Written on February 22, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. 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.
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Weight loss is a challenge many Americans face. Over 40% of Americans have obesity . Fortunately, more support options are available today to help you lose weight. Structured weight loss programs are traditionally operated through institutions or commercial companies, but today's digital world offers more convenient and customized options for weight loss. This article details traditional weight loss programs and explores the latest digital options to help you realize your weight loss goals.
Traditional weight loss programs occur in hospitals, outpatient clinics, or commercial facilities. Weight loss programs provide nutritional counseling, physical activity plans, and behavior therapy. The purpose of weight loss programs is to offer you structure, guidance, and accountability. Other benefits include the following :
External accountability is one of the most influential factors in weight loss and maintenance . It is beneficial to self-monitor your dietary intake and exercise, but it may prove challenging over time [2,3]. A structured program can provide external accountability and keep you on track.
A traditional weight loss program can help solve other problems harming your weight loss efforts, such as portion distortion and social isolation . A lack of self-motivation can hurt your ability to lose weight. Traditional group programs can provide the external motivation and support necessary to overcome your lack of motivation .
Now that you know how traditional weight loss programs can help you lose weight, let's take a closer look at two: the hospital-based program and the commercial program.
If you choose a hospital-based weight loss program, you will usually have access to a multidisciplinary medical team who can address your health issues and manage your medication effectively to support your weight loss. Nutritionists, medical doctors, and physical therapists specializing in weight loss can help you lose weight more effectively than a do-it-yourself approach [3,4].
Short-term plans may include low-calorie diets, meal replacements, and medications [4,5]. A hospital-based program gives you access to healthcare providers who can prescribe prescription weight loss medications, manage your dosage, monitor side effects, and track your progress. Weight loss medications are prescribed after your healthcare provider assesses your current health conditions and body mass index (BMI). Weight loss medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include :
Medication alone is not a cure for weight problems. The key to losing weight and keeping it off long-term is following a healthy diet and exercising regularly. While participating in a short-term hospital program may help you lose weight, it may prove challenging and inconvenient for you over the long term.
Depending on your insurance coverage, a hospital-based program can also become expensive. It is important to speak with your health insurance company about whether your plan covers programs, drugs, and surgery for weight loss. With a Letter of Medical Necessity, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), and health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) offer coverage for weight loss programs and medications .
Your BMI can serve as a guide for determining the need for medical treatment. Obesity is a medical diagnosis. Obesity can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer [1,3, 9]. Traditional hospital-based programs will require a physical and psychological assessment. To qualify for some hospital-based programs and receive insurance coverage, your BMI may have to indicate obesity.
Your BMI is determined by your height divided by your weight . The following are classifications of healthy weight, overweight, and obesity :
It is important to remember your weight does not define you. These measurements serve as a guide for medical professionals to understand your health status and disease risk. Hospital-based programs provide direct access to medical professionals, which is important if you have other medical conditions that may complicate weight loss.
Commercial weight loss programs are another traditional method of losing weight. While these programs may not provide direct access to medical professionals, they can provide the social support and motivation you need. Commercial weight loss centers may offer education, meal plans, meal replacement foods, and exercise classes.
Commercial weight loss centers are beneficial since they provide a range of support services and greater flexibility than hospital-based programs. Additionally, commercial weight loss centers typically do not require a medical diagnosis, as hospital-based interventions often do. However, you frequently have to pay a membership fee and buy certain foods, making the program expensive and unsustainable.
No matter which program you use, your participation determines your success. If multiple barriers exist, such as transportation and finances, you are less likely to achieve success. Today's digital weight loss solutions remove many of the barriers present in traditional weight loss programs.
Our digital world offers more weight loss programs and tools than ever. Digital weight loss programs can include diet-tracking apps, body-monitoring devices, and telehealth. These tools and programs can assist you with losing weight more conveniently and cost-effectively.
Diet-tracking apps can help you track calories, macronutrients, calories burned, and water intake. Many apps can create automated weight loss programs based on your height and weight.
A diet-tracking app, however, cannot create a customized weight loss program as a healthcare provider can. Diet-tracking apps have mixed results [10-14]. While some studies show diet-tracking apps can help you lose weight, others showed little benefit [10-14].
Dietary self‐monitoring (DSM) is documenting your food intake with calorie amounts and timing. DSM and diet-tracking apps require self-motivation and accountability, which are two obstacles to long-term weight loss. As a result, diet-tracking apps work best when combined with other technologies.
Body monitoring devices or wearables are used for physical activity monitoring and tracking other vital signs, including heart rate [14-15]. Wearables vary widely in their capabilities and uses. Wearables can help you stay on track by reminding you to move or letting you know it's time to drink water. Similar to diet-tracking apps, wearables do not provide long-term motivation and support. Wearables can help you lose weight by giving insight into your health habits, but self-motivation is necessary for long-term success.
Telehealth can solve many problems associated with traditional weight loss approaches and digital technologies . Telehealth refers to healthcare services delivered via digital communications. Telehealth can provide easier access to healthcare providers, who can provide accountability and motivation.
Additionally, you can get weight loss prescriptions online. You and your healthcare provider can discuss your weight loss goals and establish a plan. Once you have a plan, your healthcare provider can provide ongoing support and education.
You can talk to a healthcare provider through virtual care visits via Everlywell. Virtual care visits can include weight loss support, including 1:1 consultations and medications. Medication and clinical support are available to help you lose weight and reduce the likelihood of long-term health problems. View Everlywell's option for access to weight management online to learn more.