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Working with an Obesity Specialist (Bariatric Healthcare Provider)

Obesity is a complex problem. A general healthcare provider can offer help with weight loss. But a bariatric healthcare provider has more training in how to treat obesity. This type of provider is also called a bariatrician. They have had extra training in weight and health. Many of them have also had training to do surgery that aids in weight loss. This type of provider is called a bariatric surgeon. 

What is obesity?

Obesity is when body fat is above a certain level. Body mass index (BMI) is a way to measure obesity. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI of 25 to 30 is overweight. A BMI over 30 is obese. Your healthcare provider can calculate your BMI for you. You can also use an online BMI calculator at the National Institutes of Health website at www.nih.gov.

Why see a bariatric healthcare provider?

If you are obese, it’s important for you to get treatment. Obesity can lead to serious health problems, such as:

  • Diabetes

  • Arthritis

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Sleep apnea

  • Liver disease

  • Certain lung diseases

  • Certain cancers

You may begin your treatment with your primary healthcare provider. But if you need more help, you may want to see a bariatric healthcare provider. He or she may have new ideas or weight loss methods that can help you.

What to expect at your first visit

At your first visit, your bariatric healthcare provider may:

  • Ask about your health history. This includes your history of eating habits, exercise, and weight loss.

  • Give you a physical exam. This includes BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure.

He or she may order some tests. These are to check health factors linked to obesity. They also look for health problems that can cause weight gain. You may have tests such as:

  • Blood sugar levels, to check for diabetes

  • Lipid and cholesterol levels

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels

  • Liver blood tests

  • Kidney function blood tests

  • Vitamin D levels

  • Electrocardiogram, to look at your heart rhythm

  • Exercise testing, to see how well your heart works during exercise

  • Resting metabolic rate, to look at how many calories you burn at rest

Creating a treatment plan

Your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan for you. The plan is based on your health needs and preferences. Your provider will:

  • Find out how ready you are to begin an exercise program

  • Help you make realistic weight-loss goals

  • Give you a nutrition plan

  • Tell you to keep a food diary

  • Talk with you about a weight-loss medicine, if needed

He or she will give you information about:

  • Healthy eating habits

  • Healthy exercise habits

  • How to change health behaviors

  • How mental health affects obesity

  • The complications of obesity

  • The benefits and risks of medicines

At each follow-up visit, your healthcare provider will check your progress. He or she will make changes to your plan as needed. As you lose weight and your health improves, your provider might change some of your medicines. If your weight loss stops or you regain weight, he or she may talk with you about weight-loss surgery.

Finding a bariatric healthcare provider

Talk first with your primary healthcare provider. He or she may be able to refer you to a bariatric healthcare provider. You can also go to the Obesity Medicine Association website at obesitymedicine.org. They have an online listing of providers. You can search for ones in your area.

Online Medical Reviewer: Demuro, Jonas, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
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