Ask the Expert: When Should I Seek Help with Weight Loss?

When it comes to losing weight, it’s not one-size-fits-all.

Ascension Michigan

For those struggling with excess weight, it can be challenging to implement and stick to a lifestyle change – and oftentimes, they need help to reach their goals. That’s where Dr. Angela Harden-Mack, M.D. comes in. She’s a weight management specialist, also known as an obesity medicine physician, with Ascension Medical Group.

Dr. Harden-Mack provides patients with information, guidance and support on their weight loss and maintenance journeys. When it comes to helping with weight loss, individualized care is key. “There isn’t one plan that will work for everyone,” she says. “We have to identify what the patient’s needs are (and) what the patient’s goals are.”

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Much like there isn’t one right way to lose weight, there isn’t one reason why people may struggle with the numbers on the scale. Weight gain goes beyond calorie excess, Dr. Harden-Mack notes. In fact, there are several factors that impact a person’s weight such as genetic makeup, lifestyle habits, some medications and medical conditions, and the environment.  

People are less active, more sedentary, and many work in environments where they spend most of their time sitting. To top it off, high-calorie foods and snacks are readily available. “It’s like the perfect storm,” she says, and it’s much easier to gain weight than it is to lose it.

However, excess weight can have a significant impact on overall health, she says. Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease and sleep apnea are among the complications that could come with being overweight or with obesity. In addition, those living with excess weight may struggle with unhealthy eating patterns, which, if not addressed, make weight loss more difficult. That’s why seeking the help of a specialist is valuable. 

“The higher the weight, the greater the impact on quality of life. As the weight increases, the individual may experience more hurdles in society and therefore, may be less social,” Dr. Harden-Mack says. Plus, factor increased medical costs due to medications, more doctor’s visits, additional imaging and the like.

If an individual is experiencing any of these issues, it could be time to evaluate the complete medical history, not just diet and exercise. And, when it comes to starting a weight loss journey, Dr. Harden-Mack says that many people have used resources like self-guided initiatives, commercial programs and wellness practitioners prior to seeking the help of medical providers.

When the weight loss journey has been long and difficult, patients may benefit from the assistance of a medical specialist uniquely trained in weight management, like Dr. Harden-Mack, who cares for those with straightforward and complex medical histories.

“I evaluate each patient and make weight management recommendations specific to the patient. The weight loss or weight maintenance plan will include nutrition, exercise and behavior therapies. When needed and relevant to the patient, the plan may include recommendations for medications, bariatric surgery and care with exercise specialists, psychologists or therapists.”

Get more health information and find a doctor near you by visiting ascension.org/michigan or calling 866-501-DOCS (3627).

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