Medically supervised weight management programs are safe, convenient and promote long-term success. This can be attributed in large part to the multidisciplinary makeup of the weight loss team that is assembled to support and educate patients who likely have struggled with weight issues throughout their lives. The customized programs these teams create focus on each patient’s individual goals and abilities and provide a support structure that addresses their medical and psychological needs.
The team is anchored by a medical director or the patient’s primary care physician. If these are two different people, as often is the case, the primary care physician should be kept informed of the patient’s progress to provide support and to be aware of changes in the patient’s medical needs. As the team leader, the medical director has a key role in determining the medical suitability of patients for the program, monitors and manages program-related medical problems, engages patients, oversees team coordination and supervision and consults with the patient’s primary care physician regarding treatment of comorbid conditions.
Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) are also important members of the weight loss team. These trained professionals design programs to meet patients’ nutritional needs and provide support and encouragement during their weight loss journey. RDNs take the lead role in customizing programs for each individual based on specific weight loss goals, health concerns, food preferences, physical ability, lifestyle and psychological state. Working individually with patients provides RDNs with a better understanding of each patient’s interest and motivation level so they can assess how likely patients are to achieve success or if they may need greater guidance to empower them. (Download our free white paper for RDNs, titled Considerations for Registered Dietitians: The Effectiveness and Safety of Meal Replacements in the Treatment of Obesity, by clicking here.)
Often registered dieticians themselves can help patients undertake lifestyle interventions. This goes beyond modifying food and physical activity choices to include understanding patients’ relationship with food, which may require more intensive discussion than can be obtained during an initial medical assessment. Key components of behavioral change include self monitoring, social support, goal setting, education, stimulus control relapse prevention and increased physical activity. (To learn more about this, you can view a complimentary webinar by Patrick M. O’Neil, Ph.D., titled Behavioral Aspects of Obesity Management, by clicking here.)
In addition to the core team members above, other team members may be called in to assist. Nurses may provide additional care and support, exercise physiologists can work with patients to design individualized programs that consider patient’s motivation, abilities and access to equipment or space, and physicians or specialists with knowledge of diabetes, cardiovascular care or other areas commonly associated with obesity may be called in to address concerns specific to these issues. Bariatric surgeons may be consulted for patients with Class III obesity that have higher health risks and are preparing for surgery.
Using a team approach provides successful treatment for both weight loss and maintenance and helps with relapse prevention. Weight loss for people with obesity can be especially daunting given the challenge they face, and working with a team can help overcome hurdles on their way to meeting their goals. For example, many patients are unaware that a small and achievable goal of five percent weight loss can have a positive impact on metabolic parameters and reduce the risk for the development of type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. With the guidance of a highly trained, specialized support system, patients can benefit from improved energy, mobility and, importantly, self-confidence. The team is with them every step of the way.