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Hope for Obesity Emerges From the Twilight Zone

The proven treatment to improve health for obesity is weight loss. Losing weight reduces mortality, or early death. For people with obesity, weight loss can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart attack, and other health complications.1,2

So it would be reasonable to hope that scientifically proven approaches to weight loss, offered under medical supervision, would be the standard of care. But for a very long time, that was not the case.

Beneficial treatment was hard to come by

It used to be that when you Googled "weight loss," you would see the latest fad diet or dietary supplement pop up first. Usually, it was something pretty extreme and unproven. You might see ridiculous starvation diets, hypnosis programs, or unsafe supplements contaminated with unregulated pharmaceutical-grade compounds like ephedrine, for example.

If you view obesity as a disease, this reality was like living in the "Twilight Zone." Many people with obesity were experiencing serious health consequences, and they were serious about getting healthier.

Although there was research on beneficial and healthy approaches to managing weight and obesity, they were available only to a few. Insurance did not cover any treatments, and healthcare professionals were mostly not trained to provide them. And yet, unproven, radical, and often dangerous approaches were everywhere. It made no sense to me.

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Now the treatment options have changed

I live in Lubbock, Texas, and I was recently curious to see whether the landscape had changed. I Googled "weight loss Lubbock" to see what programs and resources popped up in my hometown.

The entire first page of Google results was filled with local medical weight loss clinics offering weight loss medicines and lifestyle therapy, as well as bariatric surgical centers. Not a single fad diet or supplement ad to be found!

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

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It’s been a long road

I am a nutritionist by training. Over the last 8 years, I have helped many people lose weight through diet to manage their health. I have a strong commitment to making weight loss as comfortable as possible.

When I was a university professor, I conducted many clinical experiments to inform the process of dietary weight loss to make it as effective and comfortable as possible. And now I read every single study by my colleagues that I can get my hands on to make sure I am doing the best I can.

Although I am dedicated to making weight loss as comfortable as possible for those who need it, I know it’s not always enough. I understand the biology of obesity. So, I know that asking people to eat less to lose weight is basically like asking them to hold their breath for forever.

Recognizing obesity as a disease

In 2013, the American Medical Association decided that obesity should be classified as a disease. More than 10 years later, more people are starting to agree with this idea.3

In 2015, agreement with the idea that obesity is a disease was pretty split in America, with only a small majority of people agreeing with this classification. But as of 2024, 65 percent of Americans feel that willpower alone is not enough to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.4,5

Happening along with this shift in thinking was the arrival of several new FDA-approved weight loss drugs with proven effectiveness. These medicines help people lose weight by suppressing their appetite. That way, sustaining a lower calorie intake for a long time is much more comfortable and feasible.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the shift in thinking about obesity as a disease and these new drugs arrived around the same time. When a health condition can be managed more successfully with the help of a prescription, I think people start to believe that there’s more than willpower to the story. They believe that maybe there is a switch in the body that needs flipping, after all.

Hope for the future

There used to be days when I thought the majority of people would never see obesity as a disease and treat it with more respect, evidence, and compassion. Any time I posted a tweet or comment about the topic, I would receive backlash. There were some really discouraging days.

Now, I see undeniable evidence, in my own hometown, that more people are ready for this than I thought. People are ready to give medical obesity management a try. And I couldn’t be more excited for what the future has to bring.

There is still a lot of work to do, as this shift in thinking and the way we manage obesity is still young and clumsy. But I have tremendous hope for longer-living, healthier generations to come.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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