I’m Dr. Meghan Auten, a Family Medicine physician and a member of Westchester Health and Northwell Health Physician Partners. In this blog, I’d like to share information about one of the most common topics in my primary care practice — getting to a healthy weight.
Many patients want to talk about weight loss with me, while others tell me they have avoided going to the doctor because they don’t want to have that conversation or even get on the scale.
For some patients, carrying extra weight has been a lifelong challenge. For others, it has become an issue later in life, and for many women, especially after menopause.
If weight loss is something you are concerned about, you are definitely not alone
It is estimated that more than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese.
Determining if you are overweight or obese requires knowing how tall you are and how much you weigh. This helps you calculate your BMI or Body Mass Index. A BMI between 18 and 25 is normal, but anything over 25 is overweight and over 30 is defined as obesity.
Your BMI is something we measure and track in our office at each visit, but there are plenty of calculators available online to help you do it yourself. Below is one from the CDC which you can access here.
While the BMI is not always a perfect measure of someone’s health, it does help physicians and researchers design studies so we can take a look at how carrying extra weight may impact someone’s health. As a result, we know that extra weight has all kinds of health implications, from putting increased stress on knees and joints that can cause debilitating pain, to causing complex hormonal imbalances and unhealthy inflammation that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers.
Weight loss is much bigger than just someone’s individual willpower
Rates of adult obesity are continually increasing, despite a growing national focus on the issue. If it was really just a “mind over matter” problem, we wouldn’t be calling this an epidemic. Instead, this is a health issue that is complicated by many social, emotional and economic factors, and talking with your doctor is an important step in trying to find solutions.
There are many ways to lose weight, and countless programs and theories on the topic. Anyone who has been on this journey for more than a few months knows that everywhere you turn, someone is selling a new diet book or program, or your friend has just stumbled on the hot new cure.
There are a few simple rules which may be helpful to follow, but consistency and accountability in your diet are the most important themes. Your family doctor can help, with frequent visits and check-ins to monitor progress and lend some accountability.
I ask my patients to think about a time when they had success with weight loss. If it was a structured program or specific diet that fit well into their lives, that’s what we focus on.
The best diet choices need to follow some simple guidelines
- Eating fewer processed foods, especially simple carbohydrates and sugar, leads to the most sustainable weight loss.
It is also important to add foods that provide good nutrition and fuel for your body and mind. Sometimes focusing on the foods you’re adding in, such as leafy green vegetables, rather than on what you’re cutting out helps to keep the focus positive.
- It can be a good idea to keep a food log, not to calorie count but to be honest with yourself about what you’re actually putting in your mouth.
Eating three meals a day is likely better for your hormonal balance than eating lots of snacks or frequent small meals.
- It’s also helpful to step on the scale more frequently rather than letting months go by without feedback.
This can be very emotional for some people and it’s important to recognize that this isn’t about judgement or punishing yourself. The scale really doesn’t care how much you weigh. Instead, it’s about sticking with your plan and remaining consistent.
- Finally, it’s really important to address issues that may be underlying why we eat.
Sometimes boredom, sadness, high stress or other negative emotions play a large role in why we choose what to eat and when to eat. This might not be true for everyone, but talking to your doctor about managing stress can have a real impact on finding motivation to make changes in your life.
Remember that your doctor is your partner in maintaining your health
I encourage you to talk to your family doctor about weight management, choosing healthy foods and other topics to best protect your health. He/she truly cares about your health and well-being and is committed to helping you get and stay healthy.
Want to know more about getting to a healthy weight? Come talk to us.
If you’re concerned about your weight, want to know your BMI, or have questions about any aspect of your healthcare, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health Family Medicine physicians. We’ll meet with you, assess your current weight and overall health, and take as much time as necessary to answer all your questions. Then together with you, we’ll make a plan that will work with your lifestyle to help you get to a better, healthier weight. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Meghan Auten, MD, Westchester Health Family Medicine practitioner and member of Northwell Health Physician Partners