Healthcare Providers Who Specialize in Obesity
Some healthcare providers specialize in treating obese or overweight people. These
healthcare providers are called bariatric healthcare providers or bariatricians. Some
of these healthcare providers may also be bariatric surgeons. Bariatric surgeons are
trained to do surgery that aids in weight loss.
Obesity is when body fat is above a certain level. Body mass index (BMI) is a common
way to measure obesity. BMI is a measurement that uses a person's height and weight
to determine a weight category. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 means overweight. A BMI higher
than 30 means obese. Your healthcare provider can calculate your BMI for you. You
can also ask your healthcare provider to teach you how to calculate BMI yourself.
Websites and apps are also available to help you do this. You can even see how many
pounds you need to lose to get your BMI down to the normal range.
Obesity can cause health problems such as diabetes and sleep apnea. Losing weight
can lower the risk of having these health problems. A general healthcare provider
can offer treatment for weight loss. Bariatric healthcare providers have more training
in how to treat obesity. They have often had special training after medical school.
Many of them take extra exams to earn board certification in bariatrics. Some of them
also have training to do weight loss surgery.
A bariatric healthcare provider uses a broad treatment plan. He or she will tailor
your plan to meet your needs and preferences. Your plan will include aspects such
as nutrition, exercise, behavior changes, and medicines. He or she may advise weight
loss surgery. A bariatric treatment plan is done to treat obesity, and also the health
conditions linked to obesity. Your plan should take into consideration your culture
and traditions, especially around food choices and types of exercise.
Obesity has become a common, serious, and costly problem in the U.S. Approximately
one third of adults in the U.S are obese. Because of this, the role of bariatric healthcare
providers has become more active in recent years.
Why might I need to see a healthcare provider who specializes in obesity?
If you are obese, it’s important that you get the right treatment. Obesity can lead
to a number of serious health conditions, including:
High blood pressure
Certain lung diseases
You might begin your treatment with your primary healthcare provider. If you need
additional help, you may want to see a bariatric healthcare provider. He or she may
have new ideas or approaches for weight loss that can help you. Some bariatric healthcare
providers give general medical care in addition to treating obesity. In this case,
you may choose to make your bariatric healthcare provider your primary healthcare
What can I expect at my first visit?
During your initial visit, your bariatric healthcare provider may:
Take a medical history. This includes your history of nutrition, exercise, and weight
Do a physical exam, including BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure
Look at your health problems related to obesity
Look for other medical problems that might cause weight gain
Look at how ready you are to start an exercise program
Find out if you need tests
Help you make realistic weight loss goals
Give you a nutrition plan
Tell you to keep a food diary
Find out if you need a weight-loss medicine
Your bariatric healthcare provider should also give you information about:
Healthy eating habits
Healthy exercise habits
How to change health behaviors
How mental health affects obesity
Complications of obesity
Benefits and risks of medicines
Your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan for you based on your medical
needs and preferences.
At each follow-up visit, your healthcare provider will check your progress. He or
she will make changes to your treatment as needed. If you aren’t losing enough weight,
your healthcare provider will suggest that you make other changes. As you lose weight
and your health gets better, your healthcare provider might change some of your medicines.
Your bariatric healthcare provider will also talk with you about your changing needs.
For example, if you try other treatments and your weight loss stops, your healthcare
provider might talk with you about weight-loss surgery.
What tests might my healthcare provider order?
Your bariatric healthcare provider may order a variety of tests to check factors related
to your obesity, such as:
Tests for diabetes, such as fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c
Lipid and cholesterol levels
Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels
Liver blood tests
Kidney function blood tests
Vitamin D levels
Electrocardiogram to assess heart rhythm
Exercise testing to see how well your heart works during exercise
Resting metabolic rate to see how many calories you burn at rest
Depending on your medical needs, your healthcare provider might do other tests.
How can I find a healthcare provider who specializes in obesity?
Talk with your primary healthcare provider. He or she may be able to refer you to
a bariatric healthcare provider. The Obesity Medicine Association, formerly known as American Society of Bariatric Physicians, has an online listing
of healthcare providers. The American Board of Obesity Medicine also has a list of healthcare providers credentialed in obesity medicine as well as
links to more information on obesity treatment.