Seeking medical assistance and diagnosis
The starting point for positive change may be an acknowledgement of excess weight. The most important thing is for an individual to recognise the health risks excess weight places on the functions of the body.
The first port of call should be a consultation with a general practitioner (GP) or family physician. If at the stage of obesity, it’s advisable to consult with a medical doctor for a check-up before attempting any other means of weight loss. Chances are, strain on the body due to excess weight has had other physical effects which will require the experienced eye of a medical professional to determine and treat.
He or she will conduct a full medical check in order to determine relevant obesity-related health risks or concerns, which may very well need to be taken into consideration when adopting new lifestyle habits. It’s best to ensure that a person’s full medical condition is known before attempting to make such drastic changes, so as to avoid any potential complications or health-related problems.
A doctor will likely begin with a medical review which involves a series of questions that will help to determine the overall status of health. Questions will likely cover the following areas:
- Weight: a brief history of weight gains and losses (possibly since childhood).
- Eating habits: What does an average day’s diet consist of? How much is eaten during the course of a day?
- Physical activity and exercise: How much of a day is spent in sedentary positions? Is any exercise activity performed? If so, how often?
- Life events: Have any major life changes or experiences potentially contributed to weight gain? Are high levels of stress being experienced?
- Previous or current medical conditions: Are any existing medical conditions being treated? Have any health concerns arisen in the past?
A doctor may also question a person regarding their general lifestyle and address possible concerns and goals. This is to assess things such as how daily life may be affected by excess weight and to determine whether a person is at the stage where they are ready to proactively make positive changes. A doctor may also ask about measures that may already have been taken to address excess weight (i.e. steps taken such as diet adjustments and exercise regimes – with or without the guidance of a nutritionist or exercise trainer - with the goal of losing weight).
From there, a doctor will conduct a physical exam which entails calculating BMI, evaluating vital signs (temperature, blood pressure and heart rate), an examination of the abdomen and listening to the lungs and heart. A doctor will also wish to measure the circumference of the waist.
Tests may be necessary to either diagnose or rule out possible physical ailments or conditions, and include blood samples to assess glucose (fasting glucose) and cholesterol levels, as well as liver function tests, screenings for the thyroid or to assess diabetes. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) may be recommended to assess heart function. Imaging tests can include ultrasound scans, computerised tomography (CT scans) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scans).