A physician-supervised weight loss program provides treatment for weight reduction in a clinical setting with a licensed healthcare professional. This can include a nurse, nurse practitioner, medical doctor, gastric surgeon, physician assistant, registered dietitian, or a psychologist. These weight loss programs offer nutrition and exercise counseling as well as behavioral therapy options. The cost to participate varies depending on the program as well as the insurance the patient has. Some health insurance companies do, in fact, cover some or all of this type of treatment, especially in those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type II Diabetes or heart disease.
Many enjoy this type of weight loss approach as it is non-surgical and helps teach individuals the proper way to eat and stay active. This lifestyle change leads to greater success in managing weight in the future and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for a lifetime.
How Do Medically Supervised Weight Loss Programs Work?
A clinical weight reduction program includes various phases to help those transitioning to a new lifestyle. The phases typically include a type of meal replacement phase to help with initial weight loss and later transition into self-prepared food for long-term weight management results. Patients also have access to group or individual nutritional counseling and other support options.
The Initial Consultation
A clinician that specializes in obesity treatment will provide an initial consultation that focuses on the medical evaluation for obesity-related diseases as well as a full physical examination. The medical professional will obtain a weight history, including any past diet attempts, as well as a thorough psychological history. Many patients will visit with undiagnosed conditions such as thyroid disorders, abnormal liver conditions, obstructive sleep apnea, or even diabetes. Additional testing may be done depending on the patient’s medical history or the physical findings during the initial visit.
The management of obesity may include behavior modifications such as diet and exercise, pre-packaged meal replacements, and weight loss medications. It’s no secret that diet and exercise are the most used line of defense for losing weight. With today’s technology, medical professionals can log daily caloric intake and track the foods being eaten to evaluate weight loss when eliminating certain foods. Mobile apps for smartphones even allow patients to take a picture of food, and it will tell them just how many calories are in the meal, and if the portion size is right.
Pre-packaged Meal Replacements
This medically-supervised weight management tool works by helping overweight and obese patients to transition to healthy portion sizes. Some programs available include Health Management Resources, Advanced Health System, New Direction, Medi-fast, and OPTIFAST®. Some concerns with this type of program are that many patients may struggle to eat healthy outside of the program. Also, insurance coverage varies depending on the provider, and many may be discouraged at the cost of the program to continue on their weight loss journey.
Weight Loss Medications
Pharmacotherapy can be offered to those affected by obesity and have failed to lose weight loss with just diet and exercise alone. It’s important to note that pregnant women and those attempting to get pregnant should not take these medications. These are many drugs that have been approved by the FDA for weight.
The first, Phentermine, works on the chemicals in the brain that decreases appetite. It also does increase energy in the body. It is taken once a day in the morning. Tolerance to this medication can develop, so regular monitoring is needed. Some side effects include sleeplessness and dry mouth. Those studied experience 4-5% weight loss after one year of using the medication.
The next, Orlistat, is an over-the-counter medication taken three times a day before a meal. It does contain dietary fat and works by decreasing the amount of fat that the body consumes. 3-4% weight loss can be expected after one year. This medication doesn’t work well with those already on a low-fat diet.
Belviq, another prescription weight loss medication, shows a 7% weight loss after a year. The drug keeps patients feeling full, causing them to eat less and lose weight.
Qsymia, a combination of weight loss medication, has led to an average of 14.4% weight reduction in patients. The most common side effects of this drug are constipation and dry mouth.
Patients should follow-up every 3 to 4 weeks until their initial weight loss goals are met, usually 5-10% of body weight. After that point, less frequent visits are scheduled. However, it’s important to understand that obesity is a lifelong chronic problem, and periodic follow-up is recommended.
Individual results will vary with this type of program, but many patients have seen a weight loss of up to 50 pounds in 18-24 weeks.
About Specific Weight Loss Programs
Health Management Resources
One rapid weight loss program with physician supervision is Health Management Resources. It is typically administered in hospitals and healthcare units. Participants typically eat an extremely low-calorie diet of up to 800 calories a day. It is important, however, that these patients are closely monitored by a medical professional. Another option of a 1,200 calories daily diet is also offered. Both plans use meal replacement shakes, bars, and entrees. 90-minutes classes each week are mandatory. Weight loss is typically 1-5 pounds per week. This program is available at more than 200 hospitals or medical centers in the United States.
This rapid weight loss program uses liquid meal replacements and fortified food bars. As weight loss occurs, regular foods are added to the meal rotation. Dieters eat an 800, 950, or 1,200 calories meal plan. Only those who need to lose at least 50 pounds are admitted to the program. The weight loss portion lasts about three months, and a six-week transition program occurs after that. Maintenance occurs after five months. The program focuses on behavior modification, physical activity, and counseling.
Health Management Resources
The HMR program helps dieters achieve long-term weight loss. Rapid weight loss occurs with medical supervision. This highly-structured and easy-to-follow diet focuses on long-lasting weight loss and healthy eating habits. Dieters lose on average 43-61 pounds. Their low-calorie diet includes HMR shakes, soups, entrees, bars, multigrain hot cereal, and puddings. Weekly group meetings are held to track progress. Weekly coach calls also occur with a trained health educator.
This program uses a meal replacement product to help patients meet their nutritional needs while losing weight. No food is consumed at all. Depending on the patient’s starting weight, gender, activity level, and age, a calorie limitation is made, usually 600-800 calories for women and 800-1,000 calories for men. The meal replacements offer a mild level of ketosis, which helps decrease hunger and cravings.
Those who qualify must be at least 21 years old and have a BMI of 30 or more or 27 with medical risks. Members can expect to lose 3-5 pounds each week. Weekly medical monitoring is required, and a monthly physician exam and lab tests are done. An EKG is performed for every fifty pounds lost. A regular review of blood glucose occurs. Group classes are conducted by a licensed and registered dietitian and other staff members.
A screening phase is conducted before acceptance to the program occurs that includes a medical exam and labs, and an EKG.
The Medi-fast program is designed to help patients achieve both fast and safe weight loss. Patients lose on average 2 to 5 pounds weekly for the first two weeks and 1-2 pounds each week after. Patients eat six meals each day and learn weight quickly while they learn healthy eating habits to use during their transition and maintenance phases.
There are more than 70 meal replacements to choose from. Meals can be enjoyed at any time of the day, which works great for those with busy schedules. The meal replacements themselves make patients feel satisfied and not deprived in between their meals. They also keep patients nourished, and each meal is low in fat and calories. Medical professionals closely monitor patients; however, this program is the least hands-on of all those mentioned.
Costs of These Weight Loss Programs
All of these programs vary in price, and some may even be covered by your insurance provider. Consult your insurance company to see if you have insurance benefits for this type of weight loss approach, especially if you have a comorbidity that may be life-threatening.
Medically Supervised Weight Loss Program vs. Other Weight Loss Programs
Most individuals do not have the knowledge or time to develop a successful diet and exercise plan that suits them. A clinically supervised weight loss program is administered by licensed healthcare professionals for patients’ individual needs. During the consultation, the medical professional examines the patients’ underlying weight problem, whether they experience obesity-related diseases and their psychological history. That is why the medically administered weight loss plans are more successful than DIY weight loss plans.
Weight Loss Success
Ultimately, the best weight loss results occur due to a program that has patients closely monitored by medical professionals with continued guidance and treatment. The major benefit of this type of program is the improvement of diseases resulting from obesity. While weight loss with this type of program is generally modest compared to weight loss surgery, research has shown that a 5% weight loss can lead to improvements in high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, glucose levels, and COVID-19 risk. These benefits will be seen for many years after weight loss occurs.