I think we are at a crossroads in medicine right now. Imagine the perfect storm. Life expectancy is decreasing for the first time in generations. Public health measures have gotten a hold of cigarette smoking only to have obesity rise up and surpass it as the leading cause of preventable death. Major attempts at curbing obesity and diabetes have failed. The final data on Healthy People 2010 outcomes showed obesity and overweight individuals worsened over the measured period. At the same time, health care costs are high, outcomes are poor, and there is a scourge of physician and provider burnout — there’s even a shortage in some areas.
Overweight and obesity have long been associated with over 30 different chronic comorbid conditions. But some of these conditions are more readily talked about with providers than others. The impact of weight on Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Hypertension is pretty clear to both patients and physicians alike.
OK, we get it already! Being overweight has all these health risks… and two-thirds of people are overweight… and being overweight can complicate chronic conditions… and you have to lose weight NOW! Stop eating your favorite foods. Eat less. Workout, workout, workout…
Physicians are making great strides in learning how to effectively treat obesity despite the innumerable challenges that stand in the way of patients’ success. Overweight and obese patients sometime must face their own internalized stigma — but what happens when they leave their provider’s office? If a patient doesn’t have social support, their success can be derailed — and not just at the beginning stages of weight loss, but also when it comes to long-term maintenance.
These days, everything needs to be fast. We need fast internet, fast traffic, fast DMV lines. Fast is almost always better, right? The keyword is almost. Fast seems great on a surface level but when it comes to fast food, the tradeoff is fast weight gain.
According to the World Heart Federation, 21 percent of chronic heart disease cases are attributable to a BMI above 21. And with nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults overweight or obese, we are looking at the potential for heart disease rates to skyrocket in the coming years if we don’t collectively do something about the obesity epidemic.
I’ve struggled with weight all of my adult life. At times, I was sickly thin. Other times, I was bloated and uncomfortable in my own skin. Both experiences have given me a perspective on what it’s like to be overweight and underweight.
Physicians want real and long-lasting solutions for their patients’ obesity. In this quick-fix culture, it can be hard to sift through the bait and switch diets that promise quick results without lasting impact. Quick weight loss is a great benefit to patients, especially those with chronic obesity-related conditions, but it is only truly effective if the weight loss is maintained. A Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) combines behavior modification and nutrition education to provide rapid, medically-supervised weight loss with long-lasting results. It is the education and patient empowerment provided to patients on a VLCD that is paramount to long-term success.
If you aren’t practicing obesity treatment in your health practice, you may be ignoring a huge elephant in the room. Physicians can sometimes be hesitant to open that door because of many reasons: lack of knowledge on how to implement weight loss; not having enough time or resources; or maybe you have been so busy treating other chronic conditions that you haven’t even considered obesity treatment or that it could actually be the cause of many of your patients’ ailments.
By now, the need to prioritize obesity treatment in health care is widely accepted. Not a single state met the 2010 Healthy People goal of a 15% obesity rate. Instead, obesity rates have steadily climbed, with over one-third of American adults being obese, and with the United States ranking as one of the most obese countries in the world. And with obesity rates rising, so do the rates of comorbid conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.