Your doctor can be a partner when you're working to lose extra weight. You may need to start the conversation, since they might not spend a lot of time on the subject unless you bring it up.
Use these questions to begin the discussion.
"I'm skeptical whenever doctors want to handle weight loss all by themselves." -- Rich Weil, MEd
1. What should my goal weight be?
Everyone is different, and there may not be one magic number.
"No one really knows the precise answer, so this is something you want to negotiate with your physician," says Richard Weil, weight loss program director at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center.
Many doctors will simply use body mass index as a guide. BMI uses your height and weight to gauge whether you're underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. Everyone is different, though.
"If you're middle-aged, have been overweight for a long time, and your doctor says you ought to get to the weight you were in high school, that might not be realistic," Weil says. Work with your doctor to pinpoint a number that's achievable and sustainable.
2. How long should it take me to reach my goal?
Most experts advise losing no more than 1-2 pounds per week. "Really rapid weight loss is mainly water or muscle and not a lot of fat," says Melina Jampolis, MD, a physician nutrition specialist in Valley Village, CA, and co-author of The Calendar Diet.
However, she says it's generally OK to drop 3-5 pounds a week for just the first few weeks, especially if you're more than 30 pounds overweight.
3. How will losing weight impact my health?
You know that losing extra weight is good for you, but you may not know all the benefits.
4. Could a health problem be affecting my weight?
Hopefully, your doctor checked on that. But it never hurts to ask, Jampolis says, especially if you have a strong family history of a disease or tend to carry weight around your belly.
"If your doctor doesn't want to test you and says, 'Just eat less and exercise more,' it might be time to find another doctor," she says.
5. Do any of my medications have weight gain as a side effect?
Many common prescription drugs -- including certain antidepressants, steroids, and antihistamines -- do, Weil says. If you're taking medicine that adds to your weight, your doctor might be able to switch you to another option or lower your dose.
6. Who else can help me?
"I'm skeptical whenever doctors want to handle weight loss all by themselves," Weil says. Many primary care providers don't have the time or training to give you a lot of guidance on the subject.
Ask for a referral to a dietitian, who can help you map out a sensible meal plan that will work for your lifestyle.
You may also want to ask for a referral to a physical therapist, especially if you have a problem, such as knee pain, that's limiting your ability to be active. They can also help if you have a chronic condition such as heart disease or diabetes. Exercise is safe for almost everyone, and your doctor can let you know if you need to take any precautions.
If you've been feeling especially down or anxious, or if you tend to eat for emotional reasons, talking with a psychotherapist can help. Your doctor can give you a referral if you ask for one. Doctors often won't ask you about your mood unless you bring it up, Jampolis says.
7. Are there any medications or supplements that will help me lose weight?
There's no magic pill, but some people may benefit from certain medications, in addition to diet and exercise.
For example, taking metformin can help people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes lose a little weight by improving blood sugar control and insulin resistance, Jampolis says. Your doctor may also consider prescription drugs that target weight loss.
If you're thinking about taking a weight loss drug or supplement, talk with your doctor first, so they can let you know if it's OK for you to try.
8. Should I consider weight loss surgery?
If you have a lot of weight to lose, even after dieting and exercising, you can ask your doctor if you're a candidate for weight loss surgery. This surgery is not for everyone. It's usually done only for adults who have a BMI of at least 50, or who have a BMI of at least 35 and a health condition related to their weight, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or sleep apnea. If you do get the surgery, you'll still need to change your eating and exercise habits to keep the pounds off.