This content is sponsored by MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
The U.S. obesity prevalence was about 42% in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Conditions related to obesity include diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. The CDC also said these diseases are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death.
Fortunately, there are several options when it comes to maintaining your weight.
Dr. Ivanesa Pardo, a board-certified general and bariatric surgeon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said she encourages patients to use traditional methods like diet and exercise.
She recommends 60 minutes of exercise three times a week, avoiding trans fat, and moderating your intake of sugar and liquid calories. Dr. Pardo also stressed the importance of avoiding restrictive diets.
“If you’re starving yourself, when you finally start eating, your body starts accumulating all the calories, because it thinks ‘when am I going to starve again.’ So you start taking extra into your reserve,” Dr. Pardo explained.
Although diet and exercise can be effective, Dr. Pardo said results could be hard to maintain when only using the two methods alone.
“We know that diet and exercise alone – even though they could be successful in helping weight loss – they fail in maintenance,” she said.
Your lifestyle can also make it more challenging to incorporate diet and exercise into your daily routine.
“And then you have people that have obesity– they have limitations in their activity, Dr. Pardo said. “They have arthritis or respiratory problems because they’re carrying that extra weight. That makes it much harder to be more active.”
Other options include weight loss medication, but Dr. Pardo warns patients to be weary of gimmicks.
“Obesity is not a one single-cause problem, and not one thing caused the obesity, so we can’t expect that one ingredient is going to then make you lose all the weight,” she said.
Prescription medications for weight loss have evolved over the years, and Dr. Pardo said weight loss clinics have produced some degree of success with medications like phentermine, and B-12 injections. However, she said newer medication – GLP-1 agonists such as ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro – have been proven to be very effective.
“These are now injectables instead of pills, and so far, the results are very promising. The problem is, of course, we don’t have long term data,” she said.
Some people can’t tolerate them due to the side effects, which include gastrointestinal issues. Some may not experience any weight loss.
“So it’s like any tool. It may or may not work. But as of now, these are the medications that have proven to be the most efficacious,” she said. “They can cause somewhere between five and 10% weight loss within several months.”
Dr. Pardo also said GLP-1 agonists are a good alternative to bariatric surgery, another effective weight loss option.
The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery recently dropped the body mass index requirement from 40 to 35 without comorbidities and from 35 to 30 for people with comorbidities. Dr. Pardo praised the changes, saying surgery “can reverse diabetes fully, so why wait?”
Cost can be a deterring factor in receiving bariatric surgery, but Dr. Pardo said insurances are now covering the procedure more freely. She added that the data showed that it was more affordable to pay for surgery versus the prolonged, ongoing treatment of not only obesity or medications, but diabetes.
Only about one percent of people that qualify for surgery receive it. According to Dr. Pardo, this is because of the stigma associated with the procedure.
“And the reality is that death from the surgery is less than half a percent. Bariatric surgery now is safer than a hip replacement, it’s safer than even taking your gallbladder out,” she said.
Dr. Pardo also highlighted that bariatric surgery is not the end of a patients’ weight loss journey. Someone who just underwent the procedure must focus on nutrition and portion control since the stomach will be smaller. This includes learning to read labels, and consuming high protein and healthy fats.
Obesity is a chronic disease most people will fight their entire lives, and Dr. Pardo says the goal is to help people live healthier, longer lives.
“Even if you’re successful in weight loss, it doesn’t mean that you’re done, you still have to prevent weight regain.”
Read more about weight management options on the MedStar Washington Hospital Center website.