight loss. The American Family Physician, a journal supported by the AAFP, recommends steering away from processed foods at fast food venues and implementing balanced servings of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. A food diary is an excellent way to monitor what you are eating and enhances self-awareness. AAFP supports becoming more physically active. Small changes in activity, such as walking 15 minutes for five days during week one of weight loss can yield big results, which will encourage you to continue your exercise efforts. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity exercise such as i.e. brisk walking, dancing, riding a bike, and hiking. Both the CDC and AAFP report that to be successful with weight loss, you must identify resources to help support your weight loss efforts like your family medicine doctor and family.

Family medicine doctors can help assist you with weight loss planning. A weight loss goal of losing 5 to 10% of your weight in 6 months is recommended by the AAFP. Aside from planning, family medicine doctors can evaluate the risks you may face from obesity which include high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Family medicine doctors will monitor the effects of weight loss on these medical conditions and will adjust medications used to treat these conditions accordingly. If no weight loss has been achieved after lifestyle changes, your doctor may elect to start a weight loss medication or even begin discussing newer surgical treatments for obesity such as sleeve gastrectomy

Losing weight is not an overnight event. The goal, at first, seems daunting but it is absolutely achievable. With self-determination to make healthier lifestyle choices, a support system to hold you accountable along the way, and a family doctor to monitor your progress, you will, most definitely, succeed in your weight loss efforts.