Medically supervised weight loss is a way medical providers help people lose weight safely and effectively using a specialized program tailored to the individual. In this article, we dive into why medically supervised weight loss matters and what you need to know.
Why weight loss matters
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls obesity “a common, serious, and costly disease.” In a study on obesity and severe obesity among adults, about 42% of adults in the U.S. live with the condition, while about 31% are overweight. Altogether, roughly 7 in 10 American adults weigh more than they should for their age and height.
Losing weight, though, is no easy task. An analysis of U.S. weight-loss maintenance studies found that only about 1 in 5 people in the U.S. successfully lose weight. Most (4 out of 5) find that losing weight is an uphill task fraught with ups and downs, plateaus, and frustrations.
But what does losing weight with medical assistance look like?
What is medically assisted weight loss?
Medically assisted weight loss is losing weight with the supervision and assistance of a qualified healthcare provider or team of health providers. The team may include a physician, nurse practitioner, nurse, registered dietician, therapist, or other providers. It’s usually a multifaceted approach that involves diet and meal planning, physical activity, behavioral therapy, medication, and sometimes surgery.
Since medically assisted weight loss is tailored to your particular needs, it’s more likely to work. Instead of relying on willpower and guesswork, you get personalized care that meets your needs and a provider or team of providers committed to helping you reach your goals.
What medically supervised weight loss options are there?
There are several medically supervised weight loss options. You may be offered a combination of these options for best results. They include the following:
- Diet plans or meal replacement programs: If you need to modify your diet to lose weight, you may be given a meal plan, asked to work with a dietician, and/or placed on meal replacements to make it easier. Typically, plans are tailored to your needs and may involve shakes, bars, or soups to help control portions and reduce calories.
- Physical activity: Your provider may recommend you follow an exercise regimen to help you burn more calories, improve overall health, and retain muscle while you lose weight.
- Behavioral therapy: You may see a behavioral therapist to help you deal with any emotional, psychological, or behavioral issues that affect your eating habits.
- Prescription medication or surgery: You may be placed on prescription medication to help with weight loss. The medication can help control appetite, regulate hormones, or change your metabolism. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.
Does medically assisted weight loss work?
Research shows that medically assisted weight loss plans have a higher chance of success than plans where individuals attempt weight loss independently. In one study, researchers found that with medical weight loss, participants lost 14.4% of their body weight. They also retained 12.9% of the weight lost two years after the study.
Another study on medically supervised weight management found that people who chose medically assisted programs still kept significant amounts of their weight off even after five years.
However, no approach provides an overnight fix. Overall, the success of a medically-assisted program depends on:
- Individual factors: Due to genetics, metabolic rate, and personal circumstances, people lose weight at different rates and keep it off with varying degrees of success.
- Professional guidance: Seeking weight loss treatment from a professional healthcare provider increases your chances of success.
- Commitment to the program: Medically assisted weight loss takes time and commitment. Committing to the cost and sticking with the program long-term is critical.
- Pre-existing health conditions: Any existing health conditions you have can affect your ability to commit to and succeed at a weight loss program. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, hypertension, or arthritis can make it harder to stick to your recommended program. Sometimes medication for these conditions can cause weight gain.
How to choose the best medically assisted weight loss program for you
Choosing the best medically assisted program depends on your needs, goals, and resources. Target choosing a program that meets the following criteria:
- Offered through a licensed professional(s) you feel comfortable with. Medically assisted weight loss isn’t without risks, especially when considering medication or surgery. You want to ensure the providers you work with are appropriately trained and licensed and that you feel comfortable working with them.
- Based on scientific evidence, not guesswork. You want to be sure the program you or that’s recommended to you is based on medically sound science, not the latest trend.
- Tailored to your specific needs. Choose a provider that creates a tailored plan for you and isn’t using a general plan for just anyone. You may also prefer a provider that offers flexible appointments that work, whether online, in an office, or a combination of the two.
- Include realistic expectations. Having realistic hopes for your weight loss program is important. Any good provider will work with you to create a realistic plan and timeline. They’ll also plan follow-ups to track your progress and make adjustments as needed.
- Is sustainable. Weight gain takes time, and weight loss does too. A good approach for you is one you can afford and stick with over time.
- Is affordable. You want to be sure you can cover the costs of your treatment. This may involve checking if your insurance covers your care or considering out-of-pocket payments.
What’s the best prescription medication for weight loss?
There’s no single best prescription medication for weight loss. Some of the many medications available for medically assisted weight loss include:
- Tirzepatide (Zepound, Mounjaro)
- Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wergovy, Rybelsus)
- Liraglutide (Victoza, Saxenda)
- Orlistat (Alli, Xenical. Alli is available without a prescription.)
- Phentermine (Pro-Fast, Lomaira, Adipex-P)
- Bupropion/Naltrexone (Contrave)
- Setmelanotide (Imcivree)
The best medication is one that is safe for you and considers your health and needs. Your healthcare provider will assess you, take your history, and suggest the best medication for you if they deem it medically necessary.
Losing weight with the help of a healthcare provider
Losing weight with the help of a healthcare provider improves your chances of losing weight successfully. Your healthcare provider – or team – offers expertise and experience while holding you accountable and supporting your weight loss journey.
Several providers can help you lose weight. Depending on your needs and individual situation, some of the providers you work with may include:
- Primary care providers, physician assistants, and/or nurse practitioners. These providers can help you get appropriate care and monitor your progress on a set medical weight loss program. They can also work with you to change your diet, prescribe medication, provide health education, and provide referrals to other professionals, including a surgeon, if surgery is advised.
- Surgeons. A surgeon can perform weight loss surgery if you need surgery to help you lose weight.
- Registered dieticians (RD) or nutritionists. A nutritionist helps you plan meals to make sure you get the right calories, food types, vitamins, and minerals. They also help you manage any food allergies and monitor your nutritional status.
- Physical therapist. A physical therapist helps design the right exercise plan for you. They may also monitor your physical activity and help prevent injuries.
- Mental health therapist. Excess weight gain is often linked to emotions, habits, and choices. A therapist can provide behavioral therapy, counseling, and support to help you overcome emotional barriers. They may also teach you coping mechanisms and help you develop better habits through behavior modification.
What to expect with a medically assisted weight loss program
With a medically assisted weight loss program, expect a tailored approach for your weight loss. Usually, this involves changes to your diet, physical activity, and sometimes medication or surgery. Here’s what a program may involve.
An initial assessment. At the start of the program, your provider will assess your weight and take a thorough history. They may ask about your weight gain, eating habits, exercise routine, goals, medical history, and current medications.
They’ll likely take your weight, body mass index (a measure of your weight relative to your height), and other body measurements, such as your abdominal circumference.
A personalized plan. You may be given a personalized plan that recommends one or more of the following:
- A meal plan/diet based on your preferences, nutritional needs, and weight loss goals.
- An exercise plan based on your fitness level, your provider may recommend a tailored plan that includes aerobic activity, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
- Behavioral counseling to help you overcome stress and emotional eating while developing better habits.
- Prescription medication, if your provider determines it’s needed to help you lose weight, dosing, and possible side effects, you should know.
- Surgery, if determined, is the best option.
Ongoing monitoring and follow-up. To ensure the program’s success, you need to see your provider regularly for check-ins as advised. During follow-up visits, they review your progress, go over your medication, and address any concerns. They may also ask for periodic health tests throughout your journey.
Expect to commit to the process long-term. It may take weeks or months to achieve your weight loss goals. And even then, you may still need monitoring and support to keep the weight off.
Get help with medically supervised weight loss with Klarity
With Klarity, you can find a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, psychologist, and/or therapist to help with your weight loss goals. Find a provider for help with medically supervised weight loss with Klarity today.