Obesity Treatment

If your BMI is in the obese range, your health care provider will typically review your health history in detail, perform a physical exam and recommend some tests.

These exams and tests generally include:

  • Taking your health history. Your doctor may review your weight history, weight-loss efforts, exercise habits, eating patterns, what other conditions you've had, medications, stress levels and other issues about your health. Your doctor may also review your family's health history to see if you may be predisposed to certain conditions.
  • A general physical exam. This includes also measuring your height; checking vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and temperature; listening to your heart and lungs; and examining your abdomen.
  • Calculating your BMI. Your doctor will check your body mass index (BMI) to determine your level of obesity. This should be done at least once a year. Your BMI also helps determine your overall health risk and what treatment may be appropriate.
  • Measuring your waist circumference. Fat stored around your waist, sometimes called visceral fat or abdominal fat, may further increase your risk of diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Women with a waist measurement (circumference) of more than 35 inches (80 centimeters, or cm) and men with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches (102 cm) may have more health risks than do people with smaller waist measurements. Like the BMI measurement, your waist circumference should be checked at least once a year.
  • Checking for other health problems. If you have known health problems, your doctor will evaluate them. Your doctor will also check for other possible health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Blood tests. What tests you have depend on your health, risk factors and any current symptoms you may be having. Tests may include a cholesterol test, liver function tests, a fasting glucose, a thyroid test and others. Your doctor may also recommend certain heart tests, such as an electrocardiogram.

Gathering all this information helps you and your doctor determine how much weight you need to lose and what health conditions or risks you already have. And this will guide treatment decisions.

Treatment

The goal of obesity treatment is to reach and stay at a healthy weight. You may need to work with a team of health professionals — including a dietitian, behavior counselor or an obesity specialist — to help you understand and make changes in your eating and activity habits.

The initial treatment goal is usually a modest weight loss — 3 to 5 percent of your total weight. That means that if you weigh 200 pounds (91 kg) and are obese by BMI standards, you would need to lose only about 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kg) for your health to begin to improve. However, the more weight you lose, the greater the benefits.

All weight-loss programs require changes in your eating habits and increased physical activity. The treatment methods that are right for you depend on your level of obesity, your overall health and your willingness to participate in your weight-loss plan.

Other treatment tools include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Exercise and activity
  • Behavior change
  • Prescription weight-loss medications
  • Weight-loss surgery
  • Dietary changes

Reducing calories and practicing healthier eating habits are vital to overcoming obesity. Although you may lose weight quickly at first, slow and steady weight loss over the long term is considered the safest way to lose weight and the best way to keep it off permanently.

Avoid drastic and unrealistic diet changes, such as crash diets, because they're unlikely to help you keep excess weight off for the long term.

Plan to participate in a comprehensive weight-loss program for at least six months and in the maintenance phase of a program for at least a year to boost your odds of weight-loss success.