© Jose Luis Pelaez Inc The term “weight loss clinic” can mean almost anything. Here’s what obesity experts say to look for to lose weight safely, and avoid getting scammed.
Losing weight is easy for no one, and there is zero shame in deciding you need help.
The problem is, between commercial plans, storefront medi-spas, fad diets, wellness influencers hawking unproven supplements, and other kinds of get-thin-quick schemes (some with doctors associated with them), it’s hard to know where to begin.
And for a country as populous as ours—with more than 70% of U.S. adults considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—there are relatively few stand-alone, one-stop shopping clinics that allow you to get the multi-disciplinary approach to healthy weight loss that works the best, says Rehka Kumar, M.D., medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) and an assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
Why do you want a team? Because carrying too much body weight can lead to or worsen other health issues, so depending on your complicating factors, your pit crew might include a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, a nutritionist, an exercise physiologist and a behavioral therapist, she says. “If we are all working on different things related to a patient’s weight together, that’s a more comprehensive approach,” says Dr. Kumar, who is also an endocrinologist at the Comprehensive Weight Control Center, part of Weill Cornell Medicine.
Major universities like Cornell often have full-service weight loss programs—Boston University, New York University, and UCLA are just a few—so a university-affiliated research hospital in the nearby city is a good place to start. Geisinger Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery in Danville, Pa., was mentioned by a few of Prevention’s experts, as was The UT Center for Obesity Medicine and Metabolic Performance in Austin; The Vanderbilt Weight Loss Center in Nashville; The Emory Bariatric Center in Atlanta, and others. The Obesity Medicine Fellowship Council also has a list of universities around the country that offer fellowship programs, which indicates the institution has physicians experienced enough in treating obesity that they are training others.
But if you don’t live close to one of those, you may need to piece it together on your own. Here’s how to get started:
Look for a board-certified obesity medicine specialist.
Your primary care physician is a great person to ask, says Dr. Kumar. Your doc may be certified already (there are currently around 3,000 diplomates in obesity medicine) or able to refer you to someone who is. You can also try the provider locator at the Obesity Medicine Association. “This site will specifically mention doctors that are board-certified in obesity medicine, which means they passed an example and have some minimal competency in this field,” she says.
Obesity Action, an advocacy group that raises awareness about and improves access to the prevention and treatment of obesity, also has a locator for screened providers, and includes input from ABOM and other professional organizations such as the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and the Obesity Society, says James Zervios, the group’s VP of marketing and communications. While only physicians can be board-certified, this listing features nurse practitioners, dietitians, and mental health pros as well.
If a certified doctor does not have a team in her practice, she will likely have other providers to refer you to, say, an endocrinologist or physical therapist if your weight has caused arthritis or if your hormones are out of balance. They can then communicate to make sure you’re getting a personalized approach.
Pop by for a free consultation.
“A good facility should sit you down for free in a low-pressure setting and explain their approach,” says Craig Primack, M.D., ABOM’s board president and co-founder of the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.. That conversation should cover what kinds of diets they put together for patients, what sort of exercise counseling they offer, behavior modification (classes or individual nutritional counseling), and what medications they have seen success with. You should expect to be charged for a medical consultation, says Dr. Primack, but not to walk in the door. If you feel like you’re being given a hard sales pitch, you’re likely in the wrong place.
If you don’t live near an academic center or a comprehensive facility, making an initial visit to one, and then doing your follow-up remotely with a doctor near you is an option. “There are parts of the Midwest where you may not have people within 100 to 200 miles,” says Dr. Kumar. Telemedicine uses computer and video technology to allow access to specialists when none are nearby.
Make sure they’re practicing evidence-based medicine.
“Just because the sign says ‘medical weight loss’ doesn’t mean they’re practicing medicine,” says Dr. Primack. Dr. Kumar advises asking if what you’re getting is an FDA-approved treatment or medication. Another sign of a reputable place: they accept and bill insurance. Some doctors, of course, are out of network, but insurance tends to cover therapies that are approved for the treatment of obesity.
Consider your own comfort.
Does the waiting room have furniture that’s designed for bigger people? Is the staff sensitive and nonjudgmental? Is this a place where you feel safe talking about your body? “You might have a very attractive weight loss clinic, but it might not actually be comfortable for patients of a certain size,” says Dr. Kumar.
Check out the equipment.
All weight loss facilities are for people who want to lose a weight, but they’re not all equipped to treat major obesity. Dr. Primack says some of his patients are there to lose a relatively little weight, and some a lot more. “Do they have a scale that goes up to at least 600 pounds?” he asks. And they should have the current technology to measure body fat composition, not a simple scale.
Ask for stats.
“You want to know what the odds are you’re going to benefit from a program,” says Steve Heymsfield, M.D., president of the Obesity Society and a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in New Orleans. ”Good programs offer real information.” That’s not the same as promising a specific amount of weight loss, he emphasizes. “Be wary of promises, like a guarantee to lose 30 pounds in a month,” says Dr. Kumar. “Not everyone responds the same way to treatment.”
Make sure there’s a solid follow-up plan.
Even if you’re doing well on your program, you want to be in regular touch with your doctors, says Dr. Primack. “Are they continuing to monitor your body fat composition, and are they doing blood work to make sure what you’re doing isn’t harming you?” he asks. Some of his patients come in every month or two, whereas some longer-term patients come in every six months. “Obesity is not cured—it’s treated,” he says. “It’s better to know you have a place that you can go back to.”
Heed these red flags:
- HCG injections or pills: If a facility offers HCG for weight loss (it stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone women produce when they’re pregnant), walk out the door, say Drs. Kumar and Primack. The HCG Diet, a very low-calorie plan that involves taking HCG supplements, was all the rage a few crazes ago. But there is no FDA-approved over-the-counter HCG drug for weight loss, and the prescription form is meant for fertility issues, and is not effective for weight loss.
- Claims of miracle results: If anyone says, “I’m going to cure you of your weight problem—that’s a deal breaker,” says. Dr. Primack.
- Mandatory supplements. “That could be a way some of these borderline places make money, by offering various weeds that you’re going to eat,” says Dr. Heymsfield. “None of them have any efficacy to speak of.” Dr. Kumar agrees. “I’m not saying that there’s no good medicine being practiced there, but it’s important to make sure what they’re doing is evidence-based.”
- A heavy emphasis on appearance. Of course we all want to look good, and if you feel losing weight will help, that may be one of your motivations. But the focus in a quality facility will be on your health, not on the aesthetic, says Dr. Kumar. “If there’s an emphasis on the cosmetic, that’s a different kind of practice,” she says.
By Stephanie Dolgoff and Prevention Magazine
We’re just going to say it: Hawaii is the most beautiful state in the entire U.S.
Made up entirely of islands in the Pacific Ocean, it provokes daydreams of Mai Tais enjoyed under palm trees as the sunset turns the sky pink and orange, and exploration of natural landscapes so unique they may as well exist on another planet.
Before you pack your floral patterned shirts and sunscreen, check out the top Instagrammable spots in Hawaii, from surfer-friendly breaks to verdant rainforest to stark black-sand beaches.
Let the fantasizing begin.
The North Shore on Oahu
While Honolulu and its vibrant Waikiki Beach get most of the attention on Oahu, the island’s North Shore is equally inviting. Specifically, this is the place to go if you want to watch the best surfers in the world ride waves that average an astonishing 16 feet in height.
Oh, and the sunsets are pretty amazing too.
Kakaako District on Oahu
This district hosts an incredible arts festival every spring with a name you can’t forget: “Pow! Wow!” The event brings in artists from all over the world, who turn blocks of the urban area into splashy murals that stay up for a year.
Hanalei Valley Lookout on Kauai
Stop along the road at the Hanalei Valley Lookout to see the bright green valley floor, taro fields and, if you’re lucky, a rainbow or two looming above. For good measure, you’ll also see the Namolokama mountain standing watch in the background.
Chain of Craters Road on the Big Island
The Chain of Craters Road is part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a must-visit on the Big Island that is truly unlike any other national park. The 19-mile long paved road offers coastal views and examples of where lava has flowed over the roadway across the years.
Makena Beach on Maui
Maui has what feels like countless beaches to check out, but Makena Beach, aka Big Beach, is the favorite of many locals and tourists. This mile-long stretch of sand met by blue-green water is quintessential Hawaii, in the best possible way.
Go early in the morning if you want to enjoy a sun-kissed swim before the wind picks up.
Onomea Bay/Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens on the Big Island
With its waterfalls, black-rock beach, palm-tree-shaded hiking trails and expansive views of the Pacific, Onomea Bay fulfills every expectation you have for a scenic Hawaii destination.
The bay, located on the Hamakua Coast, also features the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, with over 2,000 types of flora. Zoom in for a shot of a brightly colored flower that typifies the Hawaiian landscape.
The Cliffs of Molokai
Molokai is a small, remote Hawaiian island that offers spectacular views of sheer cliffs dropping into the ocean. The natural features were left behind when the island’s two volcanic ranges, East Molokai and West Molokai, collapsed.
Hookipa Beach on Maui
Watch the sunset as monk seals nap at Hookipa Beach. Just make sure to keep your distance, as the species is endangered.
Honolulu Museum of Art on Oahu
In addition to housing stunning pieces of art, the Honolulu Museum of Art is Instagram-worthy itself. Intricate tile work, gardens and sculptures are just a few of the property’s standout features.
Lahaina Banyan Tree on Maui
One of the most charming towns on Maui, if not all of Hawaii, Lahaina features restaurants located directly on sandy shores and historical attractions like a small former prison from the 1850s. But what revelers love most is its banyan tree.
Planted in 1873, the tree looms large over town, and makes for a dramatic backdrop in Insta shots.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai
On the oft-overlooked island of Molokai, you’ll find this off-the-beaten-path historical park, where you can take a guided tour, camp or ride a mule down 2,000-foot sea cliffs.
Spouting Horn on Kauai
Spouting Horn Beach Park is one of the most visited spots in all of Kaui. When waves crash into the lava tube, water is sent as high as 50 feet into the air, a truly astonishing natural feat.
Akaka Falls on the Big Island
Take a short hike on the northeastern Hilo Coast to see Akaka Falls dropping 442 feet into a deep gorge. On the trek through the rainforested state park it’s named after, you’ll also see Kahuna Falls — at 100 feet, not quite as impressive as Akaka, but still striking — alongside bamboo, orchids and ferns.
Waikiki Beach on Oahu
While people often complain that Waikiki Beach is too crowded, you can beat the masses by visiting in the early morning. Plus, this beach on the south shore of Honolulu is beloved for a reason: It’s gorgeous.
Napali Coast on Kauai
You’ve likely seen photos of the Napali Coast all over Instagram. But what you might not know is that one of the best ways to see this state park is via helicopter. Gaze upon sea cliffs, streams, waterfalls and beaches from the sky, enjoying a new perspective on one of the most photographed places on Earth.
Waipio Valley on the Big Island
You might recognize the Waipio Valley from the ending of the cult-classic movie “Waterworld.” The abundant valley is home to epic waterfalls and captivating black-sand beaches. And rainbows are also, but of course, a common occurrence.
Kualoa Ranch Jurassic Valley on Oahu
The Kualoa Ranch Jurassic Valley has everything you could want for an adventurous day out, from ziplines to horseback riding to rough-and-tumble ATV tours. You’ll recognize the Ka’a’awa Valley on the ranch from its role in “Jurassic Park,” “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0.”
Diamond Head on Oahu
For views of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu, head to Diamond Head State Monument. The park is one of Hawaii’s most popular and picturesque spots. It is equally stunning from afar, as shown in the photo above from the Queen Kapiolani Hotel, where Diamond Head meets Waikiki.
Anini Beach on Kauai
If you find yourself on Kauai, make sure to check out Anini Beach on the north shore. From here, you can see one of Hawaii’s largest coral reefs, protected by unusually calm waters.
The island is also famous for its windsurfing, should you be in the mood for a more thrilling experience.
Pipiwai Trail on Maui
Waterfalls and cliff-side views of the ocean wow, but the real star of this trail is its bamboo forest, featuring stalks that tower over tourists who wander through.
Waikolu Valley Lookout on Molokai
Check out the deep ravine in Molokai’s rainforest at the Waikolu Valley Lookout. On a clear day, you’ll see the ocean in the distance. After a rainstorm, you’ll see waterfalls.
Wailea Beach on Maui
Don’t be shocked if you see a celebrity on this wide beach flanked by several high-end resorts. From the sand, you can sometimes see the smaller islands of Kaho’olawe, Molokini and Lanai. During the winter you might spot whales from the shoreline.
Lanai City on Lanai
Lanai City used to be the center of the pineapple industry, at one point producing 75% of the fruit consumed worldwide. Nowadays, you’ll find shops, restaurants, galleries, cultural centers and local businesses in the bustling city.
Go here to connect with locals in a part of Hawaii not yet overrun by tourists.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences on Oahu
Influencers and more casual Instagrammers alike make their way to this uber-posh property for pics of its adult-only infinity pool, perched above the sea.
Keahiakawelo on Lanai
Pass by boulders, spires and rock towers at this rock garden that also touts sweeping ocean views. Go at sunset to see the rocks painted in vivid shades of orange, red and purple.
They don’t call this “Garden of the Gods” for nothing.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu
Enjoy sandy beaches surrounded by verdant green cliffs at this picture-perfect nature reserve. Rumor has it that Hawaiin royalty loved using the bay for fishing and relaxing in the 1800s.
Time to pack your bags ?