Medical weight loss is the term used for a weight management program developed and supervised by a medical doctor in conjunction with other health professionals like a dietitian, psychologist or biokineticist. These weight loss programs are developed for the individual after appropriate tests, investigations and assessments are concluded. A medical weight loss plan will also consider your chronic conditions and medication and the impact of these factors in reaching your weight management goals.
Medical Weight Loss Doctors, Clinics in South Africa
Medical weight loss programs in South Africa are available in most major cities, either through a medical clinic or directly with a local doctor. Some of these doctors may be general practitioners or medical specialists with a special interest in weight management while at other times, the doctor may have completed post graduate qualifications or courses on weight management.
Medical aids in South Africa usually do not pay for a medical weight loss program although some medical aids will offer you access to a gym, consultation with a dietitian and so on. Unfortunately those doctors specialising in medical weight loss tend to charge high fees and this can be unaffordable for some.
A medical weight loss program does not mean that you doctor will prescribe synthetic thyroid hormone drugs and diuretics (‘water pills’) for quick weight loss. While these drugs may be necessary for certain medical conditions, any doctor who is prescribing these drugs to otherwise healthy patients for weight loss is conducting this practice unethically and against medical guidelines. Do not partake in these quick weight loss methods as it can be detrimental to your health.
How does a medical weight loss program work?
The first part of the program involves the assessment. Your doctor will conduct a thorough case history, taking into consideration your family history, previous diseases, current conditions, drugs, lifestyle and mental/emotional state. The doctor will then continue with the physical examination and assessment which includes a complete physical examination as well as recording your vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, temperature and breathing rate). Weight, height (refer to our online BMI calculator), body dimensions (in centimetres or inches) and body fat content will also be record.
Your doctor will then assess your case and decide if further investigation is necessary. This may vary from a stress ECG (treadmill ECG) to blood tests to identify diabetes or pre-diabetes, hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalances (especially in women) or other diseases which could be contributing to weight gain or body fat accumulation. At this point, the doctor may also request that you visit a psychologist, dietitian and/or biokineticist for a preliminary screening.
Based on the results from the investigation and assessments of the other health practitioners, your doctor will construct a weight management plan.
What is a medical weight management plan?
This plan is a comprehensive lifestyle program incorporating healthy eating and adequate exercise. Your doctor may also prescribe certain pharmaceutical drugs for the treatment and management of a chronic condition which could be contributing to the weight gain.
You may need to regularly visit a psychologist and undergo counseling if your weight management problems can be linked to behavioral aspects or past mental/emotional trauma. A dietitian will assist with constructing your eating plan and advise you on how to eat healthy. A biokineticist will structure your exercise program and will advise you on exercises you should do or avoid by taking into consideration the current physical state of your body as well as any chronic conditions or musculoskeletal problems.
Once you begin your medical weight loss program, your doctor will monitor you on a regular basis and consult with the other healthcare practitioners about your progress or lack thereof. If this approach to weight loss fails, your doctor may then consider scheduled weight loss drugs or even weight loss surgery like the gastric bypass or lap band stomach surgery.
The doctor overlooking your program will offer you practical and medically sound advice based on scientific weight management principles. He or she will not encourage you to take unregistered weight loss drugs, undergo surgery without first adopting a medical weight loss plan or advise you on starting fad diets like the lemon detox diet.
The lack of regulation governing weight management and weight loss products means that many herbal and nutritional product agents make claims about being weight management consultants. This should not be confused with a medical professional and you should always check if the weight loss product that you are using contains high doses of chemicals like sibutramine. While this compound is used in pharmaceutical weight loss drugs, there have been cases where it has been found in high doses in herbal or ‘all natural’ weight loss products.