"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Curiosity about weight reduction drugs opens doors to treatment

August 15, 2023 — A brand new poll conducted this month found that 45% of U.S. adults are focused on taking pharmaceuticals for weight reduction. That's excellent news, say doctors on the front lines of the U.S. obesity epidemic, since it could mean that views of obesity as a private failure or the results of an absence of willpower are finally changing.

The recent class of medication, which incorporates names equivalent to Wegovy and Ozempic, may help people lose as much as 15 percent of their body weight.

“Certainly 45% of adults in the United States would meet the criteria for taking obesity medication, but I am a little surprised that the number [in the poll] was so high,” said Judith Korner, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Weight Control Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. “In the past, there was quite a bit of reluctance among most people when it came to taking weight-loss medications.”

The new survey results may be a sign that obesity and overweight are increasingly viewed as diseases. Reducing stigma is a crucial step in paving a path for people to get treatment.

The survey by the health policy think tank KFF showed that 67% of people who had ever been told by a doctor that they were overweight or obese would be very or somewhat interested in trying a safe and effective prescription weight loss drug. Overweight or obesity is determined by a combination of a person's weight and height, which produces a score that Body mass indexor BMI.

Those among the 45% of people interested in new weight loss treatments probably have to overcome useless internal conversations just to make an appointment with a doctor about weight loss.

Last week, Dr. Jamy Ard met with a woman to discuss weight loss options. She told him she believed weight loss was a matter of willpower and that she should be able to meet the challenge on her own. She ultimately refused treatment.

“It internalizes the message that it's somehow your fault,” says Ard, co-director of the Weight Management Center at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “We just know that it's not completely in your control and that there are a lot of external factors that affect your body weight at any given time. That's a real hurdle that people have to overcome: 'I should be able to figure this out myself.'”

“You don’t have to feel stuck”

People who're able to seek treatment must not only take heed to their inner voice, but in addition put aside potentially painful memories of how they've been treated due to their weight, especially in the identical health care facilities which can be purported to help them.

This negative inner voice is named “internal stigma” and stems from the ideas that society and the health care system itself instill in people through experiences called “external stigma,” Korner explains.

Primary care physicians can treat obesity and chubby, and that's start, Ard says. But it's also perfectly effective to see a specialist or use telemedicine options.

“There are individuals who know learn how to do it well, who make people feel like they're being cared for and listened to,” said Ard, who is also a professor of epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “Find someone who can work with you – even when it's remotely, using distant options or telehealth. You don't should feel helpless in case your experience on the bottom wasn't ideal.”

One way to find a provider with experience in obesity treatment is to use the search tool on the website for the American Board of Obesity Medicine, of which Korner is chairman.

One sign that it might be time to see someone experienced in treating obesity, Korner says, is when people talk about their weight and are simply told to change their diet and exercise.

“It's like telling an individual with a stomach ulcer, 'You have a number of stress in your life. Go home and don't stress a lot and your ulcer will improve.' That doesn't work,” she said.

For people who live in rural areas and don't have access to local specialists, more and more telemedicine specialization options are being offered online, according to Ard. Earlier this year, Weight Watchers acquired telemedicine platform Sequence to offer prescription weight loss options. The company now has 37,000 clinical subscribers, as well as 4.1 million traditional Weight Watchers subscribers, according to the minutes of the company's statement. Second quarter conference call with investors.

Be sure to check what your insurance plan covers before your first visit.

“Then I might also recommend that folks really take into consideration what other changes they need to make – lifestyle-wise,” Ard said. “Taking a medicine doesn't replace the necessity to proceed to follow a healthy lifestyle program, and that features physical activity, healthy eating and getting enough sleep.”

He noted that some people are so-called “lifestyle responders” and do not need medication. Others, particularly those with severe obesity and major health risks, may require multiple treatments.

Finally, it is also important to keep an open mind while also remembering that obesity is a disease. Just like taking blood pressure medication, weight loss medications may need to be taken long-term and possibly even for life.

“It's like all other drug. If you don't take it, it doesn't work,” Ard said. “We're not offering a cure for obesity. We're offering a treatment for obesity.”