Person talking with virtual healthcare provider via phone to learn what to know about medical weight loss

What to know about medical weight loss

Written on February 3, 2023 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

Essentially everyone is striving to achieve and maintain a “healthy” weight. If you are overweight or obese, you are probably looking for ways to shed some weight. Medical weight loss has been shown to successfully help people lose weight and may be an effective option for you [1-3].

What is medical weight loss?

Medical weight loss is a weight management process undertaken with the help and guidance of a healthcare provider or medical team. Healthcare professionals use their medical experiences and evidence-based medicine to help you lose weight by creating a plan tailored to your individual needs. Numerous medical weight loss programs are led by renowned healthcare institutions across the nation [4-8]. There are also online medical weight loss programs that offer virtual access to healthcare providers from the comfort of your own home through telemedicine. Telemedicine has also been shown to help obese patients lose weight successfully [9].

Who can benefit from medical weight loss?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obese adults in the United States was almost 42% from 2017 through 2020 [10]. In 2019, the estimated annual costs related to obesity were nearly $175 billion in the US. Adults with obesity also had average medical costs that were $1,861 more expensive compared to adults with healthy weight [10].

Medical weight loss may be for you if you struggle with managing your weight. It is recommended that if you are an obese adult, your healthcare provider should refer you to some type of weight loss program with a behavioral component [11].

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Obesity is further divided into three classes [12]:

  • Class 1: BMI of 30 to <35
  • Class 2: BMI of 35 to <40
  • Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher and categorized as “severe” obesity

Medical weight loss programs are an effective option for losing weight [1-3.]. Modest weight loss can reduce the risks of chronic diseases related to obesity [13]. A weight loss of even 5% to 10% of your total body weight can produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugars [13].

What is included in a typical weight loss program?

A typical weight loss program will start with an initial consultation and involve developing a customized plan, monitoring with adjustments as necessary, and ongoing support [4-9,11,14].

  • Initial assessment: During your first visit, you will get the opportunity to meet your healthcare provider [4-9]. The healthcare professional will conduct an initial assessment and discuss your ideal weight. Additionally, they will evaluate your medical history, order appropriate lab testing, and work with you to develop an individualized plan to reach your weight loss goal [4-9,14].
  • Customized plan: In partnership with your healthcare provider, an individualized medical plan is developed for you to lose weight [4,9]. The plan is based on the initial assessment and usually includes behavioral modifications, such as in your diet and physical activity [11,13]. As part of the plan, you will likely be encouraged to eat healthy foods that include more vegetables and fruits, proteins like lean meats, and foods low in added sugars and salts [15]. The medical weight loss plan may also include appropriate medications [4,9].
  • Monitoring and adjustments: Your weight loss progress will be monitored and managed by a licensed, board-certified healthcare provider [4,9]. They will help identify challenges and adjust your customized plan as needed so you can optimize your weight loss. Adjustments may include switching your medications, implementing an additional exercise regimen, modifying your diet, or meeting with you more regularly.
  • Support and encouragement: The healthcare provider will continue to support and encourage you as you progress in the medical weight loss program [4,9]. You will have regular status checks and they will act as a resource to hold you accountable so you can reach a healthy weight.

Final thoughts on medical weight loss

Before you start any weight loss program, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider [14]. Medical weight loss is an effective method to lose the extra pounds with a customized plan developed and managed by a healthcare provider [1-4,9]. The individualized plan may include lifestyle changes and medications to help you achieve and maintain your goal weight [4-9,11,14].

Telemedicine can be a useful part of your weight loss journey. At Everlywell, you can meet with a licensed, board-certified healthcare provider through virtual care visits to discuss your weight loss plans. You can schedule a consultation and have a conversation to help you lose weight and reduce the risk of long-term health issues. You may be recommended lab testing or prescriptions if appropriate for you through this service. You will also have monthly virtual visits with a clinician as part of this program. Learn more about weight management telehealth options via Everlywell.

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  2. Lean MEJ, Leslie WS, Barnes AC, et al. Durability of a primary care-led weight-management intervention for remission of type 2 diabetes: 2-year results of the DiRECT open-label, cluster-randomised trial. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2019;7(5):344-355. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(19)30068-3. URL.
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  9. Ufholz K, Bhargava D. A review of telemedicine interventions for weight loss. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep. 2021;15(9):17. doi: 10.1007/s12170-021-00680-w. URL.
  10. Adult obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published May 17, 2022. Accessed January 31, 2023.
  11. US Preventive Services Task Force; Curry SJ, Krist AH, Owens DK, et al. Behavioral weight loss interventions to prevent obesity-related morbidity and mortality in adults: US preventive services task force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2018;320(11):1163-1171. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.13022. URL.
  12. Defining adult overweight & obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published June 3, 2022. Accessed January 31, 2023.
  13. Losing weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published September 19, 2022. Accessed January 31, 2023.
  14. Weight loss: Choosing a diet that’s right for you. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published June 9, 2022. Accessed January 31, 2023.
  15. Healthy eating for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published June 3, 2022. Accessed January 31, 2023.
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