Definition & Overview

Obesity is a serious medical problem characterized by the presence of excessive body fat. If left unchecked, it could result in a variety of health issues, including those that are life-threatening, such as diabetes and heart disease. Being obese is sometimes mistakenly confused with being overweight because both refer to a certain amount of weight that is considered disproportionate to a person’s height. The difference between the two lies in the fact that being overweight means being too heavy, not just from fat, but also from muscle, bone and water content in the body.

The best way to gauge whether a person is overweight or obese is by calculating his body mass index (BMI). The BMI is the person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in metres. A BMI value of 25.0 to 29.9 indicates that the person is overweight, and anything higher than 30.0 indicates obesity. However, the information that can be obtained from BMI is limited, and this does not include specific details about a person’s body fat. As such, a visit to a medical professional for a more detailed evaluation is necessary.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

The first step in treating obesity is to proceed with an obesity nutrition consultation with a general practitioner or an internist. People who have used the BMI calculator and gotten a result of 30.0 and higher are the prime candidates for this type of consultation. People who believe they are overweight and want to prevent themselves from hitting the obese mark must also take a pro-active stand and schedule an early consultation.

Though it is possible for an obese person to modify his diet on his own, it is still essential to have a professional design a nutritional program for it to be more effective.

The expected result of this consultation is for the patient to obtain a diagnosis and a customized treatment plan that is designed to help him achieve his ideal weight.

How Does the Procedure Work

An obesity nutrition consultation begins with a nurse or the doctor taking the patient’s health information for reference. This includes weight, height, previous and current illnesses, previous and current medications, exercise regimen, eating habits and family history.

This is often followed by a thorough physical examination. The patient’s vital signs will be taken and recorded including heart rate and blood pressure levels. The BMI will also be calculated and the waistline measured. These are indicators of obesity and mark the baseline for reference. Males who have a waistline of 40 inches and higher and females who have a waistline of at least 35 inches have a higher risk than those with smaller waistlines.

Blood, liver function and cholesterol tests may also be requested to get a more definite picture of the patient’s over-all health.

Once the doctor has a complete medical and physical profile, he can make a diagnosis. If it has been confirmed that the patient is obese, the doctor, together with a dietitian, will provide a customized treatment plan. The goal of any obesity treatment program is to lose weight and keep it off. Initially, the goal is to lose between 3% and 5% of the patient’s total weight. To achieve this, a nutritional program will be designed for the patient to develop healthy eating habits and lose weight through the process.

The nutritional program may include dietary changes like cutting calories and restriction of certain types of foods. Education is the key to helping the patient make healthier choices in food and meal replacements.

A nutritional program works together with an exercise program to boost healthy weight loss. Starting a new exercise program, even as simple as a 30-minute walk daily, can generate a modest weight loss and allows the patient to get started on a healthier lifestyle habit. The doctor may also elect to refer the patient to a fitness trainer, when and as needed.

In cases where the patient’s BMI is more than 30, prescription medications may be added to supplement a healthy diet and exercise program. In severe cases, the patient may also be informed about his surgical options. A bariatric surgery can be performed to reduce the risk of developing life-threatening medical conditions, which include some cancers and high blood pressure.

Possible Complications and Risks

The nutrition and weight loss program will be designed based solely on the medical information relayed to the doctor. If any details have been omitted, there is a risk that the health of the patient will be compromised or the treatment plan will not work as expected.

References:

  • Fitch A, Everling L, Fox C, et al. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Prevention and management of obesity for adults. Updated May 2013. Available at: https://www.icsi.org/_asset/s935hy/ObesityAdults.pdf. Accessed August 17, 2014.

  • Jensen MD. Obesity. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 227.

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