According to the most recent reports, nearly 40% of American adults are clinically obese and more than two-thirds are fall into the overweight or obese categories. Given these numbers and the strong link between weight, lifestyle and preventable health problems, it’s no surprise that weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Unfortunately, people’s desire for overnight weight loss solutions has made this one of the world’s most misinformation-saturated industries. Everyone from online fitness influencers to supplement companies to MLM schemes offer free weight loss advice, but you shouldn’t trust everything you read or hear.
Instead, it’s best to consult with credentialed wellness experts who are educated and trained to help you reach your weight loss goals in the healthiest, most efficient way possible.
Here are five wellness experts to help you start, continue or re-commit to your weight loss journey:
1. Medical Doctor
If you’ve decided to embark on a weight loss journey and aren’t exactly sure what to do first, making an appointment with your primary care physician is a great place to start.
Your doctor can assess your current weight status — often using body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference and/or waist hip ration (WHR) — and discuss current risk. As a general rule, people with an above-average BMI or WHR are at a higher risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and some cancers.
He or she can also screen you for conditions that contribute to weight problems, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid) or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
If you fall in the overweight or obese BMI range and have struggled to lose weight on your own, your doctor may also speak with you about medical weight loss options. Two common interventions are prescription weight loss drugs, such as phentermine (Adipex-P) or Qsymia, and bariatric surgery.
2. Registered Dietitian
Diet is often considered the most important piece of the weight loss puzzle and registered dietitians are the nutrition experts. Your doctor may send you to a dietitian (RD/RDN) if he or she thinks lifestyle changes could help you shed some weight, but you can also make an appointment on your own if you know you need some help with your diet.
A registered dietitian can teach you about food/nutrition, work with you to develop an individualized meal plan and help you identify dietary allergies or intolerances. An appointment with an RD is especially beneficial for people who are new to weight loss, stuck at plateau or need to follow a more complicated diet due to disease or allergies.
Note: A nutritionist is NOT the same as a registered dietitian. RDs have a bachelor’s degree (or more) in nutrition, complete a comprehensive practical internship and pass board examinations. A nutritionist can just take a quick online class.
3. Certified Personal Trainer
Want to work out more, but not sure where to start or what to do? Exercise is another critical part of successful, sustainable weight loss and most of us could use a little help getting started.
A certified personal trainer (CPT) can teach you different exercises, work with you develop a personalized fitness plan and correct your form with common exercises. Many people hire a personal trainer at the beginning of their weight loss journey because these wellness experts can provide the guidance, motivation and supervision new gym-goers crave. Plus, a personal trainer will push you to your limits, so you keep progressing and achieving new goals.
No matter the stage of your weight loss journey, if you’re looking to take your workouts to the next level or achieve a specific fitness goal, think about hiring a certified personal trainer.
4. Physical Therapist
For some people it isn’t confusion or time that keeps them out of the gym, but instead aches or pains that make physical activity difficult. If you’re nervous about getting back into exercise because of pain, weakness or fear of injury, a physical therapist is the wellness expert for you!
Physical therapists prescribe and administer treatment to prevent and manage musculoskeletal injuries so they can help you reduce pain, increase function and avoid further injury. They will assess the problem(s) and give you exercises that will help you build strength, recuperate and eventually exercise without pain.
5. Psychologist / Psychiatrist
Last but certainly not least, a qualified mental health professional is vital to some weight loss journeys. Even though mental health is not usually the first thing we consider when discussing weight status, it’s an important factor if you want to makeover your lifestyle long-term.
Research has shown that:
- People with depression and anxiety are more likely to gain weight and become overweight or obese
- There is a high correlation between high BMI and depression
- Over 80% of people with serious mental illness present as overweight or obese.
Given the strong link between appetite, food, activity level and mental health, a psychologist or psychiatrist is a valuable asset on your weight loss journey — especially if you battle mental illness.
Even if you do not suffer from the conditions above, a mental health professional can help you overcome food-related issues such as emotional eating, bingeing, disordered eating/eating disorders or other destructive behaviors.
Under most insurance plans you can either schedule an appointment independently or request a referral from your primary care physician.