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Don’t Go it Alone: How Physician-Assisted Weight Loss Works

Mar 09, 2016 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Lisa J. Gotto

Between losing weight the traditional way on your own with diligent dieting and daily exercise and qualifying for gastric bypass surgery, there are many options on the weight-loss spectrum. Most of us know these include a myriad of fad diets, but what many don’t know is how effective a physician guided plan can be.

Now that it’s March and summer is swiftly approaching, we thought we’d explore a more medically focused approach to weight loss. Dr. David Anderson of Annapolis Medical Weight Loss, who specializes in this field, says he treats a wide variety of patients. From those who just want to lose 10 to 20 pounds, to those who have serious health concerns due to obesity.

Getting Started & The #1 Worry

Dr. Anderson says it all starts with a thorough Q and A. “The very first question I ask is [what are your weight concerns and what is motivating you to change?] It is very important to me to understand their personal goals and what is behind them,” Dr. Anderson says. “I then take a careful medical history including medications, lifestyle, diet, exercise, and attempts to lose weight in the past.”

This is a great opportunity to evaluate the patient’s attitudes and worries about dieting, says Dr. Anderson.

Interestingly enough the patient’s biggest concern is the worry of being hungry and feeling deprived of the social aspects of their lives when they are on a weight-loss plan.

“We teach them that their hunger hormones are driven down by our diet itself, and so they should NOT be hungry or miserable while working with us. There are always new lifestyle tips, ‘free’ foods, or other things we can do to help them reach their goals,” Dr. Anderson says.

The program consists of one-on-one sessions with a physician every one to two weeks where changes since the last visit in body fat, water, and muscle are assessed. Along with the past week’s progress, conversations also review any trouble the patient had with emotional eating, nighttime snacking, comfort food and exercise issues, or how to handle food at various upcoming social events.

“This diet and lifestyle change is not meant to stop their enjoyment of life, and they certainly do not have to be perfect all the time to be very successful,” Dr. Anderson says. “It just means striving to be better than previously, and knowing exactly how to achieve that.”

“There are parameters which are 
more closely tied to a person’s health, 
like [the body’s] percentage of fat, 
water, and muscle,” Dr. Anderson 
says. “We have the technology to 
measure these at each office visit 
and follow changes over time.” 
—Dr. David Anderson of Annapolis 
Medical Weight Loss

 Proof in The Pudding?

So what about the results? How long will or should it take to reach a realistic goal weight? Dr. Anderson says the average weight-loss per month on his plan is 17 pounds for men and 12 pounds for women. The average weight loss over a three-month period is 33 pounds for men and 25 pounds for women.

Success on the program is not left to chance.

“Using various parameters, we can now very accurately predict for each individual what the expected weight loss should be in six weeks, using different modalities and meal plans,” Dr. Anderson adds. “This is very helpful and motivating for patients, so we can guide them in devising an individualized weight loss program that is right for them.”

It’s Goal Time! What Now?

Dr. Anderson explains that support doesn’t just end once a goal weight has been achieved. “Once they reach their healthy weight goal, I give them a very detailed diet plan, based on their own individual metabolic rate, for maintenance. I then have them follow-up routinely with me over time, or if they ever see that they are drifting in the wrong direction,” he says.

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Costs Associated With Physician-Assisted Weight Loss

Some health insurance plans do cover physician-assisted weight loss. Check with your insurance company about your own plan. While Dr. Anderson does not participate directly with insurance companies, the practice will provide the patient with a Letter of Medical Necessity, itemized receipt, or any other documentation necessary for claim filing. Also, money saved in that patient’s Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) can generally be used for programs like this.

Big Bad News About Fat

Being overweight is not just an inconvenience; it is medically linked to the development of serious health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and many types of cancer. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine, in 2006, cited excess body weight during midlife with an increased risk of death.

How Accurate is The BMI Index?

You may have heard of this term, or Body Mass Index, as a tool used by the health community to determine how healthy you are from a weight perspective. Recent studies have found that its simple mathematical formula based on a ratio of height to weight may not be the best indicator of health based on a person’s weight.