Does Medical Weight Loss Offer Something Unique?
With all of the commercial weight loss programs, centers, diet plans, products and supplements available, is it really the case that a medical weight loss approach might offer some advantages? And what is really meant by “medical weight loss program” anyway?
Well these are great questions as we enter a new era in which physicians and medical centers are beginning to apply their know-how to the problem of weight gain and obesity. In my view it is has been far too long in coming. Physicians and mainstream western medicine have neglected weight problems as though they were social problems or behavioral self control problems and had nothing to do with the mission of medical care to improve life and longevity.
As we all know by now, gaining weight is a health problem and one of the most common and most serious health problems any of us will face. Medical science may have been slow to recognize the seriousness of what has now become an epidemic, but rest assured that many of the best and brightest in an array of disciplines of science and medicine have turned their full attention to this problem, and they are achieving results.
When I describe a medical weight loss program, I am really describing a concept or a program that embraces all of the tools available to successfully battle against those extra pounds. Furthermore, the concept of a medical weight loss center implies an adherence to an evidence-based approach. So in its best sense, it means dedicated people taking the time to develop creative solutions and then test them experimentally to see if they do indeed work for real people. Over time, with enough experiments and enough smart and dedicated people creating new and better solutions, the evidence accumulates that some treatments are in fact superior to others.
It is this devotion to evidence and to proven strategies that brings out the most successful treatments for all kinds of health conditions and diseases. It is true that this approach is imperfect, and open in some cases to manipulation or commercial bias, but it has been the most effective paradigm for developing new and successful treatments across the span of human conditions.
So while some particular commercial programs or individual treatment supplements, formulas, products and theories tend to reflect the commercial goals of the particular products being recommended, medical weight loss centers tend to evolve with the evolving evidence and change strategies as newer and better strategies prove more worthy.
Medical weight loss centers have no restrictions on the types of interventions and treatment options they may recommend or administer, other than those that guide medical practices in general. This certainly makes a very important difference when it comes to prescription medications, a form of treatment that is advancing rapidly in two ways. The first way that the field of weight loss medications is advancing is in the discovery of new medications. With the belated, but now dedicated attention of the pharmaceutical industry, weight loss drug development is now in full swing. Several promising avenues for treatment continue along the pharmaceutical research pipeline. Inevitably within a few years, we will have more options for successful treatment of cravings, hunger and weight gain.
The second way that the field of weight loss medication is improving rapidly is in the area of newer and better clinical trials of existing medications. For example, recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of phentermine, a commonly prescribed weight loss medication, in treating adolescents, in treating patients long-term, and for use in induction weight loss programs in combination with very low calorie medically supervised diets. So better clinical research is teaching us better ways to use medications, just one more arm of a comprehensive weight loss approach.
A good medical weight loss center remains curious about the literature and about the newest evidence. A good medical weight loss center maintains an open mindedness to the best treatments that may come from anywhere in the world or from any company or from any discipline. It strives to integrate the best approaches, including behavior modification techniques, communication and education techniques, exercise and fitness training techniques, dietary meal replacement options, prescription medications, supplements and vitamins, hormonal manipulation or other methods.
A quality medical weight loss program remains open to the best ideas that provide its patients with the greatest success. It remains free of commercial bias and is willing to change brands, formulas, medicines or techniques as the science leads in new directions. It is not quick to jump on hot trends or fad programs, but instead expects a certain threshold of evidence and proof and clinical studies before jumping on board. The physicians who operate a medical weight loss clinic should remain actively curious and highly engaged in the medical literature that discusses pharmaceutical, behavioral, social, motivational, psychological and physical methods to achieve health and weight loss.
So does a medical weight loss program offer something unique? I believe it does. I believe that it offers the chance to bring together the very best strategies of all of the competing types of commercial weight loss programs. It can bring together programs centered around meal replacements which have proven successful. It can bring together the motivational social support systems that have been shown to be successful. It can bring together the proven techniques of the branch of psychology that deals with behavior modification that have proven successful in weight loss, smoking cessation and many other behaviors. Elements of life coaching that provide greater depths of motivation and help a person ground their weight loss efforts within the greater context of their life goals.
And added to all of this is the fact that the weight loss program is directed by a physician who can not only apply medical solutions such as prescription medications of weight loss surgical techniques, but can assess the individual for the many related conditions associated with weight gain. Only a physician can determine if for example an individual is currently suffering from a condition such as hypothyroidism which in fact causes weight gain, or can review a person’s medications and see that one or more of them has the unwelcome side effect of causing weight gain, and lastly the physician can be an excellent physician to diagnose the underlying causes and find the treatments for conditions associated with the weight gain like sleep disturbance and snoring disorders, headaches, depressed mood, lowered quality of life as well as the overt medical manifestations like diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
In short, a well designed, well-executed medical weight loss program combines the best elements of all weight loss disciplines, adding a caring physician to oversee the journey, and providing much needed medical supervision.