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How To Find a Weight Loss Doctor 

When starting to find a weight loss doctor, it’s important that you ask the right questions and follow these important steps. 

Updated: November 24, 2020
surgeon in operating room at hospital
By MBL Featured Blogger: Abby
Originally Posted: November 12, 2020

Losing weight isn’t easy for anyone, and there is absolutely no shame in deciding you need help — and you’re not alone.

The U.S. adult obesity rate stands at 42.4 percent, the first time the national rate has passed the 40 percent mark, and 72 percent of men and 63 percent of women are overweight or obese.

However, finding help isn’t always as easy as just making one phone call. Between fad diets, “health” influencers trying to sell unproven supplements, commercial plans, and other types of get-thin-quick schemes — some that even appear legit because doctors are associated with them —  it’s hard to know where you should even start.

Most likely, you’ve already tried myriad ways to shed the weight with little to no success, which is why you’re now looking to find a weight loss doctor. While there’s a sense of relief in making the decision to enlist in professional help, there’s also probably a bit of anxiety — especially if you’re considering bariatric weight loss surgery. 

But keep in mind that there are medical professionals that can help to guide you through the process of weight loss with medical treatments and other resources that you may not even know were available — or how to access them — on your own. 

What Is a Weight Loss Doctor?

If you’re considering bariatric weight loss surgery, you’re going to need a reputable weight loss doctor or bariatric surgery. What makes these weight loss doctors different from other physicians is that they have received specialized training in the field of bariatric medicine or medical weight management. They don’t only focus on surgery, but yet many of them use a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise, behavioral therapy, and medication.

So where do you find one? 

When it comes to finding a weight loss doctor, the MyBigLife doctor directory is a great place to start, as there are more than 10,000 profiles representing all types of weight loss doctors, professionals, and programs. 

You can also search for an obesity expert by using the online database at the Obesity Medicine Association, where you can find health care providers that are specially trained to manage obesity. If you are specifically looking for a bariatric surgeon for weight loss surgery, there’s the option to find a qualified bariatric surgeon through the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). 

Regardless of what route you go in searching for a weight loss doctor or surgeon, the guidelines for working successfully with your doctor are the same. It’s important that you’re always completely honest about your lifestyle and your expectations so they have accurate information and can tailor your plan accordingly. And don’t be afraid to ask questions so you fully understand the instructions and recommendations the doctor provides. 

The additional tips below will help you find a weight loss doctor or surgeon you can trust and that can help you make a life-changing decision to get healthy. 

Get Referrals

First, talk with your primary care doctor or other specialist and ask for a referral list of weight loss doctors and surgeons in your area. They most often already have relationships with these individuals and can help you make the connection. Let your doctor serve as your guide. Additional helpful resources are to talk with family and friends for recommendations, as you already trust their judgment in most cases, so their experiences can help you narrow down your decision. 

IT'S BEEN TWO DECADES since federal health officials said the U.S. was experiencing a "growing obesity epidemic" that was putting millions of lives at stake – but the situation has gotten significantly worse since 1999.

Research the Doctor’s Credentials

If you’re searching for a weight loss surgeon, board certification is a critical factor to consider, as that certification is solid proof that they have the training, skills, and experience necessary to provide quality surgical care. 

For bariatric surgery, look for a provider who is board-certified in general surgery and a Fellow of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (FASMBS). What does this mean? The designation confirms that the surgeon has completed at least 25 ASMBS-approved bariatric surgeries a year as the primary surgeon. When it comes to those surgeries, the ASMBS-accredited facility where they were performed submits data on bariatric surgery outcomes (results) as required. 

Other options are to find a doctor who is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery or the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery. Board-certification by these boards means the doctor has gone through a specialized training program, meeting certain standards in the field of surgery.

And last but certainly not least, you want to make sure that the surgeon has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. Check state websites and Healthgrades.com to find the bariatric surgeon’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history.

Consider the Doctor’s Experience

Experience is of the utmost importance when it comes to complex bariatric procedures. It sounds obvious, but the more experience a surgeon has performing a particular bariatric surgery, the greater chance of your success — before, during, and after the procedure. 

Speak up and ask how many times the surgeon has performed the specific procedure you need. Also, find out about complication rates the surgeon has encountered. What kind of complications has the weight loss doctor experienced with these procedures? What is your own risk of complications?

Research Hospital Quality

Where you get treated matters, so be sure to consider the quality of care at the hospital where the surgeon treats patients. Patients have fewer complications when they have bariatric surgery at hospitals with a 5-star performance rating. When possible, choose a surgeon who practices at a hospital accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program. They hold bariatric centers to extremely high standards.

Along with the rating, consider the location of the hospital. Sometimes you might not mind having to travel for quality care, but remember that you’re going to have to attend frequent follow-up appointments after your weight loss surgery. 

Evaluate Communication Style

Communication is key throughout your weight loss journey, so you want to make sure you choose a weight loss doctor or bariatric surgeon that you feel comfortable talking with about your concerns, your successes, and your struggles. Do they willingly welcome your questions? And them in a way that makes them easy to understand? 

It’s important to find a doctor that knows you as a person, not just a patient, who will not only take into account your treatment preferences but who will also respect your decision-making process.

OBESITY PROJECTIONS WORSE THAN TERRORISM THREAT FOR FUTURE–AND WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
In 2020, 83 percent of men and 72 percent of women will be overweight or obese. Currently, 72 percent of men and 63 percent of women are overweight or obese (people who are overweight have a BMI of 25 to 29, people who are obese have a BMI of 30 or greater). In 2020, 77 percent of men and 53 percent of women will have dysglycemia (either diabetes or pre-diabetes). Currently, 62 percent of men and 43 percent of women have dysglycemia.

Read Patient Reviews

A survey found that 95 percent of respondents found online ratings and reviews somewhat to very reliable, with 70 percent saying that online ratings and review sites had influenced their choice of physician. And even if they were referred to the doctor by another physician, 41 percent said they still check a doctor out online. 

You can gain a lot of insight as to how a doctor practices medicine and runs their medical practice by reading about what other patients have said. These reviews often cover every part of the experience — from making appointments and office friendliness to wait times and post-surgery care — and are extremely important to weight loss doctors and surgeons because the preoperative and postoperative care can involve several visits. This means there’s greater interaction with different team members (in addition to the surgeon) and multiple steps throughout the treatment process.

Consider What Your Insurance Covers

Your insurance coverage is most likely going to be a large factor in your decision. The bariatric surgeon you choose needs to participate in your plan to ensure you receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care. However, don’t only choose a doctor because they’re in your plan. It’s important you still consider things like their certifications, experience, and credentials when you make your decision. 

Questions to Ask the Doctor

Armed with the information above, take the time to write out a list of possible questions to ask the doctor before undergoing any weight loss care. They can include:

  • How long have you been a weight loss doctor/bariatric surgeon?
  • What training have you received? 
  • Are you a board-certified surgeon?
  • Are you a member of ASBS (American Society of Bariatric Surgery)?
  • How many weight loss surgeries do you perform each year? 
  • Based on my personal information, what surgery do you recommend for me?
  • What are the pros of this procedure?
  • What are the cons of this procedure?
  • Are there known complications possible with this procedure? 
  • When it comes to my type of procedure, how many of my type of surgery (lap-band, gastric bypass, etc.) have you performed? (A good barometer is that the surgeon has performed at least  250 of your procedure)
  • Will you perform the procedure? (some delegate to an assistant)
  • Where will the surgery be performed?
  • Is everyone on the medical team licensed?
  • What pre-op and post-op procedures will be put into place?
  • When it comes to diet and exercise, what changes will I be expected to make?
  • Could you refer a nutritionist? Psychologist? Support group? Financial coordinator?
  • What if I have a question during non-office hours?
  • How much weight do you think I can lose?
  • Could you connect me with patients who would be willing to share their experiences with me?

Moving Forward with Choosing a Weight Loss Doctor

When choosing a weight loss doctor or bariatric surgeon, you need to feel comfortable and like you can ask the important questions regarding your complete experience — from that first appointment to every follow-up appointment from there. 

Taking the important steps towards finding a weight loss doctor or surgeon can feel stressful, but by following the tips above, you’ll be well on your way towards better health — and a better life. 

To find a bariatric physician near you, visit the MyBigLife weight loss doctor directory. Search over 10,000 profiles of weight loss professionals and find the ideal match to get you started and guide you through your weight loss journey.

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Abby
MyBigLife Managing Editor MyBigLife
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