Obesity Screenings and Diet Counseling

A common preventive health care measure is having an obesity screening done at your doctor’s office. Participating in diet counseling can be a very effective way to safely gain, maintain or lose weight if necessary.

An obesity screening is frequently done during routine check-ups, or at a separate appointment if you have concerns about your weight and want advice from your primary care physician. It is important to take steps to manage your weight, and the first step you must take is determining if your current weight is within a healthy range for your body.

Why is a healthy weight important?

Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important because being overweight or obese can greatly increase your chances of developing a disease. The health problems that you have an increased chance of developing if you are overweight include the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke

Plus, you may have an increased chance of developing some forms of cancer and other illnesses if you are overweight. If you effectively lose weight, you may see many health benefits, including:

  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Lower blood pressure levels
  • Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
  • Higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels

These health benefits may be experienced not long after starting to lose weight. In fact, you may notice them after losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. As an example, if you weigh 200 lbs., you may notice that you feel much healthier after losing just 10 (5 percent weight loss) to 20 lbs. (10 percent weight loss).

Obesity Screening

During your doctor’s appointment, you may have an obesity screening done. There are a couple of different methods used for determining whether you are underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight or obese.

One of the most common methods for obesity screening is calculating your body mass index (BMI). This will include getting on a scale to have your weight recorded, and then having your height measured as well. Your weight and height are used in a calculation in order to determine what your BMI is. The specific calculation for your BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. Once your BMI is calculated, it will be used to determine if you are at a healthy weight. The following chart shows different ranges of BMI scores and what weight status each BMI score range correlates with:

BMI

Weight Status

Below 18.5

Underweight

18.5 – 24.9

Normal/healthy weight

25 – 29.9

Overweight

30 and above

Obese

While calculating your BMI is usually the obesity screening method used by physicians, some doctors will use waist circumference measurement in addition to, or as an alternative to calculating your BMI. To measure your waist circumference, your physician or nurse will use a measuring tape to measure all the way around your midsection and then record that number. Having a waist circumference of larger than a certain amount is generally associated with a high risk for developing a disease such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and others. The following chart shows what waist circumference measurements are generally associated with higher risk of disease in both men and women.

Sex

High Risk for Disease

Men

Greater than 40 in. (102 cm.)

Women

Greater than 35 in. (88 cm.)

Once your BMI and/or waist circumference results are recorded, your doctor will likely speak to you about your results and whether they are within the standard or healthy range. You may also speak about health issues that you have that may be influencing your weight, and what health issues you may be at a higher risk for developing in the future if your weight does not change. Diet counseling services may also be discussed as a method for helping you to achieve a healthier weight.

Diet Counseling

One of the most effective preventive care measures used is diet counseling. Because being overweight or obese can lead to the onset of many diseases, counseling that can help you to lose the weight can be very effective in decreasing your chances of developing a disease. Dietary counseling is performed by a health professional that has special training in nutrition. He or she will speak with you about your current food habits and help you to create healthier food habits and make healthy food choices. You may discuss portion sizes, healthy food swaps, and how to find and cook healthier foods for your family.

In addition to diet counseling, you may also receive counseling on your exercise habits as well. You may set weight loss goals and occasionally check back in to assess where you are in terms of progress. If you are an active participant, diet counseling can be very helpful for getting to a normal and healthy weight and therefore decreasing your chances of developing a chronic disease or illness.

To actively participate in diet counseling, it is helpful to be very honest about your current dietary habits including the types of foods you eat, how frequently you are eating, and how much you generally eat. During the discussion with your doctor or other health care provider such as a nutritionist or dietician, you may be asked about your exercise habits as well. Providing honest answers to the questions will help him or her to come up with a plan for how you can reach your weight loss goals. Also, you should make sure that you ask him or her any questions that you have.

Benefits of Being at a Healthy Weight

There are many benefits to being at a heathy weight, with one of the biggest benefits being having a much lower chance of developing a disease such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Other benefits include modeling healthy behavior for your family and/or children and potentially increasing your mobility and quality of life. Obesity screening can help you by assessing whether or not you are within a healthy range for your BMI or waist circumference, and diet counseling can help you to achieve your weight loss or weight maintenance goals.

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