Variety of healthy fruits and vegetables to help with losing weight without surgery

Can an obese person lose weight without surgery?

Written on December 13, 2022 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

The prevalence of obesity in the United States increased over the years to a staggering 41.9% in 2020 [1]. The impact of obesity on such a significant portion of the population lends itself to an estimated 2019 annual medical cost of obesity in the United States of almost $173 billion [2]. The medical costs for an adult with obesity were about $1,861 higher than for a person who was not obese. Obesity affects Black adults more than white, Hispanic, and Asian ethnicities. Adults aged 40 to 59 years also have a higher prevalence of obesity.

What is obesity?

Obesity or overweight is when your weight is higher than what is termed healthy for a given height [3]. A screening tool that healthcare providers can use to measure for obesity is called the body mass index or BMI. Based on the calculated BMI on your height and weight, you can be classified as the following [3]:

  • BMI is less than 18.5; then you are underweight.
  • BMI is 18.5 to less than 25; then you are a healthy weight.
  • BMI is 25 to less than 30; then you are overweight.
  • BMI is 30 or higher; then you are obese or fall within obesity.

Obesity can also be further divided into subclasses [3]:

  • BMI is 30 to less than 35: Class 1 Obesity
  • BMI is 35 to less than 40: Class 2 Obesity
  • BMI is 40 or higher: Class 3 Obesity or Severe Obesity

Obesity causes health issues

Obesity is considered a chronic disease that can lead to a wide range of complications [4,5]. Obesity promotes a constant state of low-grade inflammation in the body. It is estimated to significantly decrease how long you can live by 5 to 10 years [4]. Being overweight or obese can cause many health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, and depression, to name a few.

Benefits of weight loss in obesity

Every day, millions of people are looking for ways to lose weight. About 60% to 70% of Americans who are obese try to lose weight annually [5]. A 5% to 10% weight loss can improve your health and inspire you to make further changes for better overall well-being [4]. Losing the extra weight can lead to living longer and fewer health complications. Specifically, weight loss can prevent the development of diabetes, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and even diminish the risk of death attributed to heart health and diseases.

Surgery is invasive, and you may have to pay the cost

One of the ways obese people can lose weight is with surgery. However, surgery is invasive and can cause its own complications. During weight loss surgery, complications such as breakage, internal bleeding, leakage, perforation of the stomach or intestines, and spleen or other organ damage may occur [6]. For a weight loss surgery called bariatric surgery, after operations and long-term risks include [6]:

  • Acid reflux
  • Chronic nausea and vomiting
  • Dilation of esophagus
  • Inability to eat certain foods
  • Infection
  • Obstruction of stomach
  • Low blood sugar
  • Malnutrition/vitamin deficiency
  • Ulcers
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Hernias

Additionally, not all medical insurance will cover weight loss surgery costs. You will have to check with your own coverage to determine how much you will have to pay.

Ways to lose weight without surgery

You can lose weight without surgery. Below is a list of some ways you can trim some weight off without ever having to undergo surgery:

  1. Eat a healthy and balanced diet [4]. Select foods that include leafy green vegetables, fruits, and nuts. You can additionally consider working with a provider that can help you customize a diet to meet your needs.
  2. Add an exercise routine or physical activity to your lifestyle [4,5,7]. Exercise training and increased physical activity can also contribute to weight loss in obesity.
  3. Engage in positive and goal-oriented behaviors [5]. Setting a goal of how many pounds to lose and committing to it is critical to losing weight. A positive outlook in the process is also essential when trying to lose weight.
  4. Consider using weight loss medications [8]. Various drugs are available to use in your weight loss journey. In the past, these medications had numerous safety issues that impact providers from recommending their use. However, newer anti-obesity drugs are now on the market with improved safety and novel ways of working. Using these drugs in combination with different lifestyle changes can contribute to weight loss in obesity. A majority of this class of medications have an estimated weight loss of 3% to 7% [9].

It’s essential that your healthcare provider is involved in your weight loss journey. The interactions and support from them are critical to your success [5]. The use of telehealth is an option to provide the necessary support you need from your provider.

Telehealth with Everlywell

You can check in on your health and wellness with Everlywell. Everlywell offers telehealth to give you access to providers, including an option for weight loss. We also work with a network of labs to get you access to various tests. Learn more about Everlywell and what is available for you.

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  1. Stierman B, Affule J, Carroll MD, Chen TC, et al. National health and nutrition examination survey 2017–March 2020 pre-pandemic data files development of files and prevalence estimates for selected health outcomes. Natl Health Stat Report. 2021;158:1-21. Accessed December 7, 2022. URL
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult obesity facts. Updated May 17, 2022. Accessed December 7, 2022. URL
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining adult overweight & obesity. Published June 3, 2022. Accessed December 7, 2022. URL
  4. Fruh SM. Obesity: Risk factors, complications, and strategies for sustainable long-term weight management. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2017;29(S1):S3-S14. doi:10.1002/2327-6924.12510 URL
  5. Severin R, Sabbahi A, Mahmoud AM, Arena R, Phillips SA. Precision medicine in weight loss and healthy living. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2019;62(1):15-20. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.12.012 URL
  6. Bariatric surgery risks, Complications & Side effects. UPMC – University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. Accessed December 7, 2022. URL
  7. Jakicic JM, Davis KK. Obesity and physical activity. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2011;34(4):829-40. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2011.08.009 URL
  8. Fujioka K, Harris SR. Barriers and solutions for prescribing obesity pharmacotherapy. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2020;49(2):303-314. doi: 10.1016/j.ecl.2020.02.007 URL
  9. Srivastava, G., Apovian, C. Current pharmacotherapy for obesity. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2018;14(1):12–24. doi:10.1038/nrendo.2017.122 URL
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