When you are living with obesity, in many ways you’re an outcast from society. People look at you differently and feel free to make a comment or give advice. Even family members are sometimes open about their scorn.
As a result, people with a body mass index (BMI) over 40 often feel down about themselves. They, too, start to think that their weight issues are because of their own choices and shortcomings.
In reality, there’s a lot more to it than that.
“Everyone is an individual. We start by listening to their story, conducting a detailed medical assessment and uncovering the underlying causes of their weight problems” says Dr. Michael Lyon, the medical director of the Medical Weight Management Centre.
“The old-fashioned idea that you can somehow do a medically supervised diet and that’s enough is no longer considered scientifically valid. It’s an overly simplistic approach.”
The clinic’s team of nearly 20 internal medicine and general practice medical doctors along with nutrition, exercise and mental health professionals help patients understand what’s really holding them back from making positive changes. It might be a medical or metabolic problem, or challenging issues such as sexual abuse, mental illness or food addiction.
For some patients, bariatric surgery is the best solution.
“It’s a surgery that saves lives,” Dr. Lyon says. “We have a very special relationship with the bariatric surgical program. Our patients are not on a lengthy wait list for the surgery. Instead, we work with patients until they are ready for surgery, and, when they are ready, their surgery is usually done within a few weeks, and it is fully covered by the provincial health plan.”
Although it’s always been essential to address the medical issues that arise from obesity, the novel coronavirus has made it even more critical. Diabetes and high blood pressure—two health conditions associated with obesity—make people more at risk of dying from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
However, one positive outcome of the pandemic has been the clinic’s nimble embrace of technology to provide ongoing individual and group counselling services. Dr. Lyon has been pleasantly surprised by the positive and enthusiastic response from staff and patients who are meeting over the Internet through online medically supervised group workshops and one-on-one telemedicine appointments.
“Our online meetings are a pretty good facsimile of the real thing—there’s a lot of engagement. Interestingly, people generally like them better because they are more convenient and quite dynamic and interactive. We also have a very lively chat room where people can ask questions.”
Online group medical visit programs include food addiction, binge eating, anxiety, cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness, diabetes support, problematic alcohol consumption, making healthy food choices and even meal planning with ingredients that can be stocked in the pantry.
“It’s giving our patients an anchor and a focus away from the news. Instead, their attention is on what they can do. Our goal is to have people come through this catastrophe healthier, happier and more at peace,” he says.
Not only are patients realizing the benefits of not having to travel to the clinic but the technology is also making those services much more accessible to people outside the Lower Mainland, where the clinic is based.
“We have developed a very comprehensive approach that has been refined over the past 10 years and is based on the best programs and the latest research from around the world. For individuals who are struggling with obesity, very little has been available to them unless they lived close to our clinic. Now we can help people from anywhere in the province,” Dr. Lyon says.
A doctor’s referral is necessary to become a patient; there have to be medical or mental health reasons to participate in this program. The British Columbia Medical Services Plan covers all medical consultations, physical exams, group medical visits and laboratory tests.
As Dr. Lyon and his staff continue to find ways to share their proven approach with as many people as possible, he is buoyed by patients’ response. “We try to take them on a journey that will last them for the rest of their life, mentally and physically. A thousand little steps are a lot better than two or three giant leaps.”
To find out how the Medical Weight Management Centre can help you attain a healthier life, visit MedWeight.ca or call 604-777-5500.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Okanagan Edge.
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