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With roughly a third overweight andmedical-563427_640 another third obese, the American public has been needing more assistance to treat or cope with their weight issues in recent years, and weight-loss has generally become a more prevalent conversation topic.  If you are concern about your weight, then your primary care physician is a great person to start the talk with about taking steps towards losing weight and getting your general health in check.  After beginning this discussion, your primary care physician may refer you to a bariatrician.  

A bariatrician is a doctor who specializes in helping individuals with obesity and weight-related health problems, such as diabetes, stroke, arthritis, liver disease, and sleep apnea.  Bariatricians are often confused with bariatric surgeons.  Both doctors’ goals are to help with obesity and the associated health conditions.  The difference is that bariatric surgeons use surgical methods in order to achieve weight-loss whereas bariatricians do not.  The bariatrician’s goal is to look at the patients’ full medical history and lifestyle to find the best approach for the most successful weight-loss plan.  Depending on the level of medical involvement and expertise, an evaluation of your body composition, blood tests, and personal as well as family histories can help identify whether your weight-loss endeavors could be slow as a result of a sluggish thyroid, aging process, low muscle mass, menopause, insulin resistance/pre-diabetic state, or something else.  With this knowledge, bariatricians can design a treatment plan to optimize the effectiveness of your weight-loss and to improve your health outcomes.

The treatment plan generally consists of changes in diet, physical activity, and behavioral modifications.  Bariatricians can also be more aggressive about the rate of weight-loss compared to commercially available weight-loss programs because of the level of expertise and the ability to assess for safety.  One of the tools that a bariatrician may use is FDA-approved medications to help suppress the appetite during the weight-loss process.  Appetite suppressants can be very helpful in reducing the hunger and cravings that make dietary changes a challenge.  Keep in mind that appetite suppressants are not miracle weight-loss drugs.  If you just take the medications, without making any other changes in your life, there is a good chance you will not lose weight and a guarantee that you will gain the weight back immediately after stopping the medication.  However, if you take the medication in conjunction with making behavioral and dietary changes, the weight-loss results can be significant and sustainable for many months to years after you stop the medication.  

Ultimately, bariatricians see obesity as a disease and view obesity as a medical and preventive issue instead of a cosmetic one.  By studying the contributing factors, bariatricians can design a better targeted approach for you.  Getting evaluated by a bariatrician will also offer you a unique insight into the metabolic factors influencing your weight and thereby empower you to take control of your weight, establish longer-lasting lifestyle changes, and improve your overall health.  And, health is not something that should go on the back burner.  If you are concern about your weight, contact your primary care physician and local bariatrician now so that, together, they can work with you to find a sustainable weight-loss solution.

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